So, by far, this was my favorite excursion while in Belize. And, ugh!! *throws fists in the air* at that tourist who fractured thousands-of-year-old ancientness…
Well, anyway, our journey to the cave was quick. However, we started the day off at 6:00am because it was a packed day. The park ranger told our tour arranger that we could still go through the cave, but we’d have to go before they opened normally. Done! I was looking forward to it.
Nearing the park entrance, where our tour guide and driver went to grab some quick grub.
We crossed that…
Folks harvesting soybeans.
Orange trees – they are EVERYWHERE in Belize.
I believe this was a mahogany tree – someone correct me if I’m wrong.
Due to the tourist who ruined it for everyone proceeding his disastrous event… I only have mental snapshots of our time inside the cave. My only photos were of our car ride to the park as seen above so please feel free to click on the photos below for their rightful page-owners!
Actun Tunichil Muknal, or ATM as it is often simply referred to, is home of the Crystal Maiden.The Crystal Maiden, an ancient crystallized skeleton sits at the top of what our guide, Abraham, called the “dry chamber.” It is the only intact human remain of all Mesoamerica.
After an easy hike (very slight elevation gains but watch for snakes and cats – we saw several paw prints), where you cross the river a few times, you end up at the entrance of the cave.
It’s an easy swim, about 30 feet, to get to the ledge where you’ll hike into the cave. If you aren’t a strong swimmer, follow along the edge of the cave to get to the ledge inside.
As you enter the cave, you basically follow the water in further and further. As we were the first in for the day, we turned off our headlamps at one moment and you can imagine how pitch dark it is inside. Now, imagine it thousands of years ago without headlamps and only torches. What happens when you drop your torch into the water? Eek. Throughout the cave, as you look up, you can also see blacked cave ceilings from smoke that builds off of torches back in the day.
As you follow the path through the cave, there are gorgeous cave formations. I kept telling Alex, who was ahead of me, if this were the States, there would be absolutely no way we would be allowed inside much less, touching all these walls and formations to steady ourselves!
At the end of the cave (of where your guide will take you, at least), you’ll do a bit of climbing up a rock formation. At the top here, you will take off your shoes and head into the dry chamber – the largest collection of ancient pots and remains lie here.
Then you’ll get to this very modern piece of hardware… a 12-foot metal ladder.
This ladder takes you to the Crystal Maiden.
Then, back you go! Back through the cave, back through the hike and across the river a few times, and back to the “staging area.” At this staging area, we were able to change in these makeshift changing stalls right next to the very primitive hole in the ground with walls called the toilet. Across the way from these structures was a nice, newly-built mansion (practically). We hear this is the new site for changing and relieving…. So nice!
Anyway, with that in mind, here’s a list of what I suggest you bring:
- enclosed water shoes with good traction (it’s rocky and you’ll be climbing)
- good quick-drying but sturdy socks – perhaps some Smartwool ones (this is suggested, as i liked having socks while walking through the dry chamber)
- swimsuit with board shorts and a rash guard or quick-drying top (you can get scraped up climbing over and under in the cave)
- camera *ugghhh!! nevermind….
That’s probably it? You MUST have a tour guide with you to get into ATM. They will also probably provide your lunch for you, as ours did… Mmmm, tortillas.
As we started exiting the cave, we saw group after group of tours beginning their adventure. As we got to this staging area, we saw a big group get off a bus! Uh, yes, we were so glad we left at 6:00am that day.