In the Yucatan Peninsula there are certain singularities that make it extraordinary for science. We discover 5 extraordinary things about Planet Earth that you can discover in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The scientific popularization book A brief history of almost everything, the author Bill Bryson brings us closer to know how little and extraordinary we know about the Planet. It does so by spinning outstanding scientific discoveries and events from Earth's History,

In this wonderful summary of highlights in the History of science, he mentions two facts of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Is about two extraordinary little things on the planet that happened on the Peninsula. Incidentally, the book is a real gem.

  • THE CHICXULUB METEORITE: In the population of the Yucatecan coast of Chicxulub, a meteorite fell 65.5 million years ago, which is linked to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
  • THE STROMATOLITES, which are considered the oldest living things on Earth. In the Bacalar lagoon you can easily meet the oldest being on the planet.

Almost nothing, right? These two highlights from Bill Bryson's book form the basis of the article on 5 extraordinary things on planet Earth you can experience in the Yucatan Peninsula.

5 extraordinary little things on the planet that you will only enjoy in the Yucatan Peninsula

There are unique details on Earth that curious travelers are fascinated by: where is the deepest cave on the planet, the highest pyramid in the world, the hottest point on the planet. Any data that we can use to make a place unique interests us. The trips are full of the place more o this is where.

In the Yucatan Peninsula we can talk about 5 extraordinary phenomena to discover Prepared for a unique journey for millions of years?

1- CHICXULUB METEORITE, CAUSING THE EXTINCTION OF THE DINOSAURS

65.5 million years ago the great Chicxulub meteorite would change the history of the planet. A 9 km wide rock hit the Planet: the epicenter of this great impact is in Yucatan, near the port of Chicxulub. A small port on the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in a little while we tell you how to visit the place.

Shortening the story in a simple way, the large meteorite collision caused large chain fires and other disasters, flooding the air with a large layer of dust. These large layers cause the sun's energy to not reach the Earth's surface, for example, leaving plants to die as they cannot photosynthesize. The changes caused are so great that the natural chain of current life is modified.. An unstoppable chain of events is triggered as a domino effect towards a different kind of life.

In the words of Kunio Kaiho, a paleontologist at Tohoku University in Japan, “(…) the meteorite crashed into a source rich in sulfur and hydrocarbons located in sedimentary rock. The scorching temperatures in the crater created by the impact possibly blew up that fuel, which must have spewed soot and sulfur into the stratosphere in sufficient quantities to block the sun and change the climate, leading to the collapse of entire ecosystems and the extinction of three quarters of all species on Earth. "

These enormous changes transformed the planet, from which 75% of species, including dinosaurs, became extinct. The Chicxulub meteorite gave way to the last ice age.

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Image from NASA ©. Diameter of the meteorite in the impact zone

This impact has marked what we know as the Cenotes Ring of Yucatan. Several of the cenotes are grouped on the diameter. Imagine the Chicxulub meteorite scene as if it were the slow motion impact of a drop of milk. At the diameter perimeter the impact is much greater, which causes the sediments that were below the surface to be located above, they mix.

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At the perimeter the greatest impact causes the sediment layers to mix

These factors have caused more cenotes to form along the perimeter.. EYE, the Chicxulub meteorite is not the cause of the cenotes, as I often hear or read. We clarify this idea in our next extraordinary thing on the planet: LOS CENOTES of the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Cenotes ring in Yucatan

Visit the port of Chicxulub, Yucatan

So you don't get your hopes up, I must tell you that physically we cannot appreciate the hole made by this meteorite. In fact it fell into the sea of ​​the Gulf of Mexico. The Yucatecan town of Chicxulub, after which the meteorite is named, is located a few kilometers away. There is no sign that we can appreciate in Chicxulub.

A commemorative plaque announcing the place is the only thing you can see in Chicxulub. What we can visit is the Chicxulub Crater Science Museum. A visit that I owe myself since I have not yet gone to see the museum, and it looks good.

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Commemorative plaque in Chicxulub

2- LOS CENOTES, UNIQUE FORMATIONS ON THE PLANET

Nowhere in the world can you enjoy the thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Are the cenotes of the Peninsula on the Planet unique? What is undoubtedly unique is the amount of cenotes and variety that we have here, although there are cenotes in other parts of the world.

Returning to the history of the fall of the Chicxulub meteorite, it is known that after that impact the last ice age of the Planet begins. One of the characteristics of the ice ages is that the poles of the Earth concentrate much of the water in the oceans as ice. The more ice the poles accumulate, the lower the sea water level will be.

At the end of the Pleistocene, stage in which we homo sapiens began our walk on the planet, the sea level was almost 120 meters lower than the current one. From that time until now the sea level has been rising steadily.

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Modified from González-González et al., (2008) and Blanchon & Shaw (1995). Source

For millions of years, galleries were formed in the subsoil of the Peninsula. An extraordinary world of caves, caves, galleries, stalactites and stalagmites was created in the bowels. When the sea level rises again, the galleries are flooded with water. Imagine what a wonderful world lives under our feet on the Peninsula. It's exciting.

