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Belize

Cave Tubing in Belize

Belize photo
Cave tubing begins with relaxing river float
Cave tubing in Belize is one of the top excursions on western Caribbean cruises, and it has been called the most popular adventure trip in the entire country.

The time we spent getting to the caves and returning was worth every hour. The first stage of the seven-hour trip was a bumpy, one-hour drive from the cruise port in Belize City to the Sibun Caves Branch Archaeological Park.

Once there, we were given large inner tubes, water slippers and caving helmets with lights, then went on a 45-minute hike through the rain forest. The hike included going through a cave and over a trail that was moderately challenging at times. Our guide hinted that jaguars lived in the area, but we didn't see any.

Belize photo
Young woman with headlamp right before entering cave
Once we arrived at the entrance to the river's cave system, all three children and both parents jumped into uniquely beautiful lime green water, popped through our tubes and immediately floated into the opening of the first dark cave.

Our guide explained the Maya archaeological importance of the cave system, which was used for spiritual purposes, as the light from the entrance grew dimmer and the darkness ahead grew blacker. The river moved us gently.

Finally, as the darkness grew greater, the guide suggested we turn on the lights in our caving helmets so we could see better. We drifted lazily as he talked, sometimes we bumped into each other with our inner tubes, and sometimes the children in the group would play around in the water.

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We reached a point where no light from the entrance remained. Our guide suggested we turn off our lights together to experience the feeling of the water surrounding our torsos and legs and listen to the deep quiet of the cave. Almost immediately, a few of the tourists in our group turned their lights back on, as if nervous at the eerie blackness above us and beneath us.

Highlights of the journey included stalactites and stalagmites, pottery shards that were 1,000 years old, Mayan footprints and an underground waterfall leading into the Crystal Cathedral, a place used by the ancient Maya for spiritual practices. We also stopped at one point to get out of the water and explore one of the larger portions of the cave on foot. The total amount of time we spent tubing was about 1.5 hours.

Cave tubing in Belize is one of the eeriest experiences of our travels, a great family experience and a highlight of any western Caribbean cruise.

How to Go

Help from the cruise line: Most Caribbean cruises have excursion information available on the ship and the ability to book an excursion before arriving at the port.

On your own: Numerous excursion operators offer cave tubing tours. If you buy on your own, consider going through companies such as Viator that act as third party booking agencies. If you book directly to save more money, look for online reviews at major travel sites or consider contacting the Belize Tourism Board at http://www.travelbelize.org for recommendations.

Expect to pay anywhere between $50 to $100 per person depending on the size of the group, whether you get it through the cruise line (which gets a commission) or on your own, the time of year and other factors.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Excursions   

December 15, 2008

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