Belize Tube Trip
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River Tube Cave Adventure in Belize
Written by Marla Archer

Marla's Note:  For those of you interested in taking our Mariner 2013 trip, I have an excellent idea for our day in Belize. 

Let's explore the Caves Branch river cave system tubing together as a group. This most excellent adventure is part Jungle Walk, part river-tubing ala the Guadalupe River and part cave exploration. 

The Caves Branch River is a gently flowing body of water coming down off the Mountain Pine Ridge. Although it picks up in the rainy season, it would be called a "creek" in most places. What makes the Caves Branch River unique is the fact that it flows in and out of a series of long limestone caves that are easily navigable on inner tubes and in kayaks.

This is an exciting realm where rivers disappear into the underworld. We will float on inner tubes with only our headlamps to lead the way. As we glide along, we pass mica studded stalactites, stalagmites, crystal pillars, and an underground waterfall

It takes one hour to bus to the Caves Branch River. The adventure begins as we make our way through Belize City, which is the oldest city in the country. We will have a chance to see Belize's gorgeous country side rich in forest and fauna.

Once we arrive at the historical Caves Branch Archaeological Park, we will get geared up with tube, light and life vest.  Then we take a 30 minute hike through the Belize Rain Forest and through a couple dry caves. Then we come to the river cave.

This is where the REAL fun begins.  You jump in the water and squirm your way into your tube. Soon you will be floating through the caves. It is a short but amazing journey that lasts an hour.

Once we arrive at the mouth of the cave, we will find crystal clear water and an intricate cave structure. The Mayans used these cave systems as part of their elaborate religious rituals. The Mayans called these caves XIBALBA which in modern language translates to 'HELL'.  That's reassuring. 

Our guide will be there to navigate as we traverse through the mystical cave of Xibalba as the Mayans did centuries ago.

The Caves Branch River winds through a porous limestone landscape that is riddled with holes like a piece of Swiss cheese. Water flows through the jungle and then into caves before disappearing into underground passages only to later emerge again in some remote jungle stream. A few brave cave divers have ventured deep into pitch dark underground waterways but have only begun to map this intricate maze of water and rock.

When you hear about Cave Tubing in Belize it refers to a small part of the vast Caves Branch River Cave System. Specifically, it refers to a segment of the Caves Branch River that flows continuously through 5 different caves. After the second cave, the river goes underground for a short segment only to reemerge and continue into the third cave.

The river flows unbroken through each cave tunnel, like a freeway tunnel you drive through. Except instead of a car, you’re on an inner tube floating along the river through long cathedral caves. There are other river-caves in Belize that you can enter on an inner tube, like Footprints Cave not too far away.

However, this 5 cave system is the only one where the river-caves form unbroken tunnels that you can float right through. From the entrance of the first cave to the exit of the last cave is approximately 4.5 miles (7km).

What's Included

Estimated price is $50 for Cave Tube Adventure or $75 for Cave Tube/Zipline Adventure. This is a 50% SAVINGS from the ship tour.  Rick and I did this trip through the ship back in 2006 and paid twice as much.  This is one of the advantages of traveling as a group.

The Cave Tubing Tour package includes transportation, life vests, tubes and head lamps, tour guide, national park fees and refreshments.

Approximately 4 hours is required for this tour. You'll spend about 2 hours traveling to and from the Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve in an air conditioned bus or van.

What to Bring Along

Bring water shoes and towels. Don't forget your sun block and extra clothes.  Insect repellant will probably come in very handy. A water proof camera may also come in handy as you will have many opportunities to take great pictures of this fun and memorable cave tubing tour.

Transportation to Belize Cave Tubing Site

Safe and reliable transportation will be provided between the cruise ship terminal and the cave tubing in clean, comfortable, air-conditioned and well maintained coach buses.


There is a zipline adventure that can be added if there is enough interest.  Rick and I are definitely on board for this.  The cost varies by number of participants, but will be about $25 more.

It begins with a ten minute hike through the Belize rainforest to the base of the starting platform where you will be fitted into a harness that will allow you to connect securely to the over head cables which make up the zipline system.

You will also be provided with gloves and a helmet for added safety and comfort. You will then climb up a stairway for about 30 feet to the top of the first platform. Once there, one of the guides will assist you in connecting to the overhead cable and you will begin the first of 7 zipline runs.