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Photo courtesy of Juanma Cano / Cenote Dos Ojos

The word cenote is born from pronouncing the Mayan word Yucatecan ts'ono'ot or dzonot (well with water). When we talk about cenotes we are referring to the holes that allow us access to water. These holes in the floor are naturally produced by the collapse of the ceiling. This land is full of cenotes, there are thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Cenotes in other parts of the world are known as a karst formation called the sinkhole. The sinkholes can be dry or flooded. The formation characteristics of the Peninsula made it form a unique landscape on the planet of impressive flooded caves, which we know as cenotes.

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The sinkhole is one of the formations that occur in karst landscapes

You will see the beauties that these holes bring you. You are going to fall in love with the cenotes on your trip, without a doubt they are something unique to the planet. You will have to choose between thousands of cenotes on your trip. We are passionate about these natural wonders, since we arrived in 2007 the passion for cenotes has only increased.

Discover more than the cenotes and which ones do we recommend visit

extraordinary things on the planet

3- SAC ACTUN, THE LONGEST FLOODED CAVE ON THE PLANET

Without leaving the wonderful world of cenotes, we enter the longest flooded cave on the planet. In the Riviera Maya of the Mexican Caribbean, between the towns of Tulum and Playa del Carmen, we find the largest underwater cave system on the planet.

This is the cave known as Sac Actun (white cave), 364 kilometers of galleries connected under our feet, can you imagine? This Sac Actun system is made up of about 226 cenotes, all linked by underground veins.

The title of the longest flooded cave on the planet has been exchanged between various systems in this area of ​​the Mexican Caribbean since 2007.. It was in 2018 that divers managed to find the path that connects the Dos Ojos System with the Sac Actun system.

The longest system retains the name, and in this case it was the Sac Actun System. Before 2018, the Ox Bel Ha system was the longest, now it is the second behind Sac Actun. Divers continue to explore to link systems. We leave you the list of longer flooded cave systems in Quintana Roo.

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Frame taken from the documentary The Great Mayan Aquifer

If we put ourselves in a situation, we remember that the sea level years ago was 120 meters below that of today. Those dry caves were home to wildlife and humans. The caves have always been used as habitat and places for ceremonies and other activities. La Sac Actun cave preserves evidence of the first settlers of America, extinct fauna and Mayan archaeological remains.

As you will see we find ourselves before another fascinating place full of direct testimonies to our past, these are the extraordinary things of the Planet. Nowadays this great cenote area is still being explored, and we are convinced that new scientific jewels will add to so many lost chapters of our tracks by the Planet.

We leave you the documentary of the Great Maya Aquifer where you can enjoy the Sac Actun cave.

The second longest flooded cave system in the world is also found in Quintana Roo, the Mexican Caribbean state. This fascinating world of flooded caves and cenotes attract thousands of divers every year. That all these systems are close to the sea is far from accidental. Here the galleries are broader than in the interior of the Peninsula, and there are more veins that connect the galleries. There is a scientific explanation for this.

This fact is explained in an excellent way by the karst hydrogeologist Emiliano Monroy-Ríos on his blog science popularizer:

“It is no coincidence, like nothing in nature, that Sac Actun is close to the sea. the rock is dissolved by rainwater - acidified by both the carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, such as from the decomposition of organic matter in the jungle floor (leaves, branches, dead animals, bacteria) - which, when mixed with salt water, increases its corrosive power. Where the deep salty and superficial layers of fresh water meet is where the greatest dissolution is found of limestone, forming an extensive network of ducts, caves and caverns that extends underground.

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Sac Actun system. Data from: INEGI / QRSS / Kambesis & Coke (2016) Source

4- MESOAMERICAN REEF, 2nd LONGEST CORAL REEF ON THE PLANET

We continue with the fourth extraordinary thing on the planet that you can enjoy in the Yucatan Peninsula. And for this We continue this journey on the coast of the Caribbean Sea to discover the second largest reef on the planet.. But before we go for a little more personal tour, we make a brief stop in Australia, where the largest reef is: the Great Barrier Reef.

I remember the great emotion I felt the day that a thousand years ago, in 1999, I enjoyed together with a pillar friend of life, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Still today we never tire of remembering that brutal day, those feelings that travel gives: I was thousands of miles from home, in the dreamed Great Barrier Reef, in front of the only living being that can be seen from space, with a essential friend, in a unique place, what more can you ask for? The rush of emotion is cool, it is what you have to understand and enjoy where you are, live in the moment. And those moments accompany you all your life in the memory of the heart, they are priceless.

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With Mado before swimming in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (1999). The faces afterwards were of exhausted happiness.

