Hidden Treasures of the Riviera Maya: Aktun Chen
The magnificent Riviera Maya has an infinite amount of natural treasures and gems. It's not only the white sand beaches, turquoise sea, colorful gastronomy, and striking history to which we owe the essence of its culture. The Riviera Maya hides some of its best kept secrets in the jungle, deep underground, or even buried among its ruins.
This is the first chapter of a series of blogs that will be dedicated to the natural hidden beauties of the majestic Riviera Maya.
With the great help and guidance of the Riviera Maya Tourism Board, we started our journey in the jungle, underground, above ground flying from tree to tree, and among fascinating local fauna: This is Aktun Chen!
The path that leads us from the highway to the very entrance of Aktun Chen is in itself an intriguing and exciting path through the jungle. When we finally arrived to our destination, in the middle of a beautiful lush jungle, we realized that the intrigue wouldn't stop at the entrance, as we were entering what ancient Mayas believed to be the place where the rain god Chaak resided in: caves and natural wells called cenotes.
These natural freshwater sinkholes are a geological feature found here, in the northern Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. There are no rivers in the Yucatán; the regular high rainfall (1,300 mm or about 50 inches of rain falls every year) simply leaks through its calcareous landscape. Once below ground, the water forms a thin layer of water called a lens aquifer. Those aquifers flow horizontally, carving sinuous underground caves, and when the ceilings of those caves collapse, sinkhole openings to the surface are created.
The natural cave of Aktun Chen is approximately 5 million years old and located in the depth of the jungle, for a total of 700 yards underground. The ancient Mayas would gather there to perform their rituals.
After a walk through the jungle and throughout that misterious cave, we arrived at a spectacular cenote where we were able to swim in its fresh, clear and pure transparent water.
To the ancient Mayas, cenotes were passageways to the underground world. They were often also associated with the rain god Chaac which they believed, resided in that underworld.
Cenote formation in the Yucatán happened several millions of years ago, when the Yucatán Peninsula was still below sea level. A considerable ring of cenotes results from the impact of an asteroid of 65 million years ago. This Chicxulub asteroid impact is often thought to be responsible, at least partly, with killing off the dinosaurs.
After walking through the mystic and mysterious underworld, we were now heading above ground and even higher...
If you love heights as much as I do, you will love this zip line experience through the jungle, flying at high speed from tree to tree, dozens of feet above the ground and above a few alligators... if you get lucky...!
The Aktun Chen Park features a total of four zip lines, each 25 feet high connected by a system of secure suspension bridges to move between them. A wonderful and exciting way to feel the incredible jungle vibe, from high above.
And then, our visit ended "en beauté"....:
*Spider monkeys (as well as whitetail deers) walk freely around the park, even if some parts of the park appear to be fenced for them, it is more for a reproduction control. We saw many of them jump the fence and walk with us
"For the most part, it is a 400 acre rainforest preserved in its primeval virginity, with no traces of human interference. We use less than 10% of the extension trying to emphasize the importance of protecting endangered species of Yucatan flora and fauna. In our park, you can still find such animals as the whitetail deer, spider monkey and lowland paca. We hope our ecological initiative will help increase reproduction of rare species in the region." -Aktun Chen official website
Being able to walk through such fascinating animal species, will only make you feel privileged and blessed. Most of the animals of this park were rescued and are now getting all the treatment and help they need to keep growing in a healthy, safe and natural environment. Founded in 1977, the Yucatan enterprise had the simple, yet "not easy to accomplish" idea of unveiling the natural beauty of the Mayan jungle as well as its mysterious underground.
Visit their official website to find out more about them and about their different adventure options!
Continue visiting our blogs to discover the Riviera Maya through our photography, experiences and lifestyle. Here is a clue of what Chapter 2 of our quest through the beauties of the Riviera Maya will be: Turquoise lagoon canals and gum..... Stay tuned!