The first zip run, considered a "beginner's zip run" is a 150 feet long to the second platform. The six zip runs after that range in lengths from 200 feet to 600 feet between the treetop platforms. There will be a guide on every platform to assist you with landing and taking off. Once at the final platform, you will rappel 40 feet to the forest floor. The entire course takes about 30-40 minutes.  For questions,


About the Belize Cave River Adventure
Written by Rick Archer


Of all the various adventures we have had on our cruise trips over the years, I would rank this ride as a Top Ten favorite.  It is really fun!  Add ziplining to it and you have the recipe for a great day.

Poor Cayman Islands.  Did you know the Cayman Islands get hit by a hurricane 3 times every seven years on average? 

In 2006, our cruise trip missed visiting the Caymans for the third year in a row due to hurricane-related problems.  Due to a threat, our ship diverted over to the Yucatan Peninsula for three straight days.

The River Tube adventure took place in a nature reserve about halfway between Belize City and Belmopan, the capital.  It took us an hour to get there by bus.  

I would have to say this tube adventure was the highlight of my trip.  You can read my story here:
Rhapsody 2006: Belize and Cozumel

Now that we have put six years between the present and our original visit, I will share an anecdote.

This was the trip when a woman in our group played a dirty trick on me. 

During our bus ride, I thought our tour guide was an interesting guy.  Consequently I made it a point to walk beside him on our hike through the rain forest so I could ask more questions. 

This put me at the very front of the group. Meanwhile, Marla was in the middle of the pack with her friends.  I would guess there were 30 of us.

I don't remember the guide's name for certain, but I think it was Daniel. 

Daniel was incredibly knowledgeable.  Daniel knew his country's history like the back of his hand. He knew his plants, his snakes, his butterflies, and he knew the percentage of whites, blacks, and Mayan descendants that comprised his population.  Daniel, a black man, was the descendant of Honduran slaves. The man was a walking encyclopedia.

As we walked through the forest together, Daniel told me he took his job as our guide very seriously.  He said he studied in school and had taken a test to get this position.  Ever since then, Daniel continued to study on his own time.  He wished to acquire more knowledge in hopes of being even better at his job. 

Daniel believed he had an important job.  Belize, he said, was a very poor place. Daniel told me that many visitors would meet only him during their trip to Belize.  This meant that much of their attitude about Belize depended on him. If he could make a good impression, these people would be far more likely to form a positive opinion about his country.  Hopefully, they would be more willing to return.  In this way, Daniel felt he was helping his country prosper.

I could tell he was sincere and I admired him for his attitude.  Daniel also had a sense of humor... I heard a strange sound that sounded like a growl. I asked what it was.  Daniel said, "Probably a jaguar searching for his afternoon meal."  I was quiet for a while till I realized he was teasing.  When he saw me frown, he broke out in a wide grin.

Daniel pulled the same trick on me again later when he pointed to a large log in the river and wondered out loud if it was a crocodile.  This time I didn't bite quite as hard, but I did look at the log a second time just to be sure. 

As the result of walking with the tour leader, I remained at the very front of the group. Meanwhile, Marla was not far behind me.  She was still busy talking with her friends.

The first key feature of my dilemma took place as we arrived at the water hole.  Daniel suggested I jump in before the other people arrived.  I looked down.  It was about a ten foot leap.

Daniel explained there if there were too many people in the water, he didn't let people jump.  He said the jump is fun, so I should take the opportunity.  So I jumped.  Woowee! 

I was the first person in the water.  Now I moved towards the front so everyone else could have a chance to jump before it got too crowded.  I shouldn't have bothered.  Only a couple other people jumped.  As I waited in the staging area for the water to fill up with tubes, I assessed the risks involved. 

In my opinion, this was not a dangerous ride.  The water was warm and very gentle.  There was little current.  This was as close to a "Lazy River" as you could come to.  Not only did we all have life vests on, if we fell out, we could just as easily grab the tube for safety.  Ho hum. Today would be more about relaxation than thrills and spills. I wondered how I could make it more fun.

