Cave Tubing in Belize

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" Magnificent! " "Awesome! " "Amazingly beautiful!" "Belizean Nature at its best!" Wil Alamilla and the group of 5 other Pre-School teachers did not seem to have enough adjectives to describe their adventure at Caves Branch in the Cayo District, lying south of Belmopan. Their Teacher's Day excursion to the jungles of Belize was arranged by Elito and Rebecca Arceo of Seaduced by Belize, a San Pedro tour operations company with over 15 years of experience in both local and in- land excursions in Belize. We had the privilege of accompanying the teachers on their "excellent adventure".

Before we headed out to Caves Branch, Elito and Rebecca guaranteed that the trip would be an awesome adventure that we would want to repeat over again. They were right..

For Wil Alamilla, Lupita Ancona, and Diosana Sosa of ABC Pre-School, Rosela Guerrero and Mireya Molina of San Pedro Pre-School, Marina Kay of Little Angels, and Edwardo Brown of Ambergris Today, the trip proved to be a lot of fun and excitement.

We were met at the Municipal Airport by Mr. Tom Greenwood of Melmish Mayan and Eco Tours of Belize City. After a briefing by Mr. Greenwood of what to expect from the Caves 13ranch tour, we boarded our comfortable van and proceeded towards our destination around 8:130 a.m. Carlos, the Melmish Tour Guide, drove the van through the Western Highway towards Belmopan, explaining interesting facts about Belize's history on the way. Carlos pointed to the foothills of the Mayan Mountains, which seemed to have the appearance of a giant lying face up" in its formation. "If you observe carefully," Carlos pointed out, " You can see a resemblance to Abraham Lincoln's face features."

After a brief rest stop at Cheers, a charming restaurant off the Western Highway, Carlos took the van off Mile 37 went down a dirt road. this proved to be an adventure in itself. It had been raining for the past three days, so maneuvering through the muddy, small road was challenging and exciting for about 7 miles. Just before arriving at the scenic Jaguar paw Resort, Carlos had to drive the van up and down a fifty-foot hill, bringing nervous shouts and laughter from the group of teachers who felt like if at any moment they were going off he side of the road. Finally, we arrived at the Mouth of the Caves Branch system, which lies next to the Jaguar Paw Resort.

We got off the van and immediately headed towards the river and entrance to a giant cave. Everybody was blown away with the beauty of the place. Carlos gave us each a headlight and tube and then led the way across the stream, up a makeshift stepladder made out of mud and branches, and onto a path into the jungle.

"It's going to take a half-hour trek if you guys are good hikers," Carlos told us, "We will be coming back to the Same cave entrance at the starting point." He pointed out its details about the amazing topography in the jungle, telling us about trees to avoid and trees that could help us in healing cuts and bruises. We saw many impressive white washed cliffs, adorned with hanging jungle on our way, and met some locals with an in- triguing bird nest that they had picked up in the jungle. By the time we arrived at the starting point of the cave tubing, all of us were more than eager to get into the river The Caves Branch river is fed by the larger Sibunun River, which goes all the way our two stops inside the subterranean river system, we came ashore and walked inside it cavern, which seemed covered with brilliant, shining diamonds. Carlos told us that they sparkling quartz and crystals that ken thousands of years to form. The largest cave in these extensive cave systems, we were told, is about seven miles deep and is believed to be anywhere from 150,000 to 200,000 years old. Wow! Blows your mind!

The most exciting part of the river tubing was battling the small rapids that we encountered during our underground journey, but the most impressive was arriving at a huge opening in the middle of the cave system. An impressive cliff fed a small waterfall and in the middle was a green/blue crystal clear "Blue Hole". About four of us dove into the refreshing, clean waters of the swimming hole while the others watched from a safe distance atop the limestone rocks surrounding the hole. During our excursion, our group was also accompanied by Lillian and Morgan Lewis from Chicago, Illinois in the U.S.A., who were as thrilled with the adventure as we were. By the time we ended the river tubing, which took about an hour, Lillian had already learned to speak a few words in Spanish such as "Hoyo" (hole) and "bello" (beautiful).

Coming out of the underground cave system and into the bright green jungle with white cliffs was an incredible sight which people have to experience firsthand because the adjectives cannot do justice in its description. "God's Country" is all I could whisper. We didn't want the trip to end, but I like they say, all good things must come to an end. It was truly inspiring though.

One by one, we got into the river by climbing down a small cliff with the aid of small rope and jumping backwards into our tubes. The refreshing, cool river was a welcomed feeling for our sweat covered bodies after all that hiking through the jungle. Carlos guided our group through the cave entrance, which had stalactites hanging from the top. We turned on our headlights and headed down slowly into the darkness of the underground river and cave system. Once inside the bowels of the caverns. we started seeing more stalactites and even some resident bats. "You have just finished cave tubing through Caves Branch and had lots of fun, but many years ago, to our Mayan Ancestors, the trek you just undertook was a sacred ritual for them," said Carlos, "It was a privilege that only ,the high priests were allowed to experience." Thank God civilization is different now. We all thought that everybody should have a chance to enjoy nature's blissful beauty.

We headed back towards Belize City and stopped for lunch at Cheers. All of us were very hungry after all that paddling through the river and sat down to eat the delicious hamburgers, burritos and ice cream that Cheers offers the trekkers. We all agreed that we had been Seaduced by Belize and can't wait to book another excursion with Elito and Rebecca. Lamanai, here we come!

Click here for Ian Anderson's Cave Branch and their cave tubing information.

For LOTS of photos, see the Ambergris Caye Photography area.

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