(Torrey) Today we all woke up bright and early and traveled north of Akumal to an underground river/cave system known as Rio Secreto. Once we arrived we were talked to and briefed about our upcoming tour of the river system, which would involve some walking, and some swimming. After we were briefed we loaded another van and were driven back into the jungle about 20 minutes where we would start our tour. When we arrived to the entrance we were all given wet suits, life vests, and helmets with lights on them. Once the class was ready to begin the tour we followed our guide Rafael into the jungle a little ways where we would begin our descent into the cave. Our guide was very knowledgeable and knew an incredible amount of information about the stalactites and stalagmites. Went we entered the cave I don't think anyone completely realized how dark the cave was going to be. It was a complete blackness not being about to see your own hand. The tour lasted about 1 to 1 ½ hours. After we finished the tour we were served lunch. The lunch consisted of some nachos and quesadillas. After we finished our lunch we loaded the van back up to head towards the exit. Once we arrived back to the gate we exited their van and loaded up in our van. We then traveled back to Akumal where we all pretty worn out and decided to just relax the remainder of the day. Some of us took naps and other put in a few community service hours, such as decorating piñatas.
(Allison) Today we went to Río Secreto. It is an underground cave/river system and wow is it amazing. It is 75 feet or 25 meters underground. It was discovered in 2007 and has only been open for touring for 2 years now. Prior to exploring the cave we put on wet suits and helmets. Our skin has chemicals on it that will pollute the water and as this is an eco-friendly tourist destination we were required to take a shower to rise off any chemicals on our skin that would pollute the water. We saw the start of stalactite and stalagmite formations. We were also told not to touch the formations and we could not bring anything in. This was to help preserve this amazing geological structure for as long as possible. However, our guide did not adhere to these rules at all times. He dug up some of the sandy bottom of the cave in order to show us some layers and explain why the cave floor was so uneven. This particular guide gives tours twice daily. If he alone does this for every tour he gives the cave's pristine condition won't be so pristine within a few years. However, they do give tours from different entrances and through different tunnels. Our group leader Mark told us that last year the group that came down here for this same course had a different tour. This must be to protect the cave. If tours were led through only one set of tunnels these would quickly become polluted. We were required to swim through some tunnels with very low ceilings. A couple members of the group hit their head on the ceiling above. Thus, why the use of helmets was required.
(Torrey) After being exposed to such a beautiful and crazy environment it was time to take everything we saw in. The experience in general meant a lot to everyone. The cave itself has been around for thousands of years and was just recently discovered about 4 years ago. The cave will now be able to be explored by thousands of people.
(Allison) We were also taught a bit about Maya culture. At the entrance to the tunnel we entered through we saw a cross. Our guide told us that the horizontal piece represented the earth, the upper part represented the heavens and the bottom part represented the underworld. It is their circle of life.
(Torrey) To me personally the entire experience is one in a million. It was one of the most amazing structures I have ever witnessed in my life. After the tour I was in complete awe. The tour is definitely something everyone should experience in his or her life. This completely changed the way I look at the earth now. I look at the earth differently now because of not knowing that such amazing structures existed until recently. I would enjoy coming back in the future to see how much the place has changed given it has only been open for about 4 years.