Pretty soon the area was packed.  I waved at Marla, but there was no way I could reach her.  There were at least ten tubes between the two of us.  However I wasn't worried about her.  I felt a total absence of risk.  If Marla did get into trouble, there were two guides and 30 people to help her. 

Now Daniel came and got in front of me.  He said it was time for us to head out.  Away we went.

We had gone about two hundred yards when Daniel asked me a favor. "Rick, would you mind staying in the lead?  That way, when I find you, I will know there is no one ahead of you."

Sure.  He was giving me permission to do something I wanted to do anyway.  I wanted to be ahead.  I wanted to go through the blackness of the cave with my headlight off.  In this way, I could experience the eeriness of the pitch black.  I knew if there were other people around, I was certain they would have their light on.  So when Daniel left me, I accelerated.

I quickly had a comfortable lead on the pack.  I estimate I was 75 yards ahead, maybe more.  I was having an absolute ball.

Suddenly out of nowhere a woman came paddling up to me by herself.  She caught me completely off guard.  How in the hell did this woman catch up to me? 

I hadn't been paying any attention to my rear so I had no idea how this woman had overcome my sizeable lead.  Damn.  There goes my solitude.  I was immediately suspicious.  My sixth sense was warning me this could be trouble.  I was just about to go into jet mode when the woman spoke, "Rick, I have a favor to ask.  I can't swim and I am afraid.  Can I hang on to your tube?"

I was incredulous.  How does a woman who can't even swim outrace 30 people to catch up with me? 

My problem was this - On the off chance that she was telling the truth, it would be wrong of me to refuse her.  I absolutely hated giving her permission, but I didn't think I had much of a choice.

I shrugged.  "Sure. Grab the rope."  There was a rope attached for people to hang onto, so she linked our tubes with her hand.

The ride was only half over when she caught me.  The exciting part was up ahead.  With the woman hanging on, we sailed through the tunnel in total darkness.   I thrilled at the joy of floating through in compete darkness.

However, I was also very uncomfortable.  I knew Marla would have a fit.  This was a highly inappropriate situation.  I was a married man floating through the "Tunnel of Love" in total darkness with a single woman and no chaperones.  Surely the gossips would have something to say about this. Some would say I belonged at my wife's side.  I groaned.  My selfish attempt to have this adventure of my own had definitely backfired.

Up ahead I heard a gurgling sound.  This must be the underground waterfall that Daniel had told me about.  He told me not to miss it.

Only one problem.  The waterfall was way off the beaten path.  I would have to hand paddle about 20 yards to my left to go see it.  For anyone passing by, the two of us alone over there would not look right at all.

My logic was this - I had done nothing wrong.  Furthermore, this was likely the only chance I would ever get to see this waterfall.  Am I going to bow to social expectations and miss this experience or am I going to go see the waterfall?  With the woman in tow, I headed for the waterfall.

Right about this time, Marla passed me.  As she peered into the darkness, she wondered aloud who the two people might be over by the waterfall.  Her girlfriend said the guy kinda looked like me, but she wasn't sure.

Marla wasn't sure either, but in the darkness, with the woman holding onto my tube, whoever it was, it certainly appeared we were holding hands.  It also appeared the two people had made a concerted effort to get a little "alone time" together away from the pack.

When I emerged from the tunnel, Marla was waiting for me.  She said nary a word, but her eyes made it clear I was in serious trouble.

I could go into greater detail about what was said later and you would probably be amused at hearing every gory detail.

Suffice it to say that once we reached the privacy of our cabin, I received the most serious tongue-lashing of our entire marriage.

Six years have passed and we still have not reached the point where either of us can laugh about this event.  To this day I am still in the doghouse whenever the subject comes up. 

As for the woman, years later the news filtered to Marla that the "helpless woman" had spoken of the incident to a mutual friend.  Barely able to contain her laughter, the woman said that she was mad at her boyfriend.  She saw me ahead of the pack. On the spur of the moment, here was an opportunity to make her boyfriend jealous. So she paddled furiously to catch up with me.

And to think I believed this river was risk-free.  No predators! How foolish of me.  When we return to Belize, I plan to be right at my wife's side from start to finish.... for my own safety. 

I might add I am glad to get a second chance.  This time I intend to enjoy the entire trip.

Rhapsody 2006: Belize and Cozumel

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