Mayan ruins dot Central America, their massive stone temples and palaces rising impressively above jungle trees. In Belize, though, there’s another Mayan world in the local caves carved by rivers. You can take a guided cave tubing expedition to discover these sacred underground sites and have an adventure you’ll find nowhere else when you book a trip to Belize.
Canadian expat Ian Anderson introduced cave tubing to the area after floating on an inner tube with a Belizean archaeologist. Anderson was so in awe of the cave’s beauty and the Mayan artifacts inside that he decided to offer it as an activity for his lodge’s guests. Cave tubing caught on, and while other companies offer similar experiences, none compare to Anderson’s original seven mile or other cave tubing adventures.
The Right Mayan Adventure
I read about Belize’s caves as I planned for a trip there with my husband. Actun Tunichil Muknal immediately caught my attention, but since it involves slipping through tight spaces, something my claustrophobic husband would never do, I knew ATM was out of the question. I was already corresponding with Anderson about the cheeses he makes at his lodge when he suggested we cave tube with his company instead. The adventure sounded perfect for us.
I packed for Belize with cave tubing in mind. You’re required to bring mosquito repellant, light-weight clothes, and well-threaded sneakers suitable for climbing on slippery rocks. It’s also helpful to pack a dry bag to store your damp, dirty clothes in inside your suitcase for the remainder of your Belize trip.
Getting to the cave
You don’t have to stay at Ian Anderson’s lodge to participate in a Caves Branch Adventure Company excursion. Just meet at the lodge where your guide will make sure you are properly attired and where you’ll board a bus. There’s a minimum of two to four participants, depending on which cave tubing experience you choose, so you’ll likely be with a few other adventurers. Our group totaled eight.
After 15 minutes on the bus, we parked on the side of a dirt road. I left the backpack with our change of clothes and shoes on the bus, picked an inner tube, and fit the headlamp on my head. A short hike led to the river where the water was low enough we had to scoot along the rocks a bit to get started.
Floating through history
As we floated several miles into the cave, we passed stalagmites emerging from the water and stalactites overhead. Dripping water echoed through the caverns, and at one point, our guide pointed his flashlight upward, catching a bat in the light’s beam. I imagined Mayan leaders once paddled along or waded through these waters, hearing and seeing similar things.
By the time we pulled our inner tubes to the river’s edge, I was primed for a new adventure. Following our guide, we scrambled up a small outcropping to a landing and took a seat on rocks circling Mayan artifacts. Our guide passed around pottery shards, pointed to carved stone gods, and shared stories of how the Mayans held secret religious ceremonies here.
Then, he had us turn out our headlamps. He turned off his and plunged us into complete darkness, explaining this is how the caves would have been for the Mayans. It was a velvety blackness, smothering and freeing at the same time. My senses sharpened, and I felt like I could hear everyone around me breathing. I have to admit I was actually a little disappointed when we turned our lights back on.
We half-climbed, half-slid back down to the river’s edge, found a stretch a beach, and ate a simple lunch of meat, tortillas, vegetables, and fruit. The float out of the cave was peaceful and even relaxing. Back at the bus, we toweled off and changed into dry shoes.
Jerry and I took the River Cave Expedition, which last a few hours and is moderately challenging (recommended for ages 7 and up). Next time, I’m definitely planning on taking the River of Caves 7-Mile Cave Tubing trip, though. A little more challenging (it’s recommended for ages 10 and up), it can be combined with an afternoon of zip lining, which I’ve always wanted to try.
Headed to Belize for adventure travel—or to relax on the beach? Plan everything you need with this packing checklist.
ORV Trunk 30
Pack-It Active Wet Dry 2-in-1
Load Hauler Expandable
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
Go Spelunking: The World’s Coolest Caves
What to Pack for Belize: The 5-Step Solution
My Day With a Mayan Chocolate Master in Belize