Travelling through Central America with a friend, our journey commenced in Guatemala, with its breathtaking natural beauty and historic Mayan ruins. A perfect mix to see both aspects of the country. It provided a great start to our Central America trip.
On our last day in Guatemala, we had found out we had the opportunity to explore some caves in Belize as soon as we were to cross the country border, which I thought would be fun. We were told it wasn’t just simple cave exploration, rather canyoneering, so a mixture of walking and swimming throughout the underground caves.
I had occasionally heard of canyoneering, yet never thought much of it, nor had I experienced it before. That was until I was in Belize, now I’ll take up the opportunity again instantly.
I consider myself adventurous, and I’d be willing to try anything once. Well, except for bungee jumping and skydiving. Anything else, yep sign me up!
I wasn’t sure what to expect, not having experienced the activity, all I knew was that we’d be exploring the caves to see an ancient Mayan burial site which the Maya called Xibalba. We were told to show our respects to the Mayan ruins, we needed to wear clothing over our swimmers, so our shoulders were not exposed and wear shorts to cover our thighs. I have been known to pack my bag for all types of situations when travelling; however, I didn’t pack for this type of adventure when leaving home.
So the night before in San Ignacio township, we were fortunate to find a clothing store that sold second-hand women’s clothes. Being a small store, I wasn’t expecting to find any shorts I could go swimming in for our caves adventure, yet I found a pair of black shorts that were a little large but thought they’ll do; the only problem was they were made of thick denim material. Ahh well, I had no choice, so I purchased them for $10. I was hoping they wouldn’t weigh me down when swimming and slow me down, thankfully they didn’t, although they did keep slipping down my waist and almost fell off a few times!
I also hadn’t packed any water shoes on this trip either, gee it seems I was very ill-prepared for the journey! So instead, we hired some Croc shoes. I’ve never worn them in my life and thought they’d slip off whilst swimming, yet they worked like a dream.
As we finally set off for a day of adventure, arriving at Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, we were ready and pumped for our exploration. Due to a recent hurricane in the area, the walk along the riverbank leading up to the cave entrance was an adventure in itself. Navigating under and over fallen trees and needing to cross the river on three occasions, including one which thankfully we had a rope crossing; otherwise, I’m certain I would’ve been washed down the river by the strong current.
Reaching the cave entrance was a pleasant sight; seeing its opening filled me with intrigue and excitement. It’s adventures like this, the unknown, that I welcome the most.
As we walked down inside the cave, we had our hard hats on and headlights ready to explore. Our feet stepped into warm, clear waters, which instantly went to chest height in a matter of a dozen steps. We soon realised it was easier to swim than try to wade through the undulating water, especially as the ground was a combination of small boulders and crushed rocks. Being in the dark, except for our headlights, we kept our hands out in front to feel for any large boulders approaching, in preparation to climb over, or worse case waiting for our knees to hit rocks under the water, which was a sure-fire way to know it was time to climb instead of swim.
In sections, the water was so crystal clear, shining our head torches into the 1-meter deep water, we could see the various colours of the pebbles under our feet. Definitely no polluted water here, simply natural waters from the earth.
After our 1 kilometre journey, we approached what we came here for. First, we needed to take our shoes off and replace them with socks so we didn’t disturb the area. Then we climbed up the steep rocks, thankfully not losing my grip, to see the ancient Maya ruins that included various pottery, artifacts and the burial area with skeletal remains exposed on top of the rocks high up in the Main Chamber cave.
Sitting back in almost darkness, deep from the outside world, it’s places like this that remind you how vast and intriguing the world is.
No matter how much time you have, you can never see the entire globe. Instead, be in the moment and be thankful you can experience such remoteness and opportunities when they arise.
Although we only had half a day to explore the cave, the caves are 5km deep and can be explored when longer time permits. If I were ever to return to Belize, which I definitely will, I would be super keen to explore the rest of the cave for sure.
As we made our way out of the caves and trekked back along the riverbank again, I was so thankful we stopped by to explore the caves. Not only for the historical aspect of learning about the Mayan culture but also for the canyoneering adventure.