Rio Secreto, Riviera Maya, Mexico


As we descended down the slope into the underground the bats fluttered around our heads, I had imagined us entering into a tight cave, cramped headspace and low light but what lay in-front of us was quite the show, and all laying beneath the Riviera Maya as we know it.



The caves were discovered by a local mayan man just over a decade ago, so the natural reserve itself is rather “new” for the general public. The story that we were told was rather magnificent, a young man on his ranch was chasing an iguana that he was trying to hunt; in mayan culture it is known that BBQ Iguana is quite the delicacy. As he chased said iguana around it scurried down a hole and he decided to follow it, as he managed to squeeze through the gap and get his feet on the ground he was marveled by these underground caves in front of him, what looked like a whole other world, stalagmites and stalactites in all their glory, kilometres of unseen underground land with magnificent structure and splendor.


The story felt even more incredible seeing the space, reflecting on that insane feeling that young man must of felt stumbling upon such an incredible natural wonder by chance.

The caves themselves are difficult to describe in words purely because of the spectacular nature of them, like nothing I have ever experienced before. Ample space to both move around in and several meters high the sheer scale of the stalactites and stalagmites were mind-blowing. It was said that in the era of mammoths , thousands of years ago cavemen actually would congregate in these underground caves and without spoiling too much of the tour, you learn about the types of congregations that used to take place in these impressive spots.


Today the only inhabitants of the caves themselves are families of bats and the occasional but famous TOH birds, although it is rare to see them deep inside the caves nesting, we were exceedingly fortunate to witness a couple flying around far underground. We were visiting the caves to film some footage for a visual project that we are currently working on, as we wandered through the caves, the stillness and fresh air (it felt like a natural air condition unit compared to excruciating heat outside) bought me so much peace.

The perfect spot to stop and mediate and revel in the incredible natural wonder we were currently inside of.

Jimena took us to various spots under the ground, exceedingly photogenic ones at that and whilst it wasn’t our initial intention to shoot photographical content we couldn’t miss out on such an incredible opportunity to create some really impressive content.

Those of you have been following me for a while will undoubtedly know me obsession with connecting with nature and how i love to explore, experience and capture moments in unusual and natural places. But this place i think easily topped being one of the most spectacular places i have ever had the chance to create in.

Dressed in beautiful piece of hand printed fabric made by the Tulum based company Terra Tulum I felt powerful, i felt connected to the planet, earthy tones and lit by candle light in an underground cave, there was a shamanic goddessness about this shoot and although fast and unplanned it felt special, magical and got our brains ticking with ideas for future content.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Would you like to see more shoots like this? Or even some more content from Rio Secreto we were thinking of going back...let me know. Photography: Gerardo Arteaga

Fabric/Dress: Terra

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Jamila Wardknott - jamilawardknott@gmail.com