Cenotes and Cave Pools Are a Natural Wonder – Which Is Your Favorite?

by John Wren

Natural cenotes and cave pools are some of the most beautiful and captivating bodies of water in the world. They are incredibly unique and often hidden gems, tucked away in the jungles and forests of Central America and the Caribbean.

Cenotes and cave pools provide a truly one-of-a-kind experience unlike any other. From the crystal clear waters and hidden caverns, to the majestic stalactites and stalagmites, cenotes and cave pools are often filled with awe-inspiring geological formations.

Visiting a cenote or cave pool is also a great way to get in touch with nature. Often filled with lush vegetation and abundant wildlife, cenotes and cave pools are great places to observe and appreciate the natural beauty of these regions.

In addition to exploring the unique geological formations and lush environments, cenotes and cave pools also offer respite from the heat of the day. With temperatures cooler than the surrounding environment, cenotes and cave pools provide a great opportunity to escape the heat and take a refreshing dip in the cool waters.

1. Devils Cave pool

The water of this particular cave pool doesn’t look too inviting. It’s a distinctive green color. It is not the same green as the trees that surround the entire pool, because that would be one thing entirely. Instead it’s a strange, pale green, almost looking like something would be less out of place in a science or chemistry laboratory rather than sitting in a natural created cave pool. There’s little in the rocky edges of the pool that hint to what causes this strange green coloring, but clearly from the walkway built around the area, this has caught the attentions of people.

2. Barlang Furdo Thermal spa in a cave

Here in a single image you can see a perfect example of the ways in which people utilize the landscape around them and turn it into something that they would prefer to use. A natural cave pool has been shaped and worked until it’s become a purposely designed and naturally heated spa for people to come and visit. The blending of nature and man made creations here is a little disorienting, and at times it’s hard to tell which is which in this image. How many of the cave’s walls are false?

3. Ik-Kil Cenote, Chichen Itza, Mexico

Hidden away underground, accessible only be a single opening in the ground, here is a magical and near-perfectly preserved pool. Humans aren’t the only ones to create indoor, basement pools, nature sometimes does it, too, and this is what it looks like. This cenote, however, isn’t entirely without human intervention. People constructed a walkway and stairs for easy access to this strangely encapsulated environment. But most of the cenote has gone untouched, its natural magic preserved by forward-thinking individuals who knew the value of a naturally constructed place like this. A gorgeous scene, for sure.

4. Cenote, Yucatan

Tucked away in the Yucatan, the ground fell away, and water filled it until this cenote came into existence. It’s a magical place and a magical photograph of it. The colors captured here are vibrant, and the contrasts are amazing, but what really makes this image so special is the way that it flawlessly capture the reflections in the water, a perfect mirror world, just distorted enough by ripples and waves through the waters that it pulls you in, fascinates you beyond belief. The two halves come together at different points in the picture to create a wonderfully mult-dimensional scene.

5. Inside grotto with underground lake – Cazuma cenote

This solitary place seems at once painfully private and lonely, and horribly visible. The water here is so clear that it’s nearly transparent, though the blue tinge of it distorts everything that can be seen through it. The solitary light source in this place below the earth is the very opening that allowed all the water inside, but it’s wide enough that plenty of light gets in. There’s an incredible sense of enclosure that is little subsided by that solitary entrance and exit. Overall, a strange atmosphere permeates the entire place and the photograph itself.

6. Sinkhole – cenote in Mexico

Brilliantly blue water fills a pool that’s surrounded on all sides by stalagmites and stalactites. That isn’t all, though. Walkways and unnatural light sources also surrounded the pool at the center of the cenote. Clearly people are fascinated by this place, and they have good reason to be. There’s only a limited number of places like this in the world. The picture articulates every detail of the cenote perfectly, bringing its existence out to the whole world and a much wider audience. A perfect record of what the place looks like, feels like, is like.

7. Underground lake in a grotto

This is either a scene from an adventure movie or a horror show, and it isn’t clear which. This underground lake is well lit, and there seem to be natural walkways and paths to move around the water. Dripping spires of rocks are visible nearly everywhere, creating a strange chandelier above this scene. But the black opening at the back of the image, and the eerily perfect reflection in the water both do their part to make this a mystifying and unsettling picture of a strange underground system that few people ever get to see, much less to explore.

8. Cenote ill kill

Here is a top-down view of one of the world’s most famous cenotes. Vines hang down from the world above, not quite reaching the waters below, but coming close, creating a sort of natural bridge between the underground and the surface world. Water continuously falls below, creating a rain-like shower effect that ripples and changes the surface of the cenote’s water. People line the small walkway set into the side of the cave, clearly amazed at the incredible and rare sight that they’re seeing. And all along the walls vines and plants climb.

