Belize - Caving Experiences please

Old Jul 20th, 2005, 06:03 AM
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Belize - Caving Experiences please

The caving adventures sound interesting, however I do have some concerns. I remember reading about - wading in chest high waters - squeezing through tight spaces - Could someone offer me personal experiences with their caving adventures?

Possibly considering Barton Creek Caves and/or the ATM tour.

Still learning, Thanks.


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Old Jul 20th, 2005, 09:41 AM
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dfarmer - I've used so many of your posts on Costa Rica in planning my trip to CR later this year, that I'm actually excited to be able to help you. I had the EXACT same concerns as you in regards to the cave experiences (throw fear of spiders in there as well) but I am SO SO glad I did it! We did the ATM cave so that's the only one I can comment on. Here's a trip report I posted on my experience in the cave:

http://ambergriscaye.com/cgi-bin/ult...c;f=4;t=009498

http://ambergriscaye.com/cgi-bin/ult...c;f=4;t=009499

Sorry I don't know how to post it as a hyperlink on Fodors. Maybe they discourage that as I haven't been able to figure it out.

Anyway I hope this helps you make a decision. I wish I could offer more advice but we did Black Rock Lodge (Cayo), Hotel Tikal Inn (Tikal), and Portofino (Ambergris Caye). Let me know if I might be able to help on anything else.

Thanks again for your informative posts on CR! I can't wait for November!
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Old Jul 21st, 2005, 06:11 AM
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Thanks so much Fuzzy Navel!!! I hope you enjoy Costa Rica as much as we do! It definately pulls at my heart strings to consider another location for our next trip.

However my husband is very much interested in seeing the Mayan Ruins of Belize, and although I do not share his enthusiasm, I will go with open mind and am certain that I will be greatly impressed. I am certain that my only experience with ruins, at Tulum clouds my judgement. Although Tulum was certainly impressive, there were just far too many people and the guides were trying to work with much too large of groups.

As for lodgings, I have looked at the Black Rock website and am very open to knowing your impressions of this lodge and your suggestions. I do want a jungle setting, although I am learning that this setting may not be in comparison to what we experience in CR.

I know that I have become very comfortable with travel to CR and guess it is time for me to spread my wings a bit further.


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Old Jul 21st, 2005, 10:29 AM
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It's funny. The way you feel about CR is the exact same way I feel about Belize. I didn't want to go anywhere else but Hubby wanted to branch out a little and, like you, I know there are other wonderful places to go and see in the world.

Believe it or not, my Hubby was NOT interested in the ruins and I (as you can tell from my trip report) could spend my whole life digging around and exploring ruins. I chose Belize because I could have half the trip to do the ruins and he could have half the trip at one of the nicest reef systems as he LOVES all marine life. Nice happy medium! The first ruin we saw, Xunantunitch, I teared up and all Hubby could say was "WOW!". One of my favorite pictures of all time is of Hubby walking across the complex at Xunantuitch dwarfed by the temples. At the end of our trip he admitted that he was glad I dragged him to the ruins because they were amazing and impressive and he loved the history lessons I gave him as we moved along (I had studied, so I was like our own private guide) . Since you're going with an open mind (like he did) maybe you'll be a little amazed as well ;-).

At Xunantunitch, we were the only people except for maybe 2 groups of 2 or 3 people and an armed guard at the top of the temple. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. At Tikal after a couple of hours of hiking, we had only encountered one other person. It was a little unnerving at first. In total we only ran into 1 other couple, a family of about 3 people, a group of about 6 or 7 people (they were leaving as we were climbing one of the temples), and some guards. We DID have the place to ourselves! About 97% of the time we were the ONLY ones at each temple. The sheer unspoiled beauty of it all! Because of the remoteness and utter lack of tourists, Tikal seemed like something I myself was the first to stumble upon. We NEVER had a problem with too many tourists, although I've heard others report on experiences with large groups. I tried to get info on what tour company they used so I could avoid them.

