Driving around the Yucatan, it's not unusual to pass a dusty, gate-guarded dirt road that vanishes off into the foliage and rocks. In some cases, these back roads lead to a private ranch; in others, it's nothing more than a shortcut to the beach or an illicit gathering place. But some lead the way to one of the region's greatest hidden treasures: its cenotes. From the ground, cenotes often look like little more than sinkholes. But once you descend into their cavernous depths and encounter the eerily blue water below, you realized you've entered another realm entire.
While shooting the Bonobos Summer Collection in Tulum, we were fortunate enough to gain access to some cenotes that are normally off-limits to visitors. But with a little luck and some very smooth talking from our guide Jaime, we were able at last to gain access. To get into the first cenote, a 30-foot jump was required from a rickety ledge—exhilarating and a little nerve-wracking, to say the least. When you plummet through the darkness and the cold water hits you however, and you open your eyes to find a crystal-clear, subaquatic world before you, it's an experience unlike any other. As part of a vast underground river system, all of the region's cenotes are connected. Cave-divers sometimes travel through those deep, blue depths, going from one cave to another.
In our case, though, it was strictly free-diving, with a little base-jumping thrown in. Our guide Jaime was the first to take the plunge, after checking carefully to make sure there was no one below. It was too long of a drop to practice our cannonballs, but just the right height to get the thrill of a lifetime—not to mention one pretty amazing underwater view.