9. Ik-Kil Cenote near Chichen Itza

Here is a view of the world famous Ik-Kil Cenote that removes all the signs of human involvement with the natural landscape. Just behind the camera is the man-made walkway that people use to descend into the cenote and see the water, but directly in the shot is nothing but cave wall. The image gives new life to the cenote, and gives viewers a sense of what it would have been like to visit this place well before it became a popular destination for tourists of the world. Ik-Kil becomes a natural location again in this image, and some of its lost magic is returned.

10. Mexican cenote

The main source of light in this image isn’t visible, and that gives rise to a whole series of questions. Here is an underground collection of water, kept pure by virtue of being kept away from contaminating humans. Strangely, though, the water seems to be lit, almost by fluorescents, from below its surface. The crystal clear blueness of it shines, through, almost illuminating the strange cave rocks that encroach on its domain. That only adds to the sense of wonder and amazement that the cenote manages to radiate out all on its own.

11. Mexican cenote, sinkhole

Light shoots down from an opening in the ground and sets ablaze hidden waters that then glow blue like an LED. That’s the scene shown in this picture, and it’s framing is a cave of considerable size. A single hole punches down into this subterranean landscape, where water and rocks have lived together in harmony for who knows how long, but each has helped to shape and define the other. Shed rocks litter the ground beneath the water, and and strange shapes in the cave walls show the impact the water has had on the earth around it.

12. Hamilton Pool, Texas, in the Fall

Here is an incredible pool of water that’s collected in a cave, but that pool is part of a larger natural narrative that this image manages to grasp at and translate some of for viewers. A small beach lies off to the side of the pool, and trees, their leaves revealing it to be mid-fall, overlook the entire pool and the rest of the scene. The camera’s view shoots out from within the cave itself, so its dimensions aren’t quite clear, but it seems vast, like a mouth swallowing up a large glass of water.

13. Cenote Dzitnup near Valladolid, Mexico

This prickly looking cenote is a whole network of drooping stalagmites that seem at once darkly intriguing and immensely melancholy. The sight is both fascinating and off-putting, inviting you in to explore the misery, but warding you off by being dark and grim, as well. The water itself begins white in the center, where light from the cenote’s opening strikes it, but it quickly moves through dark shades of blue until it’s as black as the ordinary cave shadows, blending into the walls and giving off the perception that it never ends.

14. Sinkhole Bimmah Oman

Here is a natural sinkhole filled with water that looks more like a man made structure than most cenotes. For one thing, it isn’t underground, instead this scene is brightly lit by the sun, making it inviting, welcoming. It seems like a place that you could comfortably take the kids to spend a day exploring the realms of nature. The water is blue and deep, but not so deep as to appear dangerous, and the actual man made structure, the staircase with a blue metal railing, that leads down into the water projects an air of hospitality that other cenotes can’t offer.

15. Sinkhole

This image looks like the opening to a science fiction movie. The colors, all vague gradients of brown and red, are hyper-real, especially those of the water at the center of the image. This particular pool is incredibly shallow, and because the entire area is swimming in sunlight, it seems unreal that the water hasn’t evaporated off into the air. Just out of the water are two large rings, one made of a thick layer of tan dirt, the other of a thin layer of red dirt. They entirely encircle the poo, but their origins, too, remain a mystery.

16. Obruk in Turkey

This image of a giant pool of water lying seemingly in the middle of a sandy desert would seem like a perfect shot of an oasis if there were many signs of life. Instead there is only a single patch of gray-green grass adorning the entire picture. Despite that, the pool of water is large and appears to be quite deep, but the lack of any life around it makes it somewhat sinister, begging you to ask the question, “Why does life avoid this place?” It’s an intriguing image, and will stay with you long after you’ve looked away.

17. Montezuma well

Here is a fantastically layered picture. The foreground is filled with trees that are entirely bare, the white, worn-away surface of their branches are open in the air, shaking in the sunlight. A step further in lies a massive sinkhole with a cliff-life border, filled with water that reflects everything else around it in the brilliant glow of the sun. Far in the background, above the sinkhole and the water, sit small trees, these with branches entirely covered in green leaves. It’s not clear why these trees are so full of life while the others are barren, but it’s an evocative contrast.

18. Hamilton Pool

This vibrant image is filled with life and color. The top surface of the cave that is situated around the pool of water that serves as the picture’s main subject is covered with spots of thin moss. All around the pool are great big trees, fully encompassed in green-yellow leaves that reek of early spring. The sun is out, and the air is light and dry. Everything is illuminated, and the entire scene is one of invitation and evocation. Here, the picture seems to be telling us, is a place where anything and everything could happen.