You may have already found my other trip reports on Belize on ambergriscaye.com (they were so long I had to split them up in days) if not, I will post some links below. I tried to give as much detail on everything as I could in order to help others.

We absolutely loved Black Rock! The staff there was WONDERFUL! Everyone treated us like family. It was so laid back. It was like camping with friends. And the views were stunning! You will definitely need a car though unless you want to be held hostage or pay $35 one way into San Ignacio. Black Rock is down one bear of a road. It would probably compare to the Monteverde road I've read so much about. It's a dirt road, filled with rocks and potholes. It's about 6 miles long and it takes about 40-45 minutes to reach Black Rock once you leave the main road. But, to me at least, it was SO worth it and Hubby has vowed that he won't stay anywhere else. I have pictures in and around Black Rock attached in my trip report, so you can see what the Belize "jungle" is like. I've also been told not to expect that same type of "jungle" when we go to CR. That the jungle in CR is more lush and the wildlife viewing is definitely better but that we should be prepared for WAY more tourists. That has me a little concerned but I'm going to go with an open mind .

We didn't have a car when we were in Belize but next time we will. We were a little intimidated but once there, decided it wouldn't have been as bad as we thought. We did think we probably would have gotten lost in San Ignacio, it looked a little hectic with no signs. But the people were so nice we didn't think we would have had a problem stopping to ask directions. We had one of the deluxe cabanas at Black Rock which was really nice to us. It had the most gorgeous slate floors. Very spacious, to us (some have said they are small), and immaculately clean. We were very pleased but then again all we ask is that the room, bathroom, and linens are clean. We peeked inside the standard cabana and it looked just as nice, just smaller. We thought the food at Black Rock was very good although not Belizean. I was hoping for more of a local flair at least in some of the meals. The tours through Black Rock were expensive but if you'll have a car you can drive yourself. We took the trails to Vaca Falls waterfalls and had a great time. There were a couple of other trails around the lodge that we didn't have time to explore. We really didn't see much wildlife around the lodge. We did see many types of birds, although not as many as you'd probably see in CR, but there were tourists that weren't staying at the lodge that drove up or were brought up just for the birding. We also saw igunanas, spiders, cows, and dogs. Some guests have reported seeing spider monkeys across the river but we weren't that fortunate. That's about it. We did smell a peccary a couple of times. Saw more wildlife at Tikal.

Belize is fascinating and beautiful in a way that many people don't understand or don't care to understand and THAT's why I fell in love with Belize (and the frienly locals). Sorry this is so long but as you can tell from my trip reports, I tend to be long winded. Here are the other days of my trip:

http://ambergriscaye.com/message/ult...=009478#000000

http://ambergriscaye.com/message/ult...=009484#000000

http://ambergriscaye.com/cgi-bin/ult...c;f=4;t=009505

http://ambergriscaye.com/message/ult...=009558#000000

http://ambergriscaye.com/cgi-bin/ult...c;f=4;t=009664

http://ambergriscaye.com/message/ult...=009756#000000
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Old Jul 21st, 2005, 01:43 PM
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Thanks again for your detailed answer. And yes, I did find the rest of your trip report, and will definately read through it soon. I am certain I will have many more questions!

Hopefully you will enjoy your trip to CR as much as you did Belize. After 4 trips to CR, there is still so much that I want to see.

By the way - where are you traveling in CR?
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Old Jul 22nd, 2005, 10:26 AM
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It's been a VERY tough decision deciding where to travel in CR. We started with the usual but I'm pretty sure we're going to do Arenal (Paraiso) - 3 nights, Central Valley (Orquideas) - 3 nights, Osa (Bosque) - 5 nights, and 1 night Orquideas before flying out. While in Central Valley we're debating between visiting Braulio Carrillo or Carara. I think we're going to do Carara. Any suggestions?
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Old Jul 23rd, 2005, 05:47 AM
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We just returned from Belize where we one of our most memorable experiences ever was ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal). This is a phenomenal caving experience - however, it is absolutely true that you need to: swim chest high (and higher), you need to squeeze through very tight spaces, you need to be able to climb, & you do need stamina. It was a long day. On the way to & from the caves, you need to ford the river. On the day that we went, the river was too high & the current too strong on the way there, which meant that our guide needed to lead us by bushwhacking through the jungle path with a machete for a long way in order to get us there. On the way back out, the river was down, so we forded the river (about waist or chest high). The current was still swift, so we all held hands. I must say that our guide, Carlos, was simply outstanding. He not only kept us safe, & kept us focused, but he was extremely well informed about Mayan archaeology & and anthropology, and we learned so much. Inside the caves, it is simply stunning, in natural beauty & in having the privilege of seeing this archaeological treasure. The hike to & from the caves is long as well. The whole experience was amazing, but I will admit that it was very difficult for me, as a middle-aged, fairly fit woman. The other 3 couples in our group were all college age & were less fazed by the physical demands.
I spoke with others who did the Barton Creek caves & absolutely loved it. It's a totally different experience, where you canoed your way in & out.
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Old Jul 25th, 2005, 05:21 AM
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Virginia - thanks for your response.

With the two of you, I now have a much better understanding of the ATM tour. Exactly the information I was looking for.

My husband was totally fascinated with both of your descriptions. Regrettably I will probably chicken out of this one, while he goes and savors every moment.

Fuzzy - it is tough deciding where to travel in CR, I keep planning more and more. As for your locations, as you probably know we have been to all 3, Bosque del Cabo is my absolute favorite thus far.
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Old Jul 30th, 2005, 04:35 PM
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I'm with you on chickening out of ATM. I'm way too out of shape, claustrophobic, and uncoordinated to even attempt it. On the other hand, we did Barton's Creek cave a few weeks ago. I found it to be absolutely beautiful. It's an easy trip that involves zero physical effort other than one person paddeling the canoe which seemed quite easy, no current at all. Our guide paddled ours, so we just got to sit back and enjoy the ride. They take you about a mile into the cave and then back out. It is soooo amazing and I didn't get claustrophobic at all. I highly recommend using Mayawalk tours for this. They really took their time whereas other companies zipped right passed us.
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Old Jul 31st, 2005, 06:32 AM
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Thanks LA! Certainly appreciate your input.

Read several post this morning about your trip - Have you posted a trip report anywhere? Would love to hear more about your trip?

Thanks again!
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Old Aug 1st, 2005, 01:11 PM
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My wife and I just got back from Belize on Friday. We actually did both of the tours.

Barton Creek is interesting and nice...what really makes the tour is the family that built the bar at the entrance of the cave...the family is a lot of fun, and make you feel like you are at home in the jingle. You can also go rock diving or swing off the rope swing. It is interesting to see a cave in its natural environment, but unless you can do both tours I would do the ATM tour.

The ATM tour is physically demanding because you are crawling through tight spaces, wading through water and climbing rocks...but it is amazing!!! You will never experience anything like it, and I would do it now, because I am sure that they will have to close this site to tourists in the near future.

You will be tired after the tour, but it is not too bad. We had a 51 year old couple with us who made the whole tour. There are also tours coming and going throughout the cave, so if it becomes too much, you can always turn around and leave with another tour...again I would highly recomend the ATM tour, and try and get Carlos as your guide...it will be an experience you will never forget!
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Old Aug 5th, 2005, 06:59 PM
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ATM was amazing. I was a bit nervous about it, not liking small spaces much. I was not that excited about it and I think it was one of the highlights of my trip. The experience made that fade quickly. My fiance is 6'7" and made it though the tight spots. If you think you will panic, don't do it, but if slight nerves are the reason, you will be okay.
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