The Maya Underworld
CAVE ATTRACTIONS IN CAYO DISTRICT
Begin your journey back through time as you enter the amazing realm of Belize's cave systems, with a chance to learn more about a mysterious ancient Maya civilization and the geological processes that shaped the region. Millions of years ago, seeping rainwater and underground rivers began etching through soft bedrock and outcrops. Today caves are to Belize like Swiss is to cheese. The lime-rock matrix that makes up much of the country's landmass is riddled with caves and beneath the surface can be found some of the most spectacular and extensive cave systems on the planet. Now you might be expecting dark and claustrophobic passageways, however you are more likely to find enormous chambers and a subterranean world that is fast becoming one of Belize's most popular attractions.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave)
‘Belize’s Cave of Doom’ according to a feature by National Geographic’s Adventure Magazine, Actun Tunichil Muknal more commonly referred to as the ATM Cave is a fascinating adventure story that you earn the rights to tell. Meet the ancient Maya in the skeletal remains with bulbous craniums, flattened foreheads and filed teeth with jade inlays. This cave tour requires a swim into the underworld through an hour-glass entrance. Hike in the stream with water levels ranging from ankle deep to your chest in some areas. You then climb up a steep rock slope which Archaeologists dubbed ‘booth hill’ because you can only enter sacred grounds barefoot!
Warning: This is not a cave for young children, those not physically fit, with knee, hip or ankle problems or with problems with claustrophobia and or heights.
This is a great cave to explore for first time spelunkers, active seniors, and junior travelers to get a glimpse into the sacred Maya underworld. Board a canoe at the cave entrance and use the provided spotlight to look while your guide tells the cave’s story through its natural rock formations and the significance of this unique space held for Maya rituals. Some evidence of Maya visitation has been cataloged by archaeologists. Another highlight about Barton Creek is that you’ll drive through farm houses on rolling hills owned by the Amish. Their community was established in the 1970’s by members from Shipyard in Northern Belize. They grow various tropical fruits and are often seen on their horse-drawn buggies transporting produce to sell at the market in town. Note they prefer a smile and wave than to have cameras pointed towards them.
Enter a realm where rivers disappear into the underworld as you float on inner tubes with headlamps to spot the interesting stone formations. This tour is fun for all ages and is perfect for the warmer days in the tropics. First you work up a sweat hiking a jungle path with your tube over your shoulder to one of the several cave openings – the further you hike the longer your tubing experience will be.