Have you always wondered what it would be like to tube through an ancient Mayan cave? Or did the headline just grab your attention?
Either way, this is definitely something you must do if you find yourself in Belize!
Let me tell you about our adventure! (I promise I’ll include some serious cash-saving tips too!)
When we landed in Belize the first place we headed was farther mainland to San Ignacio, hitting up some Mayan ruins and going cave tubing were our ultimate goal. We decided not to pre-book any tours while we were doing our research at home in Canada because we figured it might be cheaper and more flexible to book in person the night before.
Three hours and a bumpy ride on a chicken bus and we were in San Ignacio! We checked into our hostel and had a few beers (They are very relaxed with the drinking laws here, not like Canada that’s for sure)
After relaxing in San Ignacio for the evening, we set out to try and book a cave tubing tour with one of the tour companies in town. We talked to everyone who was available (4 people total) and we came to the conclusion that they are all basically the same and they offer the same amenities (gear rental, water shoes, lunch). They were also around the same price point. It turns out that booking in person was a bit cheaper (80 USD) than booking online (96 USD).
We decided to go with the salesman who seemed the friendliest which turned out to be a man named Josh who worked for Xplore Inland Tours. He got us all set up with a tour for the next day at Nohoch Che’en cave systems for the majority of the day, including lunch and gear rentals. The next day we met the owner of the company Sergio who was pleasant to talk to, we paid the other half of our deposit and set off on our tour!
Check out their website for more tour information: https://www.exploreinlandtours.com/
After a bumpy hour jeep ride we arrived at Nohoch Che’en and grabbed our gear! Our guide Sergio Jr pointed out some interesting flora and fauna and told us some fun facts along our short hike to the start of the cave system, we learned about cashew plants, animals that are native to the area as well as mahogany and why Belize is the only English speaking Central American country!
After 40 minutes we were at the start of the cave system, we quickly took some pictures in the surprisingly chilly waters as Sergio Jr tied our tubes together. Soon enough we were all floating through the entrance to the cave!
I was surprised at how quiet and peaceful the caves were! We were told that the Mayans used the caves as temples and always went into the cave systems high, as a result, they saw animals such as turtles, eagles, sharks, and bats in the rock formations. Being a history buff it was so interesting to get this little insight into the Mayan way of life. Sergio Jr also pointed out these formations to us and it was cool to see first hand what the Mayans had seen thousands of years ago.
Our guide swam and walked us through the winding and dark river until we started to see some light peeking through, we made it to the Cenote (a collapsed part of the cave, creating an opening allowing light to come through). Here Sergio Jr told us that we could get out and explore a little bit, we had to be careful not to touch certain parts of the rocks in the caves as the oil and dirt on our hands could easily destroy it.
We walked up the stairs to the opening of the cenote and back down again, to find ourselves on the ledge of the small cliff. Our guide being well seasoned jumped in first and asked us to follow suit! I was quite freaky because you couldn’t see how deep the water was, it was a black abyss. I took a minute to collect myself then jumped feet first! It was an exhilarating feeling!. We swam back to our gear and hopped back on the tubes to continue the tour.
Spending a total of an hour and a half floating through the caves was the most calming and informative tour that I’ve ever been on. We were told that most other tours only spend 30-40 minutes in the caves and they don’t stop for a swim. I figured this was just the guide trying to make his company seem like the best until the end of the tour when we saw other tour guides pass us and take a shortcut to avoid floating all the way down the river. Our guide quietly pointed this out to us as he took us all the way around the bend of the river.
When our tour came to an end we hiked back to the main entrance and were given the traditional Belizean lunch, chicken with rice and beans (simple enough but absolutely delicious!). After lunch, we had a few minutes to get changed and do some shopping at the small stalls (Something I’m not such a fan of due to the bothersome shopkeepers) before we got on our way back to San Ignacio.
Cave tubing through these cave systems was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and was more relaxing than I had thought it would be. After having a bit of a rocky arrival in Belize and San Ignacio I think it was exactly what I needed. I will never forget the jungle sounds that were so soothing to listen to as we floated along, spotting bugs and birds in the trees. We couldn’t have asked for a better guide and I couldn’t stop recommending this tour to everyone we came across on our trip.