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Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich


Nohoch nah Chich is Mayan for “Giant Bird Cage.” Many people feel it is the most beautifully decorated underwater cave anywhere. It was also officially the world’s largest underwater cave system, until the discovery of Sistema Ox Bel Ha.

Until recently, just getting to Nohoch was an adventure in itself. Unlike most other popular Yucatan cave diving sites, you did not simply drive up, put your gear on and go. First, you had to work with a local dive guide (still a good idea), letting him or her know ahead of time that you want to make a dive at Nohoch part of your itinerary.

The next step was that your guide had to attempt to contact the family that owns Nohoch and schedule a dive. (The Don Pedro Rodriquez family has no electricity and no telephone.) A common means of communication was leaving a note for them, tucked in a tree by Highway 307.

Assuming arrangements could be made (never a certainty), the “Nohoch Boys” would arrange to meet you and your guide at their parking area, 100 yards in from Highway 307, just south of Dos Ojos. Your guide would tell you how to pack your gear because it would be taken in on the backs of the Nohoch Boy’s burros. You would get to follow it, on foot. The walk was a little over a mile. Having the right shoes and plenty of bug spray was essential.

Was the trip worth it? Hell, yes.


Today you can drive right up to the Rodriquez family’s rancho, just as you do at other sites. After paying your fee, you will see a large cenote with stairs leading to the usual island in the center. Don’t worry about carrying your gear down. The Nohoch Boys will be lowering it to you, by rope.

You will be suiting up on a wide deck, close to the water. Your guide will then take you on a long, shallow dive. There is no need to rush, either. No matter how far you go, or which line you take, you will not see more than a tiny fraction of the cave. Not that it really matters; everything you see will be utterly mind blowing.


Because of the nature of the site, a common practice is to make two dives on a single set of double 80s. Because of the extremely shallow depths (20 to 30 feet, or less), this still allows plenty of bottom time.

How to describe Nohoch? That’s difficult. There are some things for which the English language has no words which are adequate. Suffice it to say you will see a very large, very white cave with intricate, delicate formations everywhere. It is an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. No shit.

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