Well as strange as it is cave tubing is quite popular and fun too.
Most tour companies offer this excursion in San Ignacio, one of them being Eva's (it is a restaurant and bar, they offer excursions and the information they give is excellent, but don't eat at this place, it ain't so good).
The cost of this excursion for a full day out, exploring over 4 caves is likely to cost you 60 US Dollars each, you can shop around but prices don't vary much.
The destination was Caves Branch a well established area and renounded for it's excellent caves, our tour guide gave us a great insight into the Belizean life and how things work in the Country as well as explaining what the caves meant to the Mayans.
Basicly in ancient times the mayans would hold sacrafices to thier Gods within caves as they beleived that caves were the gateway to the Gods, many children were victims of this sacrafice, being beaten over the head till dead, sounds charming, no you won't see any bones at caves branch, but there is another tour that offers this, it does cost more though.
You pick up your inner tube, life vest and head light, walk for about 30 mins. and then enter the very refreshing water and the rest of the day is spent drifting through caves, it is utter relaxation.
Don't forget you will get wet, so swimsuit or shorts is a good idea as well as insect repellent, don't take camera's as they are likely to get damaged.
On this trip we took two days (while staying at the Belize Tropical Education Centre) to do something out of the ordinary. The first day we were driven to a Cave where we then got on our dry fit gear and out on our flashlight head band. The cave was beautiful and we were inside for around 4 hours. The limestone on the walls was awesome to see and there are tons of shadow tricks which were performed by ancient Mayans and even lime stone diaramas which have formed over time. We saw a whole skeleton and many skulls and bones. We also saw many old ancieant cooking artifacts. At one point we all turned our flashlights off and were given a haunting operetic show by a fellwo classmate in the echoeing dark. It was wonderful and the water was a nice temperature.
St. Herman's Cave is part of the Blue Hole National Park. It is located 400 meters from the Hummingbird Highway. You can also walk from the Blue Hole, but we elected not to do that.
St. Herman's Cave is a large sinkhole, 60 meters wide, funneling to a 20 meter entrance to the cave. Concrete steps down into the cave have been constructed over the steps made by the Maya who used the cave during the Classic Period (0- 900A.D.). This is one of three entrances.
As we approached the cave, we felt a surge of cool, damp air which caused my camera lenses and my glasses to fog up.
You will need a flashlight. We used a dive light as our flashlight, but we didn't go back much beyond the entrance as we didn't have a guide. You can actually go into the cave for about a mile.
From the website: "Pottery vessels, used for the collection of "Zuhuy Ha" or virgin water from cave drippings, along with spears and torches, have been removed from St. Herman's Cave for study by the Department of Archaeology in Belmopan. Thanks to the Belize Government, permission has been granted to BHNP visitors, admitting them to St. Herman's Cave without the usual permits required for entering caves. Permission must still be obtained from the Department of Archaeology to enter Mountain Cow and Petroglyph Caves, which are beyond the border of the BHNP. "
The National Park is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm and is managed by the Belize Audubon Society, who have a small pamphlet about it. Belizeans pay an entrance fee of $2 and foreigners $8.
You'll probably start your day by exploring the ancient uncovered city. Saddly, it's been looted quite thoroughly. Your guide should be able show you where/what most of the overgrown structures are represented, including the infamous ball court.
You'll have a chance to check out two smaller caves that contain (among other things) the assasin beetle and scorpion. When gripping, watch where you put your hands! Be sure to bring loads of water... chances are, the temps will reach 40 degrees and you'll be soaking in your own juices for the most part of the day.
Back to base camp. Once you've refueled at base camp and taken a dip in the frigid (yup... very cold) waters, at the mouth of the main caving system, you'll be re-energized for rappelling down rock walls that house sacrificial pottery remains, in small caverness openings.
Once you reach the bottom you'll have a choice of rappelling the wall again or exploring the 'alter' where many prisoners of war and winners of the games, played in the ball court, were publicly sacraficed. Only a couple of feet beneath you, over a dozen bodies have already been discovered. More bodies remain below to this day. It's thought that this elevated alter, at one time, overlooked an entire city that lay undiscovered in the thick of the jungle below.
Base camp consists of simple thatched roof coverings protecting you from the falling fruit of the massive cahuna palm. Accomodations are a standard tent placed inside the thatched shelters. A make-shift kitchen area is ajoined by a small picnic style bench with a candelabra for night lighting while you enjoy the local rum and listen to tarantulas climb the thatched structure. The jungle surounding base camp is awesome!
Nestled beside the main caving system, base camp is also a short trekking distance from an unexcavated Mayan city you can experience the morning of your second day. Although it must be noted that this unexcavated site has been badly looted. This trip also includes exploration of 2 other smaller caves that require agility and a love of small spaces & dangerous insects.
