Diving in Casa Cenote with “Pancho” the Crocodile

Last updated Jan 12, 2021 | Mexico | 0 comments

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Have you ever wondered if there were crocodiles in the cenotes in Mexico? Well, up until now I hadn’t seen one in person. But our discovery dive in Casa Cenote changed that! Casa Cenote is a long, snake-like open-air cenote that cuts through the mangroves. It is one of the most popular places for snorkeling and scuba diving around Tulum. Our experience diving in Casa Cenote was amazing. We were able to practice our dive skills while exploring a crystal clear underworld. We saw several fish, not as many as our Tulum reef dive, but still pretty neat. Oh, and let’s not forget about the diver-friendly crocodile that’s called Pancho!

In this guide, I share my experience doing our discovery dive in Casa Cenote!

Guide to Discovery Diving in Casa Cenote

drone image of casa cenote mexicoView of Casa Cenote across from the street from the sea (Image: Canva)

Casa Cenote, also known as Cenote Manatee because of the manatees that used to flow into the cenote from the sea, is a large, open-air cenote that weaves its way through the jungle. The best way to see it is with a drone so you can get an idea of its size and proximity to the sea that’s just on the other side of the road.

Casa Cenote’s depth is around 6-8 m or 20-25 ft and our dive lasted for around 45 minutes (25 to go up, about 20 to come back with the current).

Before or after your dive, if you walk across the street and look at the sea, you’ll notice bizarre currents just offshore. This phenomenon is because Casa Cenote is connected to the sea, and the mixing of freshwater and saltwater is creating this unique ripple in the water.

You can also snorkel and swim for leisure in Casa Cenote, but having scuba dived in it, I truly believe the best view is underneath the surface, not on top. The thick mossy roots of the mangroves hang down and create a unique perspective from below. There’s also aquatic and sea life, such as barracudas and crabs, that we saw!

If you are observant, you’ll also notice during the dive a thin yellow string that disappears into dark caves. That’s where cave divers enter further into the underground cave system that stretches for hundreds of miles below the surface in and around Tulum.

If you want to take your GoPro or Osmo Action in Casa Cenote, there is an additional $100 peso fee to use it.

How to get to Casa Cenote

casa cenote aerial viewCasa Cenote from above (Image: Canva)

Casa Cenote is located just 10-15 minutes north of Tulum on the road to Cancun. There isn’t a sign off the highway indicating it, so you should put it in your GPS. You’ll turn off the highway onto a typical dirt gravel road. Careful, this road is FULL of bumps and huge potholes so go slow if you have a rental car (as we did). It will take extra time to get there because of the road condition.

As you approach the coast, you’ll swing left and continue straight past the security gate. The security gate is there because Casa Cenote is located inside a semi-private residential area. You will pass by a couple of dozen lovely houses on your right. Soon enough, you’ll see signs for Casa Cenote and the restaurant. Parking is free and there are bathrooms inside the dive shop and also in the restaurant.

Our Dive Team

discovery diving in casa cenotePaul and I with our dive instructor David

David, our private diving instructor, is who we booked for our discovery dive tour in Casa Cenote. Both Paul and myself had previously dove (just once), but my sister and her husband hadn’t. So we also had Saul, David’s scuba diving assistant, there to help prepare the gear. He also guided them during their first dive. Afterward, my sis and I did a second dive on the Tulum reef with just David. I am also going to get my Open Water certification soon, so I’ll keep you posted on that experience too!

Most of the other dive shops in Tulum offer discovery dives to Casa Cenote. They are all pretty similar in price and experience with each other. I bought my Beuchat scuba mask from Infinity2Diving and can vouch for the friendliness and passion for diving from those guys. We also saw one of them getting geared up for a dive at the same time.

If you are interested in diving in Casa Cenote, feel free to reach out to me by email or drop a comment below and I’ll be happy to pass along David’s contact info. His rates are competitive and fair and he is an excellent freelance divemaster with years and years of experience. He is also a skilled cave diver if you’re interested (and certified) to do that as well.

Pancho the Crocodile

pancho the crocodile in casa cenote mexicoClosest we’ve ever been to a croc! 

Pancho, or Panchito (for little Pancho), the crocodile has been known to surprise many snorkelers and divers in Casa Cenote! But let me tell you, we felt entirely safe. Pancho has been swimming with humans since he (or she?) was a baby.

As we neared the end of the cenote in the jungle, we surfaced for a moment to turn around and see Pancho resting on the side of the mangroves. I don’t think the crocodile in Casa Cenote is interested in attacking anyone. But it’s definitely the closest (and most vulnerable…) I’ve ever been to a wild crocodile. It definitely added a new level of adrenaline to our dive!

Paul told me afterward that, if he had known beforehand, he probably would’ve never agreed to go diving in casa cenote (lol).

What about you, would you dare come face-to-face with Pancho?

Tips to Prepare for Your Dive in Casa Cenote

girl diving in casa cenote

If it’s your first-time scuba diving, then know that you’ll have an absolute blast in Casa Cenote. It’s really a great and easy introduction to scuba diving. The water is clear, there are no waves, and it’s not too deep.

When you go, make sure to take a day bag with you. Pack it with extra water (snacks and water is provided usually with your dive shop or instructor) and the essentials like a towel, cash, camera, etc.

You’ll want to wear a comfortable bathing suit since you’ll be wearing a wetsuit on top. For guys, make sure to wear your underwear/briefs because you need something tight underneath your suit, unlike most men’s swimming shorts which are loose-fitting.

It can be hard to equalize your ears on your first dive. To help with this, drink plenty of water the days leading up to your dive. Water helps keep your sinuses open and unclogged. You will have an easier time to equalize as you descend. Your instructor will teach you all the basic steps and hand signals of diving, so you don’t have to worry. 🙂

Last but not least, don’t go scuba diving the day on your last vacation day in Tulum, unless your flight departs in more than 18 hours (more is better). Also, avoid alcohol before and after too for a better experience!

Is diving in a Casa Cenote on your travel bucket list? 

Before you go, you should also check out these guides and pin the below images for travel inspiration!

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Hi, I’m Bri! I’ve been slow traveling around the world in search of new adventures since 2013. I have lived in 8 countries on 4 continents including Nepal, Mexico, Colombia, and parts of Europe! I created this blog to inspire others to live a life of adventure, seek out meaningful experiences, and to travel slowly and mindfully. Join me on this journey and let’s tick off our bucket lists! Read my story here.

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