Ponderosa Cenote is also known as Jardin Del Eden Cenote, and either name is apt. It is the largest open cenote I have visited. You can clearly see where the old roof used to be along the cliff edges of the cenote – now collapsed into the water where great slabs of stone lay about in confused profusion.
After centuries of such exposure, the rocks are now all covered in a mossy green, making the otherwise clear water appear green. Wild ferns grow along the edges as scraggly jungle trees ring the entire place as if seeking to wall it off from the rest of the world.
But the world knows about it, although not too many. On the day of our visit, there were perhaps twenty souls who were either enjoying it from the edge, swimming on the water’s surface, or sending their breaths to the surface from their scuba gear below. Submerged caves lead from this large, open pool to other smaller pools in the jungle nearby.
The relative silence is shattered suddenly as a fearless individual leaps from the platform on the jutting cliff and plunges into the cool water twenty feet below. Ripples spread out across the water’s surface for a moment before the glassy surface returns. From above, you can see straight to the bottom, where a trio of divers swims languorously along the bottom.
Working our way around the lake on a rough trail to the nice platform across from the cliff, we stop on the platform and get our snorkel gear together. A few ladies sit in plastic chairs speaking Spanish to one another in what sounds to my ears like a hurried pace. We make our way to the bottom of the stairs and put our flippers on before dropping into the water awkwardly. The water’s chill takes our breath away momentarily, but we stretch out and begin our circle the cenote. From below, the world is split into blue and green. The water is clearer than it appeared above, and appears azure where unimpeded. Where mossy rocks are visible, they are a lively green where small, energetic fish dart about.
We head to the water’s edge and swim up close to the grasses there. I sit still for several minutes, just taking in the play of tiny fish busy with fishy things as I watch them from a few inches away. It is like pressing my face up against an aquarium, except that I am also immersed in the water and feel more in touch with them than I ever would have with a pane of glass between us. Moving slowly, I ease along, the scene being repeated as I go, tiny fish barely paying me any mind.
The grassy edge gives way to sheer rocks and I drift out into the deeper center of the lake. Here, the cenote bottom is the attraction as I imagine what the cave that this once was must have looked like. Moss covers the uneven rocky surface as my fish friends feed in the crevices. Off to my right, a pair of divers are working their way into the cave passages below the cliff’s edge.
We continue like this until our noses are waterlogged for rocks in shallow water. Pulling off our flippers, we let our toes rub up against the carpet-like moss for a bit as we rest our pinched faces before finally heading for the stairs back up to the platform above.
As we dripped off on the platform, we listen to two local Mexican girls share a conversation in English with a pair of German boys. Taking turns, they share their life story a bit as each is clearly interested in the other’s life experience. We listen in for a while but do not participate as the younger folks are intent on one another. Dry now, we walk off, energized and feeling more exuberant from the benevolent waters, thankful for what this fountain of youth has given us.
If you would like to learn how to visit this eden yourself, click here.
To see a small gallery of pictures from our visit, click here.