Stay tuned for a 360 degree virtual tour of base I shot while on site!
Most pottery and skeletal remains in the cave are calcified right into the cave floor. These sacrifices were performed as offerings to the gods of water, during what some speculate as a devestating drought, to bring rain to the Maya's parched crops. Most ceramic remains have 'blowholes' carved, or smashed into, the sacrifice to release its spirit to the gods.
Deep inside the cave you will experience what guides call the "Cathedral", a massive opening containing some of the most incredible stalagtite and stalamite formations you'll ever see. A truly surreal experience.
The skeletal remains of human sacrifices (one pictured) are a very erie sight to see. Calcified into the cave floor, the percieved fear in their expressions seem to be preserved in skeletal form to this day. There are also full skeletal remains from a small child in the cave, though accidentally crushed by an archeologist while working in the cave.
The remains pictured here were taken from inside the cave using our headlamps as the lighting source/flash :-)
Be sure to watch your step!
The Cave - Actun Tunichil Muknal
The trip into the cave starts with a short swim.
The water flowing out of Actun Tunichil Muknal's mouth is very fresh (no need to purify) and very cold, even though the temperature outside the cave can reach 40+ degrees. When you jump in, tiny fish will swarm and nip at you... thinking you're a meal!
Once you've entered into the cave, the adventure soon turns to a very dark, torch-lit trek for approx. 2km's. If you were to lose your torch light you'd probably join the the likes of the cave's inhabitants... hahaha.
Not far from San Ignacio is the caving system of Actun Tunichil Muknal. Discovered only in 1989 this cave is known to only a few licensed guides and contains artifacts and remains that are over 2000 years old.
The adventure starts by 4W-drive from San Ignacio to your drop point. This is followed by a short hike through lush jungle, to your base camp.
Not far from San Ignacio is Actun Tunichil Muknal.
You can trek out for three days with various outfitters in the jungle to partake in rappelling, hiking, and caving while you spend the nights at a base camp next to a very clear freshing cave fed stream. (translation: cool and refreshing). This is great for when you return from monkeying about in the jungle in the 40 degree heat.
Caving highlights include viewing sacraficial human & ceramic remains and other artifacts you can see while repelling down a rock face. Loads of wildlife, very cool bugs, tarantuals, scorpions and the every famous 'assasin beetle'. I think the name about says it all :-) If you get a chance, experience this cave before it's closed to the adventurer.
A really great trip that will set you back about $165.00 USD. That was a few years ago though.
To the left is my site director, Cameron. What a nice fellow. He is in the Cave at this point, looking a Classic Maya Period Pot...
Most people who visit my Belize page will never make it to this Cave. To get there: 1) Ten mile drive from hotel in San Ignacio to the south to a farm on the outskirts of the jungle; 2) Trek from farm into jungle to river (around 1/2 mile--watch out for the snakes!!); 3) Get in river, have a walking stick, and walk for four miles over algae covered rocks (very slippery); 4) Get to cave, turn on headlamp, and swim for a long time (great, cool water, though), climb over big boulders through tiny spaces (good for claustrophobics--haha, just kidding); 5) Ignore the bats, they are everywhere; 6) Get to site, work for two and half hours, and turn around to go home; 7) Take same way back in reverse.
This was the neatest archaeological dig I have ever been on. I loved the high adventure of it. I also loved the scholarship. Cave archaeology is difficult for the reasons mentioned above, and very few people teach it! Lucky me!
If you do cave archaeology, here are some of the things you will need to have:
1) dry bag (it is plastic and holds your gear; swim with it, and the contents stay dry); 2) hard hat (protects your head from falling debris in cave); 3) headlamp and many spare batteries (caves are awful dark without them); 4) Swimsuit (lots of water, might as well just wear it under clothes); 5) Long well used khaki pants and long sleeved light shirt (better, keeps you protected from snakes and bugs) (make sure they are old--you will ruin them); 6)hiking boots (must be sturdy, and as waterproof as possible--you will swim with them on...); 7) pens, paper and good sturdy folder/holder (got my holder at Staples, a lot of construstion workers use the one I had); 8) a compass, plumb bob, trowel (good normal archaeological tools we all should have); 9) First Aid Kit (VERY IMPORTANT!)
For more info this is a website devoted to this project and others like it. It is a great website:
Find Ian Anderson's Caves Division (mainland). Go water spelunking in the dark in a raft! Hike up a mountain and then rappel 400 feet into a sinkhole, then squirm through the bowels of the earth to find your way out. Ask for Walter.
Rio Frio Cave/canoe trip in Maya Mountains. Was arranged by Gary at Pine Ridge Lodge. You go about one hour into a cave by canoe (in some places it's so shallow you have to lay down either face up (better) Killer stalagtites and stalagmites,