On Thursday, March 7, 2013, the Belize Tourism Board hosted media and stakeholders at the official inauguration of the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) archaeological site.
The Actun Tunichil Muknal lies in the heart of the Tapir Mountain Forest Reserve approximately 45 minutes from San Ignacio town. It is one of the most spectacular subterranean Mayan archaeological sites in the region, characterized by a series of chambers (some requiring swimming access) housing substantial remains of sacrificial ceremonies that includes pottery and human remains.
The cave system was discovered in 1989 and opened to the public in 1998, with current visitation restricted to specific tour operators. The ticket office is several hundred yards before the car park within a joint station with Belize Audubon Society presence for managing Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve.
NICH has recently purchased 5 acres of land at the entrance to the cave. There are plans by Institute of Archaeology to move the ranger station to the area at the gateway to the cave and the site of the new bathrooms.
95% of all tours to ATM originate from San Ignacio, therefore any improvements resulting in increased visitation will result in positive economic impact to the town.
The ATM site is the most documented archaeological site in the country in terms of media coverage (past features on ABC, BBC, National Geographic, and the Travel Channel) and is a unique selling point for Belize internationally.
The Investments made at the ATM Site are as follows:
CONSTRUCTION COST: Bz$192,488
CONTRACTOR: ASCON (Local Cayo Contractor)
OVERALL GOAL: Improvement of visitor facilities at ATM to include complete male and female restroom, shower facilities changing rooms, and hand washing basins incorporating a water reservoir system and a septic and sewage maintenance systems at minimum.
PROJECT NEED: Facilities were almost non-existent consisting of one very rudimentary bathroom facility with outside wash basin, thus lowering the quality of visitor experience as well as presenting environmental concerns and security risks for visitors to the site.
This is an exclusive tour. Visitors get and stay wet inside the caves for 3-4 hours, therefore they need a place to change etc. on entrance and exit to the cave system.
There is a need to centralize ticketing and activities for improved management, security and convenience.
STP infrastructural investments
Complete restroom and shower facilities including tiled male and female changing rooms, bathrooms, gravity fed shower rooms, and hand washing basins incorporating a water reservoir system and a septic and sewage maintenance systems at minimum.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun