Find Adventure at a Cenote Dive Site

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English: Cenote Ik Kil, near Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SCUBA diving experts at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors have opened me up to the many adventures in their sport. Encountering underwater wildlife and examining shipwrecks could definitely lure someone into SCUBA diving.

But I started thinking about some of the reasons I like hiking; one of the main reasons I hike is to see cool geological sites. Volcanoes, towering cliffs, caves, that sort of thing. I asked my PADI friends what sort of geological oddities I could find underwater.

The PADI crew tells me the cenotes – or sinkholes – in Mexico might be the best bet. There are cenotes all around the world, from Australia to Canada to Zimbabwe. The famous The Great Blue Hole dive site in Belize is one example.

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Swimmers in cenote, Yucatan, Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But let’s talk about the cenote dive sites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They’re packed with stalagmites and stalactites, two of the features I like best in dry-land caves. These are some incredible caves. It sounds like you have thousands to pick from in the Yucatan thanks to a lot of limestone. You can narrow the search for a great cenote dive site by consulting a PADI dive centers near Playa del Carmen: Pro Dive Mexico, Scuba Playa and Dressel Divers can all help you find a great cenote dive site. If you really want a long-lasting adventure, find out which ones connect to larger, horizontal underwater cave systems (some cenotes are connected, and can extend 300 feet under the water table).

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Cenote underwater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something else cool about cenotes in Mexico: They have their place in the mythology of indigenous people. In the Maya culture, some cenotes like the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza were considered a gateway to the afterlife. So you may catch a glimpse of artifacts or human remains!

I’m still on a quest for more interesting underwater geological sites. I imagine that any underwater volcanic activity is probably too deep and otherwise dangerous for SCUBA divers to approach (but correct me if I’m wrong). And I’d love to know of submerged meteor impact craters, fissures -- just about anything. Chime in with anything you know about, and I’ll collect your info for a future post! In the meantime, here’s a fun blog post about cenotes in the Yucatan. It also has some good photos.

Thanks as always to my friends at PADI for the great information.


Check Out Halloween-Themed SCUBA Events

Halloween-themed SCUBA
Photos of some Halloween-themed SCUBA fun (courtesy of PADI).

Just about a year ago, I had no idea that there were any Halloween-themed SCUBA activities. My friends at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors set me straight.

And for a second year in a row, PADI has clued me in to some great Halloween-themed SCUBA events. First up, we have a course to get certified as a Zombie Apocalypse Diver. Police Officer Woody Tinslow, who is also a part-time employee as a dive instructor at New England Ski & Scuba, devised the course. The curriculum for the course covers SCUBA diving basics along with zombie biology and history, and survival, search and recovery skills. Now, I’m not sure if Woody adheres to the Max Brooks "Zombie Survival Guide" for his information on zombie biology and history. But if he’s taken his own approach, it’ll be interesting to see his spin on a cultural meme with no sign of slowing down.

“Um, does anyone else feel something chowing on their legs?”(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next up, we have a nationwide Halloween-themed SCUBA event that follows one of my personal rules: If something is hard on dry land, do it underwater to make it even harder. That’s right, an underwater pumpkin-carving contest.

This takes me right out of contention since my favorite jack-o-lantern carving tool is a Dremel (you should see the pumpkin guts fly when I go to town). Check out your local PADI dive centers to see if you can join the fun. Let’s not forget that pumpkins are buoyant, so you’d better have a plan for keeping that gourd from floating away. Bermuda Triangle, a brilliantly named PADI dive center in Greenville, SC, is just one of many places where SCUBA fans did some underwater carving. Bermuda Triangle’s event happened yesterday, but watch for others in the coming days.

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Silfra – One of the World’s Great Diving Sites

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A view of Iceland’s Silfa Rift
Photos of one of the world’s coolest diving sites put SCUBA diving on my "to do" list. Yes, it even trumps my inner desert dweller’s disdain for water that’s 36 degrees F.

But it’s not the low temperatures that make Iceland’s Silfra Rift one of the world’s most unusual diving sites. It’s the scenery. This is where the American and Eurasian continents collide. Underwater cliffs mark the division. SCUBA divers can swim among cliffs that tower up to 65 feet over them on both sides.

And back to that cold water: The low temperatures give a clarity to the water that creates visibility of more than 300 feet. So why is the water so cold? It’s meltwater from a glacier -- chilly!

I’m kind of a big baby about water in general. Cold water makes things even worse for me. Plus, I wasn’t looking for diving sites during my visit to Iceland. I wanted to stay as dry as possible considering Iceland’s wild weather and often-cold (even in summer) temperatures. And now, that’s one of my regrets. Next time I go back, the Silfra Rift will be high on my list. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors dive center in Iceland is my go-to resource to find a way to check out the Silfra Rift.

I get excited about seeing the planet in action. And the collision between the plates is pretty dramatic … not as much ash and lava as other places around Iceland. Not even a monstrous pile of glacier – but still worth slipping into a dry suit to witness, if the pictures are any indication.

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A SCUBA diver at Silfra Rift. (Photo by Gunnar Powers via

Enjoy the photos -- you can see more from someone who chose to snorkel instead of SCUBA dive. And if you’re a SCUBA diver, I’d like to hear about other diving sites. What are some of your favorites?

Silfra is in Þingvellir National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just before 1000 AD, it’s where Iceland’s inhabitants formed its first parliament. It’s worth a stop to see a bit of Iceland’s history after you’ve seen tectonic plates collide at one of the most famous diving sites in the world.

