I had the opportunity to sit down with Otto von Bertrab, the Chief Operating Officer for Rio Secreto. Rio Secreto is an underground river and nature reserve located just a few minutes south of Playa del Carmen. Here, tourists have the opportunity to explore the an underground river and cave system unique to this region. Accompanied by a tour guide, small groups enter through one of the many entrances to the intricate and well-preserved cave system. As you exit the caves at the end of your tour, it is impossible to walk out unchanged. Otto explained how this magical journey began.
Otto arrived in the area 17 years ago. He began by working for a well-known tour company designing tours. He focused on preservation of small communities through ecotourism and sustainable projects. Then in 2006, he was invited to visit, what is now, Rio Secreto.
The ejidatario, the owner of the ejido land where Rio Secreto is located, showed him the entrance to the cenote. Upon entering, they noticed another passageway. The ejidatario admitted he didn’t know where it lead to, and that’s when a year long journey of exploring caves that had barely been explored began. During the exploration, they realized the cave system had been perfectly preserved. ¨There was such beauty¨, Otto recalls. After signing an agreement with the ejidatario which allowed them to explore the land, use it for an ecotourism location, and most importantly to preserve the natural landscape, Rio Secreto was born.
¨As we were feeling at the moment we discovered this place, that it is a virgin place that no one has entered…everyone who visits needs to feel the same,¨ explained Otto. They designed tours to limit the impact to the environment by providing small group tours. Rio Secreto has multiple entrances and exits, and the tour guides can bring small groups in and out of the caves without running into other groups. This allows visitors to have an intimate experience and a sense of discovery, like Otto and his team during that first year.
Guests to Rio Secreto are seen as much more than just paying customers. The staff at Rio Secreto has the opportunity to transform the guests into advocates to help preserve this special place.
If you are interested in exploring the underground river and caves of Rio Secreto, you can arrange your tour through their website at www.riosecreto.com.