In this article we explore the strange and eerie beauty of cenote Tak Beluum (sometimes spelled Taak Bi Lum) in Mexico. You can also watch our YouTube episode about this cenote here:
It’s early morning in the jungles of Quintana Roo in Mexico as we are getting ready for a cenote dive. Today’s location is a lesser known Cenote called Tak Beluum. Ancient Mayan for “hidden path” according to some, and “hidden world” according to others. Whatever the translation truly is, it’s clear that this place was meant to be hidden. Underground, away from people.
That being said, Cenote Tak Beluum is located in the well known Dos Ojos cenote park, and is part of the Nohoch Nah Chich system.But in this particular cenote nothing is what it seems.
As soon as we enter the underground section of the cenote, we can see that this is no ordinary place. It’s deserted, quiet and quite frankly a little bit creepy.
This cenote always gives me an eerie feeling but as a rule of thumb, for me: the more dramatic the entrance, the more I enjoy the dive. On the DiveSAGA channel we have visited a few creepy dive sites in the past, like Zapote with its unusual bell shaped formations, or La Orchidea with its thick sulfur cloud and decomposing trees. That being said, cenote Tak Beluum feels different. It feels like a place that was meant to be forgotten, ignored by humans and certainly left undisturbed by SCUBA divers. However, what lies beneath the surface in this place is too good to miss out on.
I can’t quite describe what comes next, so all I can really do is encourage you to explore this dive site with me. From the onset the gnarly tree in the middle of the cave, the unusual shape of the giant stalactite in the room and the flickering rays of sunlight protruding through the jungle canopy are setting the mood.
A wooden platform serves as a great staging area for our sidemount cylinders. Although this is about to be a relatively shallow dive and fully within cavern limits, we are diving sidemount. Water temperature is around 23 degrees celsius or 73 degrees fahrenheit so a 5mm wetsuit will do.
If you’re interested in the equipment: I’m using Scubapro Mk19/G260 carbon black tech regulators and the Xdeep Tech RB sidemount system. The dive light is an Orcatorch D630 canister light.
Many cenotes, especially those that are accessible to recreational divers have some sort of natural light display as part of their allure. Cenote Tak Beluum seens to do the opposite. It’s as if light gets sucked into the cave and everything is just dark and gloomy.
As soon as we enter the overhead environment, the stalactites overhead foreshadow some of the strangeness we are about to encounter. These stalactites aren’t as smooth as one would expect. The best way I can describe their look is like molten plastic.
This theme will continue throughout the dive. The environment is certainly decorated and ornate, but in a somewhat creepy way.
Most stalactites form by water dripping from the cave ceiling when the cave isn’t flooded. The water drops leave deposits of calcium carbonate and other minerals behind. Over time they grow and grow. A bit like icicles in winter but much slower and more permanent. Underneath the stalactite we often find a stalagmite, formed by the same water drops, leaving deposits and growing upwards. When the two formations touch and fuse, they form what we call a column or stalagnate.
Typically stalactites have a fairly smooth appearance but here in Tak Beluum they look rotten and full of warts.
Some stalagmites don’t look like stalagmites at all. You’d be forgiven for identifying these formations as alien life forms.
The bubble-like appearance creates the impression that these formations may be soft and alive but they are very much solid. Nobody seems to be entirely certain why the formations in this particular cenote have this molten appearance. I’d say the uncertainty contributes to the mystique of the dive.
Cenote Tak Beluum is generally quite shallow and we are never more than 4-6 meters or 15-20 feet deep. The floor is mostly covered in sand.
I try shining my UV light at some of the formations but that doesn’t really reveal anything, apart from making the place look even creepier.
As we discussed earlier, stalactites usually grow by water dripping down the ceiling, so you’d expect them to be pointy but some of the stalactites here have a bulgy tip. Underneath some of the stalactites are fields of what looks like mushrooms. It’s hard to tell if these are tips of stalactites than landed upright. Cenote Tak Beluum makes the diver ask one question after another without revealing answers.
For divers who are into cenote diving or cave diving in general, part of the fun is looking at the formations and trying to dissect the story of how these places were formed. In some caves the layers of sediment show a beautiful cross section of time passing or the size of stalactites can give us an idea of their age. In Tak Beluum what we see leaves us scratching our heads.
This little blob of spaghetti is perhaps even the weirdest of all. It’s unclear what movements water and sediment would have to make to generate these shapes. Especially considering the centuries it would take for these formations to grow, or the fact that parts of it seem to have grown upwards.
If you’re a speleologist and have answers for me, definitely let me know in the comments below.
We are about to complete our circuit through the cenote. It’s not clear whether this narrow passage was man made or not. The sides seem suspiciously straight to have been formed naturally but who knows. I guess we’ll add it to the growing list of things we don’t know about cenote Tak Beluum.