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Where the ocean meets the sky, where giant sea monsters control the waters and where pirates bury their treasures – this is where we maybe find the mermaids that so many old salts talk about when the light of day fades and the senses are fooled by too many drinks …

Mexico awaits us with mysterious cultures hidden under ruins absorbed by the depths of the rain forest. We, a team of underwater photographers, videographers, cave divers and a top model from the US, are going deep in the jungle of the Yucatán peninsula – where the tropical rain forest lies across the plains like a green carpet and the countryside is shaped by a sheer impenetrable flora. It is at this magical place where you find the entrance to a mystical and dark underwater world: the hidden world of the cenotes, a location for our outstanding and extraordinary underwater fashion shoot.

My wife Melanie and I dive into the underworlds of the Mayas to shoot America’s top model Hannah Fraser alias Hannah mermaid in the Mexican cenotes in the most spectacular way. Today is all about Mexican caves instead of Parisian runways. Our project was planned for a long time and needs to be carried out with upmost concentration. A detailed and thorough briefing marks the beginning of our breath-taking adventure. Markus Fleischmann, holder of Pro Dive International, and our dive guide Matt explain all behavioural rules we must consider on a cenote dive like this. Clear guidelines, clear rules. No ifs and buts. This is especially important as this shooting takes place IN and not IN FRONT OF the cenotes for the first time.

The water at the entrance is crystal clear and is shining in unbelievable shades of blue, green and turquoise. Its temperature of around 25°C is a welcome change in the middle of the hot Mexican rainforest. Passing some freshwater turtles we dive into a grotto which is filled with air in its upper part. It is therefore also easily accessible for our model Hannah. At the entrance of the grotto impressive light effects are fascinating us. Sunrays are penetrating the crystal clear water and make their way towards the ground where they are dancing in a spectacular manner. There she is: a mermaid slowly moving towards us – a mystical, if not magical encounter with a beautiful creature. Visibility is beyond 100 meters. The spectacular, light-flooded areas, however, are located completely underwater and can only be accessed with detailed consultation and special security measures. Holding on to the fixed guiding ropes that you can find all around the cave system we are moving along further and further towards the darkness with a mixed feeling of danger and fascination. Suddenly, palatial halls appear from the darkness. They are full of stalagmites and stalactites shining in golden colours in the light of our lamps. Our mermaid is making her way through tight gaps and giant limestone formations. After a 15 min. dive we finally arrive at the very centre of the cenote. We surface. At this spot, the cave is not completely underwater which is why it will perfectly serve us as a breath-taking location for a fashion shoot of a special kind.

No location equals another. Every cenote, every scene is different and offers its own photographic appeal – sometimes dark and mysterious, sometimes majestical and opulent. Without doubt, the cenote system of Mexico evokes a certain fascination to us and the model. It feels like a liaison between female and maritime beauty. We are totally smitten. It is the light plays of the sun, the aesthetically beautiful presentation of a body underwater, but also the thrill of diving deep into the hidden worlds of the Mayas, mermaids and sirens that completely enthuses us. And in the end, we have found what we were looking for: a stunning and fairy-tale like mermaid. The only thing missing now is the love of a human spouse who will free this soulless and doomed creature from her destiny to live as a mermaid. Too bad the male part of our crew is already spoken for …

Author & Photographer: Melanie and David Benz in Cooperation with Videographer Niklas Nischke

All images shot with the following equipment