X’keken and Samulá are cenotes of the dark and cavernous kind. Their ceilings are almost entirely enclosed, keeping them gloomy and quiet throughout the day. Until…
At midday, when the sun is directly overhead, a beam of harsh white light enters the cenote through a narrow slot in the ceiling.
The beam of light is so bright, so pure, it seems to cut through the gloom like a knife.
It lasts for an hour or so, then the sun sails too far past the cenote’s eyehole, and the cavern returns to gloom – or it would, if the cavern weren’t lit by floodlights.
If you want to witness this spectacle for yourself then I highly recommend arriving ahead of time. Your window is short; you don’t want to miss out.
Swimming is allowed, and highly recommended.
The water in X’keken and Samulá is clear and cool and filled with friendly catfish. It is also free of the offensive reek of guano which afflicts so many of Mexico’s cenotes.
The slit in the ceiling of Cenote Samulá is a little larger than that of X’keken.
There used to be a set of magnificent tree roots that entered through the hole in the ceiling of Cenote Samulá and extended all the way down to the island of rocks below, but they have since retreated.
There is also a second opening in the ceiling of Cenote Samulá; a tiny pinhole which lets in the slimmest needle of light. The pinhole is very narrow, it lets in light for just thirty minutes or so.
The pool at Cenote Samulá is very deep, and the water is very clear. Those who get vertigo swimming in deep water be warned, your eye – even without goggles – can penetrate the water to unnerving depths.
Practical information and how to reach Cenote X’keken:
Cenote X’keken and Cenote Samulá are located in the town of Dzitnup, approximately seven kilometres from the historical centre of Valladolid. It is possible to hire bicycles in Valladolid and cycle to the cenotes if you’re getting around by public transport.
Both cenotes are contained within the one complex, known as X’keken Jungle Park