Years later life led me to live in front of the Mesoamerican Reef, the second longest on the planet. Since we arrived in 2007 I can enjoy another priceless game. In the Mexican Caribbean we learned to dive and have enjoyed spectacular dives in the open sea and cenotes. I live the Mexican Caribbean as a privilege.

Thanks to the experience I know what it means for a traveler to enjoy the Mexican Caribbean, to be able to swim with turtles or with the whale shark, dive in the reefs of the mythical Cozumel or in cenotes. Of course I also understand the excitement of just setting foot in the Caribbean. They are things that I have lived, and they are indelible.

island-contoy

Without a doubt, something extraordinary on your trip through these lands is to enjoy the Caribbean and its reefs. You can do it on the coast that we know as the Riviera Maya (Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres) or on the Costa Maya (in places like Mahahual or Xcalak). The Mesoamerican Reef runs from Cabo Catoche, located north of Cancun, to the islands of Bahía-Cayos Cochinos, on the north coast of Honduras. There are 1000 kilometers of coastline shared by 4 countries: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.

In Mexico you find hundreds of activities to satisfy your cravings for the Caribbean. For divers it is one of the leading destinations on the planet thanks to its Mesoamerican reef and cenotes. This strip of the Caribbean has turquoise colors and transparency that tangle in you. My love for natural spaces has only grown thanks in part to the Caribbean Sea and all its wonderful possibilities.

Why the Mexican Caribbean is turquoise

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Mesoamerican Reef Area. Source

5- STROMATOLITES, THE OLDEST LIVING BEING THAT LIVES THE EARTH

Did you know that in the Yucatan Peninsula you could meet the oldest beings on the planet? We introduce you to the stromatolites, the living beings considered as the first inhabitants of the Planet. Again without leaving the water and going back 3,500 million years in time. What a great trip we are sticking 🙂

The word stromatolite derives from the Greek and means layered rock (from the Greek στρώμα strōma = bed / carpet and λίθο Litho = stone). They are the oldest known evidence of life on Earth. The oldest stromatolites are from Australia and are about 3.500 billion years old. Stromatolites are one of the few fossil records left by bacteria. It is known that they were produced by them because today they continue to form in the seas where conditions are favorable.

In the Yucatan Peninsula we have the first cousins ​​of these Australians in the Bacalar lagoon. And I tell you something very good: Stromatolites are very easy to see, it is a simple thing to do on the Peninsula.

Do you see these rocks in the picture? If you did not know everything that you now know or importance you would give them. It's the nice thing to know, that helps you appreciate. When I saw them for the first time I was very excited, that's why I try to continue learning because it gives me great pleasure. I have been fortunate to share these living beings directly with various friends and tourist clients, and the shared emotion is even better.

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Stromatolites in the Bacalar lagoon

Stromatolites can be seen in different parts of the Planet. We have talked about the oldest seen at The Shark Bay in Australia. You can also visit them on Andros Island in the Bahamas, in the Red Sea, on the Salgada lake in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), on the Llamará salt flat in the Amarga lagoon and other salt flats in northern Chile and in San Juan de Marcona in Peru. In addition to Bacalar lagoon, Mexico treasures stromatolites in the Cuatro Ciénegas reserve in Coahuila.

Where to see stromatolites in the Bacalar lagoon

We stayed in our area of ​​the Yucatan Peninsula to see where to see the stromatolites. In the Bacalar lagoon you have different points to see them: We mention two very easy to access. There are more places, in fact some hotels in front of the lagoon have stromatolites.

  • COCALITOS SPA: a spa in front of the Bacalar lagoon open to the public from where the stromatolites are seen. Due to the deterioration, they have prohibited the access of boats to the area that came with tourists on tour.
  • BACALAR FAST: about 13 kilometers south of the Bacalar lagoon we find what we know as the Rapids of Bacalar. It is a channel that connects the Xul-Há lagoon (where the waters flow) with that of Bacalar. Along this channel we can see the stromatolites. There is a restaurant in the area with access to the canal. At the moment the place is not closed, but I'm afraid they will. The very little care they take to preserve them is causing government authorities to take action on the matter.

Discover what to do in Bacalar in your journey

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Stromatolites in the Bacalar Rapids

Well, this is where our trip comes from. Have you noticed that we have not emerged from the water? The 5 extraordinary things on the planet have led us through water, our common thread. We are water, in fact the planet Earth is covered in 71% water, and the remaining 29% is landmass. Blue Planet 💙

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I hope you have enjoyed this trip for the extraordinary things on the planet that you can experience in the Yucatan Peninsula. If we can help you on your journey through these lands, here you can find us. Try to travel with the least impact on the environment, each of us leaves an ecological footprint. Make it the least possible traveler.

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Sandra Salvadó Training photographer, traveler by vocation and certified tourism guide by the Government of Mexico. I help promote natural wonders and contemporary Mayan culture. Great fan of pre-Hispanic history. Author of this blog, recently co-founder of The Shortest Path Travel, agency that guides you through alternative paths in Mayan lands. Social and sustainable tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.
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