19. Karstic spring in Romania

This spring is obviously a tremendous source of life in the area, and the forest that seems to surround it and encompass the rest of the land speaks highly of this fact. The water of the spring is set deep into the ground, at the bottom of a stony descent from some higher peak that can’t be seen within the confines of this picture. The angle of the image points you downward, tossing you straight into the depths of that crystal clear and ultimately life-giving water. It’s a rejuvenating look at the source of something big.

20. Skocjan Caves

This picture, with a series of caves, two waterfalls, and a mysterious water source, has everything that an ideal cave photo needs. Portions of the cave’s rocks have born worn smooth by years of water flowing over them, though many of those particular sections now lie dry, showing that the internal workings of this cave system have changed in recent years. Still, this portion of the cave is home to not one, but two waterfalls. Together the seem to form the beginnings of a large stream housed by the cave itself, with origins and destination unknown.

21. Blue Pit

The water in this photograph is not only powerfully blue and shockingly clear, it’s also somewhat disorienting to look at. The water hides and obscures nothing, it’s completely transparent, but beneath its surface lies a much large portion of cave, the depths of which can’t be entirely seen in those photograph, giving viewers the sense that it drops into the ground endless, with all sorts of secrets and strange passageways locked deep within it. The brightness of the above water scene contrasts delightful with the darkness of what lies below the water’s surface.

22. Cave in Iceland

It’s hard to decide what is more intriguing about this image, the cave that it puts on display, or the massive body of water that the cave houses. Each subject pulls at the eyes. The cave rocks take the form of many evocatively geometric shapes, and their surfaces are a latticework of gray and white streaks. The water is shockingly blue, and seems to lead off in all sorts of directions, with no dead ends in view of the camera’s lens. This seems like the landscape one might adventure through in a book, movie, or video game.

23. Grotto in Kungur ice cave

This image is somewhat uncomfortable to look at, but that seems to be the intention of the photographer. The goal here is to capture the feeling of being within this cave, and the picture does that perfectly. The rocky “ceiling” of this underground, water-fill room is very close to the water’s surface, and the ceiling drops as you go further back into the room itself, becoming more and more claustrophobic as you swim forward. The water itself gives away nothing, it reflects the rocks directly above it. It shows no signs of its depths or what it hides.

24. Inside view of cave in rising

This image is a strange collection of colors and sights. The inside of this cave is made of mostly flat, dark rocks, but the rocks covered by the cave’s waters are a different color entirely, a tannish brown. The water itself is a light sky blue, and it sparkles in the thin streaks of sunlight that manage to somehow find their way into the confines of the cave. The most intriguing aspect of this image lies beneath the water’s surface. There is a whole in the ground that shoots deep below anything else in the picture — and it’s pitch black.

25. Cave in rising with water at the Galapagos islands

Here is an image of water set deep into the ground, surrounded by rocky walls that look less like giant slabs of stone and more like a series of rocks piled one on top of another until they’ve risen well above the level of the water. Trees stick out at odd angles from gaps in the rocks. The water, at least in the picture, seems still, like it’s more of a standing pool than a flowing stream, but it’s hard to tell as the boundaries of the water and the sinkhole itself are invisible in this image. Instead, the camera offers a small sample of water the place must be like.

26. Kauai Blue Room Cave

The only thing more impressive than the color of the water in this picture is the color of the stone that surrounds it. The walls of this cave are a mish-mash of warm colors linked together by tiny threads of white stone. It looks like a bursting flame resting on top of a deep, blue body of water that lies at the foot of a soft sandy beach. The rightmost and leftmost portions of this cave slink back into the darkness, falling back into unknown depths and paths, the water stretching on back into the earth endlessly.

27. Marble caves

This is an absolutely breathtaking image that looks much more like something out of the imagination of a skilled painter rather than a natural creation made by the Earth. The marble rock of this cave is shiny and luminescent, reflecting the water’s shining reflection of the rock itself, creating a wonderful and confusing interplay of light and reflection. The blue of the water melts into the gorgeous gray of the cave’s rock, creating together a whole world of color and feelings. This is a real work of art, all created from time and earth.

28. Grjotagja

This is a playful image, with rising and falling rocks and water levels. The play between the stone and the water is delightful to watch, and it fills viewers of the image with a strange kind of energy. Surely that’s helped along by the light present in the image, saturating every pixel, making all the details of the cave and the water pop and stand out, the colors shining, the shadows deepening. The strange angle of the photograph only further the momentum of the actual subjects of the image. This is a wonderful shot of an incredible natural landscape.

29. Cave Swimming pool

The rocks in this cave are incredibly layered. Some manage to be the typical chunky rocks of regular cave walls, but others look like flat sheets of stone that have been stacked on top of each other. An unseen opening at the top of the cave lets in plenty of light that really brings to light everything in the cave. That everything includes an expansive body of water that is dark and unnatural looking blue color, and that also reflects the cave back to itself, creating a strange extra layer of stone and light.

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