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An out-of-the-water look at Þingvellir National Park, home of the Silfra Rift. (Photo by Jen via
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Heading into the water. (photo by Bernard McManus via
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You can see the clarity of the water. (Photo by Bernard McManus via
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Jagged underwater rocks at Silfra diving site. (Photo by Gunna Powers via
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In Honor of April Fool’s Day – SCUBA Mythbusting

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Don’t let myths about SCUBA deprive you of the chance to swim with a whale shark. (Image courtesy of PADI)

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I don’t go much for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m a Halloween sort of guy -- and I dig April Fool’s Day. I have a friend whose mother can barely speak to me without snarling nearly 10 years after a prank I helped pull on her (let’s say it involves my best police sergeant phone voice and a story about him misbehaving in some very bad ways).

You can imagine that I spend most of my April Fool’s time trying to -- well, fool people. But this time, I’m on the side of good: I’m going to help my friends at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors set the record straight about some misconceptions about SCUBA diving. Get ready for some surprises! My commentary on PADI’s info is in italics.

You know what's not a myth about SCUBA diving? That it's really pretty darn cool. (Photo courtesy of PADI)
You know what’s not a myth about SCUBA diving? That it’s really pretty darn cool. (Photo courtesy of PADI)

MYTH #1: I don’t live near the ocean, so I can’t dive.

Nope! With more than 6,100 PADI dive centers around the world, you can literally begin your diver’s certification anywhere. Diving courses can be found at your local sports and recreational center, or in less traditional locations like exotic hot springs and lakes. Visit to locate the nearest dive center.

And be sure to check my Yahoo! story about beginner dive sites. It has some non-ocean locations like quarries and rivers.

MYTH #2: If I dive, I’ll likely run into a shark or other dangerous underwater creature!

Scuba Diving in depths of the ocean
Scuba Diving in depths of the ocean (Photo credit: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Maybe you’ve been watching too much Shark Week. In reality, the odds of having a deadly shark encounter is just 1 in 251,800,000, you’re actually 12 times more likely to be killed by a vending machine than shark! Many underwater animals that seem intimidating, such as the school bus-sized whale shark, are virtually harmless and enjoy human interaction.

Those are some low odds. People tend to worry too much – think of all those “afraid to fly” people you know, and how willing they are to drive at 85 mph in a school zone while texting and making themselves a cappuccino with their portable espresso machine. Makes fretting about SCUBA diving seem a bit silly, no? And watch out next time you go for a bottle of soda in the break room!

MYTH #3: Women with breast implants can’t scuba dive.

Never fear! If you’re worried that increased underwater pressure will cause damage to silicone- or saline-filled implants, you have nothing to worry about. A recent study found that diving caused an insignificant increase in bubbles ― nothing that will damage the implant or surround tissue.

Well, I guess that means most of the female population of the north half of my home city of Scottsdale is good to go. Um, what about collagen? (NOTE: PADI supplied the images for this story – none of which included breast implants.)

MYTH #4: Snorkeling is just as good as scuba diving.

Why stay on the surface when you can experience a whole new underwater world? Fully immersing yourself in scuba diving allows you to experience the wonder of breathing underwater, and explore amazing destinations such as reefs, underwater caves, shipwrecks, airplanes and more!

And let me say more about SCUBA versus snorkeling: Last time I snorkeled, I got bounced around in Belize by all the surface waves. Meanwhile, I watched as – 20 feet below me – SCUBA divers glided around unaffected. Soon, I was bobbing and barfing and getting laughed at while trying to escape a floating mound of my own chunder. So, I ask you: Would you rather be like the SCUBA divers or like me?






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Scary SCUBA Advice – Truk Lagoon to Turtle Tomb

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Turtle skeletons lurk under the water (courtesy of PADI)

When I run the world, Halloween will be a quarterly holiday. I’ve been known to have multiple Halloween costumes each year. I use a Dremel tool to carve pumpkins.

But as much as I like Halloween, my friends at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors have one-upped me. They take Halloween underneath the sea – and they’ve exposed us to a submerged world of turtle skeletons, the World War II-era wrecks at Truk Lagoon and even underwater pumpkin carving (I guess I can’t use my handy Dremel underwater …).

Here’s what PADI has to say about its top picks for Halloween-themed SCUBA dive destinations:

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Remnants of the Ghost Fleet wrecks. (courtesy of PADI)

Turtle Tomb: This creepy dive spot in Sipadan, Malaysia is covered with a thick layer of white sand and dust composed of numerous skeletons of turtles who were unable to escape the winding underwater passageways. I have a measure of sympathy for the dead turtles … but that might up the creep factor a bit.

Ghost Fleet wrecks: Dive into a graveyard of more than 50 Japanese vessels that found their final resting place at the bottom of Truk Lagoon in the Eastern Caroline Islands.

Night Diving: Scared of the dark? Face your fears with a night dive. Your flashlight will be the only thing keeping the dark at bay as you dive deeper.


Add a new challenge to carving pumpkins by doing it underwater. (courtesy of PADI)

Spooky Scuba: Check your local dive center this Halloween for spooky specials, like underwater Haunted Houses, SCUBA dive costume contests and underwater pumpkin carving!

I have to give props to PADI for some imagination in fusing Halloween and SCUBA diving. If you’re looking for the same sort of thrill you used to get out of Jason and Freddy Krueger, this might be your ticket. Now, I just might take up SCUBA just to see the Truk Lagoon wrecks!



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