In a Cave, on a Tube

Words and Photography by Dalene Heck

Nas and I joined the line of would-be floaters making their way to the rivers edge. Two stood men stood below us on a small platform at the bottom of a rough ramp, gently setting people out on the river.

Cave Tubing Belize

I grimaced. Choosing my activity for this day, unbeknownst to me, meant sharing my experience with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of day trippers from the four cruise ships in port at Belize City. All were being shepherded around in large groups, their tubes attached to one another and a guide paddling in front to move them along. Some were loud, boisterous even, and all were affixed with head lamps that lit up the otherwise pitch dark caves.

I was eager to break from the herd, and immediately accepted Nas’ offer to instead paddle upstream in the mouth of another dark cave, one that would be ours and ours alone.

The others watched on quizzically as we began moving in the opposite direction. Soon we were away from their chatter and beams of light, and only our voices echoed in this passage of the Cave Branch River.

There are over seven miles of caves and lazy river, with archeological evidence indicating that the Mayans used it as a ceremonial center. We moved slowly upstream, seeing very little in the darkness. Without Pete to calm my fears of bats, bugs, and all things crawly, Nas had attached our tubes so that I wouldn’t be venturing far on my own, and thankfully so. His paddling meant that I could take my time capturing images, and turn upwards to peer at the formations along the ceiling when I was brave enough to gaze upon the nether regions. I breathed a little easier as we crept to the end of that cave, and into an open space where light tucked around corners and shone spotlights on the murky green water.

“The water is so dirty from the recent rain”, Nas said. Only at the water’s edge could we see the array of colors in the shiny rocks at the bottom. We disembarked our tubes and I used mine as a padded seat while Nas began to tell the history of the Mayans and their caves. Little did I know that at that time, Pete was hearing a near identical rendition on his excursion.

Soon we were away from their chatter and beams of light, and only our voices echoed in this passage.

Crystal Blue in the Cave

After an hour of being fully captivated by his tales, along with some from his own family, we returned to the tubes and shortly to the crowds downstream. I desired to retreat back to our own little enclave, but we instead managed to find our ways around them, and even made it a game to do so. We slowed down when big crowds were ahead, casually criss-crossing to kill time, or if we caught up, we paddled furiously to get by. Nas pulled over at one ledge and we got out, he helped me over slippery rocks to another small opening. We stood at a tiny cliff’s edge with crystal clear water below.

“This is what they would call a cenote in Mexico,” he said, while nodding at me to jump into the water. I wouldn’t dare. Despite some rays of sun getting past tree limbs above and onto the rocks on which we stood, it was still quite dark. The level of water looked deceptively deep, even though Nas threw a small rock in to show it was just two feet below). Without my own rock (Pete), everything-about-caves-still-scared-me.

Back to our watery road and the many other passengers who crowded it. We didn’t have far to go now, and despite the hooting and hollering by the many around us, I wished it was longer.

Without my own rock (Pete), everything about caves still scared me.

Belize Cave Tubing - Inside the Caves

Once we exited the caves, we let the stream freely take us. I drug my hands alongside in the water, indebted to its refreshment in the hot sun. Both Nas and I wished aloud for beer, and I for a tan. In less than a couple of weeks, I would be floating down a winter river in Finland, and I was wondering at that moment which I would enjoy more.

I laid my head back onto the tube and let every limb dangle in the fresh water. I could wonder no more.

Dalene and Nas Cave Tubing

I was a guest of Ka’ana Belize for the cave tubing and as always all opinions are my own. To read all about our stay there, please click here.

20 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • February 22 2013

    This looks like such fun Dalene, even if you did have to share it with a whole load of people! The caves look idyllic πŸ™‚

    • February 23 2013

      It was really great! I was dismayed at first, but was so happy when Nas suggested we go upstream first. Loved it!

  • Carmel
    February 22 2013

    I love caves. That looks amazing.

    A friend told me last night that the only thing that makes her hesitate to go to Thailand was the humongous spiders and other creepy crawlies. I told her I have to not think about it if I’m going to get myself to travel. However, it’s nice to see that other people who are very experienced with traveling are also afraid of bugs and bats…and are still doing it. Still…[shudders at the thought]…

    • February 23 2013

      I think I have gotten better, but you’re right – the only way through it is to NOT think about it. Easier said than done sometimes, but it’s the only way. (And I am also a little scared of SE Asia for that reason).

      So my Mom just emailed me and pointed out that in the top right side of the second picture in this post, you can see a big spider coming out of a crevice! AHHH! Now I’m freaking out because I never noticed it before….

  • February 23 2013

    I’d totally do this! Looks like so much fun. Glad you were able to get away from the hordes of tourists. πŸ˜€

    • February 25 2013

      Yes, I took Nas up on his offer in a heartbeat! Was so nice to have one cave to ourselves.

  • February 24 2013

    Looks stunning especially the second capture!! I have never been to any caves so it will be a great adventure for me! Thanks for sharing.
    Arti recently posted..The Temple of the Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, Japan

    • February 25 2013

      I tell ya Arti, I’ve been in TOO MANY caves given the fear I have of them. But this one was pretty fun. πŸ™‚

  • February 25 2013

    This looks A LOT more fun than the caves they take you through in Laos. Not to mention that you don’t have a car battery draped round your neck to power your torch.

    Hmmm… maybe I’ll have to give it another go?

    • February 27 2013

      OoH car batteries…yeah, I’d say this was better (even without going to Laos).

  • February 25 2013

    Looks like a lot of fun! I can spot some big spiders in some of the pictures. Did you notice them while you were tubing?
    Jennifer recently posted..The Matterhorn’s History Comes to Life at the Matterhorn Museum

    • February 27 2013

      I DIDN’T! Thank goodness, or that would have made the day totally different for me! My Mom pointed out a big one in the second picture that I never noticed, and I wish she wouldn’t have! πŸ™‚

  • February 25 2013

    I did the ATM while I was in the part of Belize, which I enjoyed a lot. But after reading your post and seeing your photos, I wish I did the tubing, too. It looks like so much fun and so relaxing. It would have been a perfect post-activity after the ATM.

    • February 27 2013

      It was much more laid back than the ATM (which Pete did himself), and I’m glad I did this one. That one would have FREAKED me out. πŸ™‚

  • February 26 2013

    “…thousands, of day trippers from the four cruise ships”???

    OMG – as one who first visited dear sweet “diamond in the rough” Belize before there was a single “You’d Better Belize It!” t-shirt for sale, nor even a Belize guidebook – you can only imagine how that makes me wince. ;(

    • February 27 2013

      I know, CRAZY, right? I can’t believe that they get that many people through in a day. You had better not go back there, it might be traumatizing for you. πŸ™‚

  • March 2 2013

    Looks really fun. I remember doing tubing stuff up in the NC mountains at home. Imagine it would be different in Central America.
    I wouldn’t be happy amongst that many tourists either.
    Andrew recently posted..Selime Monastery

  • April 26 2013

    I did this in Laos. Lots of fun, but probably not a good idea if you are claustrophobic! πŸ˜‰
    Dean recently posted..Camping and Bush Walks in the forest at Gembrook, Australia

  • December 26 2013

    This is super-cool!

  • February 5 2014

    We just did this! It was an absolute blast. We were one of those annoying cruise day trippers. We recommend getting there as early as possible to beat the rush.
    Lance @ Travel Addicts recently posted..Cave Tubing in Belize – Get Those Butts Up!

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