River Tube Cave Adventure in Belize
Written by Marla
Marla's Note: For those of
you interested in taking our Mariner 2013 trip, I have an
excellent idea for our day in Belize.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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?"
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
I shrugged. "Sure. Grab the rope." There was a rope attached
for people to hang onto, so she linked our tubes with her
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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