The San Pedro Sun Visitor Guide features regular stories about the many
activities available to tourists and visitors and the people who provide
The Cave Tubing excursion is one of many adventures available to
visitors of San Pedro. While most “day trips” involve sun and sea, cave
tubing takes you deep into the mountains of Belize, where you float on a
pristine river atop an old- fashioned inner tube.
Our trip starts at 7 a.m. when we arrive at the dock in front of Tropica
Resort, where we await the arrival of our guide, Willie Leslie, and one of
the many boats from SEArious Adventures. The boat is already half full of
passengers as Willie pulls along side the dock. An easy step down into the
boat, and we’re off to pick up the last passengers – a family of four
waiting at Victoria House.
Once everyone is on board, Willie and his crew explains the day’s
itinerary. Because the water is a little choppy, and the wind is blowing
from the west, we travel along the eastern side of Caye Caulker, getting a
close look at beaches dotted with resorts and the picturesque town village.
The air is brisk and the wind howls through our ears as the 200-horse power
motor pushes the boat through the turquoise water.
A few “bumps” over slightly choppy water wraps up the 70 minute trip as
Captain Willie aims his boat for the mouth of the Belize River. We travel up
river for a short distance, docking at the Manatee Lagoon Restaurant. Here,
we disembark and the crew offers the passengers tasty Johnny Cakes, fresh
fruit and juice to enjoy for breakfast, while many take advantage of the
From here, the passengers load a sturdy old school bus and off we go on
the Western Highway. The landscape turns rural as we leave the bustle of the
city. We pass shrimp farms and wineries. Laundry is seen drying on cloths
lines as we pass brightly colored farmhouses. Mountains in the distance
gradually loom larger as the silhouette of the Sleeping Giant mountain
formation passes on our left.
The bus ride allows time for Willie to share with us his enormous knowledge
about the culture and history of the area. He tells us about the geography
and the climate and about the flora and fauna. “There are 4,200 different
species of trees,” he tells us. “It is beautiful when many flower from
February through May,” he explains with a smile.
We then pass “Her Royal Majesty’s Hotel,” or better known as the Belize
Prison. For practically everything we see, Willie has a story to tell. Along
the way, we stop at the Belize Zoo. Willie leads the tour, where he seems to
be the “Dr. Dolittle” of Belize, exchanging bizarre noises with many of the
animals. His howler monkey rendition is hair-raising! (Please watch future
Visitor Guides for a full story on our visit to the zoo.)
After the zoo, we board the bus again and soon we’re on a bumpy gravel
road that tests the suspension of the bus. Shortly we arrive at Jaguar Paw,
an exotic resort nestled in the dense rainforest of the Sibun Caves Branch
area. Here, a traditional meal of stewed chicken, rice and beans fills our
bellies before we walk to the changing rooms and prepare for the adventure
that awaits us.
Once we have changed into swimwear, and wearing comfortable sandals or
old tennis shoes, we follow Willie and guides to the shore of the Caves
Branch River at a point where the river emerges from the side of a
jungle-covered mountainside. We wait, looking at each other, wondering if
this is where our voyage on the river begins. We quickly learn we must first
cross the river, then hike up a moderate trail through the jungle. The
well-groomed trail meanders under the canopy for nearly a mile. Finally, we
emerge to see the crystal clear river flowing out of a mountainside cave.
With Willie’s assistance, one by one we back our rear ends into our floating
inner tubes, all the while holding onto a knotted rope. Slowly, the current
pulls us towards the mouth of another cave. As we flow deeper into the
crevasse, the light from our head lamps begin to overpower the dwindling
sunlight fading from behind us.
The blackness of the cave envelops the group as we experience the
complete sensation of meandering on a river inside the vastness of a
mountain. Our headlamps flicker, as we gently flow on the cool stream. The
beam of our lights cast shadows across stalactites and the cave walls.
Gradually, a light glows in the direction of the water’s flow. An
opening approaches and light again fills the mouth of the cavern. As we
emerge, we see this is just a respite, about midway down our journey. Small
rapids push us faster into yet another cave that honeycomb the landscape.
The cave is even more immense than the first. The cathedral ceilings loom
above us, with the distance from the waters surface apparently allowing
refuge from the waters rampage during rainy season.
Here the guides share stories of ancient Mayan ceremonies. They explain
that many Mayan artifacts and burial mounds were discovered here. Entrances
to side caves can be seen as we imagine what may have occurred here
Our group ultimately emerges at a familiar place. After about an hour
and a half, we’ve come full circle and excitedly walk back to the changing
area to dawn dry clothes, enjoy a cold beverage, and settle in for the
voyage home. We again travel by land and sea, arriving back at Ambergris
Caye around 6:30 p.m.
Weary from the day’s travels, and with our taste for adventure well
satiated, it is an early night to bed for all. In our sleep we float,
suspended in the cool mountain water of the Caves Branch River, and dream of
ancient Mayans and the Sistine-like caverns of the Sibun Caves.