Many of us fear at least one thing, ranging from loneliness to heights, bugs or large crowds. I happen to fear fish, yet this has done nothing to prevent me from facing this fear. The more you travel and explore, the less you fear things.
I recently visited Rio Secreto (The Secret River) in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.This is a 12 km long semi-sunken cave with 15 natural outlets in different areas. It also happens to have an underground river system running through it. Because it has so many routes, there can be more than one tour going through the cave simultaneously without even seeing the other group! Since this is also a protected nature reserve, tourists are not allowed to bring any cameras into the caves and are required to take a shower before entering the cave. A professional photographer accompanies you to takes the pictures for you.
After showering and donning our wetsuits, helmets and headlamps, we finally descended the beautiful opening into the cave. I was stunned into silence. It was truly spectacular. Even though most of the bottom was sandy, the water in the cave was perfectly clear. There was a chance of stumbling or scraping your feet, so the guide advised us to lift our knees high with every step. My feet weren't as bruised as they could have been.
Throughout the tour, we walked or waded through chest and shoulder high water, and at one point we had to swim for a few minutes. Time seemed to pass quickly as we went deeper and deeper into the cave, where we heard bats and saw Mexican blind fish darting away so quickly you may have imagined them. The numerous stalactites and stalagmites were so delicate and beautiful.
So where did I face my fear, you ask? We reached a point where the water level was up to my sternum. The guide asked us to turn off our headlamps and be silent for 3 minutes. When you're standing in cold water, unable to see your hand in front of your face, and there's fish in the water, it's easy to imagine that you are alone, and have no way to get out. No wonder Gollum was so bug eyed!
Our guide said that since we faced our fears in the darkness, we should leave our fears here in the darkness and not carry them with us outside. I was inclined to feel the same.
On the whole, this experience was a unique opportunity.The cave system was breath taking, well looked after and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Just go do it, and more so if you have fears you need to leave behind!
Written by Ayesha Tabassom. Photos by Rio Secreto.
See more of Ayesha's adventures on Instagram: @atabassom