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Just as intriguing as the Maya ruins, are the extraordinary caves and underground treasures Belize has discovered over the centuries. Over the course of millions of years, rainwater and underground rivers have etched through the lime rock and other soft bedrock creating one of the most spectacular and extensive cave systems on the planet.
When most people hear of caves, they expect dreary, claustrophobic passages. However, most of the Belizean caves open to tourism offer enormous chambers and subterranean world that is worth exploring.Caving expeditions that are ideal for beginners include the Che Chem Ha, Barton Creek, Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) and Caves Branch in the Cayo District, as well as the Rio Frio Cave of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
Actun Tunichil Muknal, better known (and pronounced) as the ATM Cave, is quite possibly one of Belize’s most popular and sought-after visitor attractions. ATM Cave is located on the Caves Branch River in the footfills of the Maya Mountains in central Belize.
During the river’s run through the jungle, it encounters numerous limestone hills. Rather than flowing around these obstructions, it plunges through them in a wonderful series of caves – some of which are two miles long!
Like other caves, ATM will reveal hundreds of ancient Maya artifacts and carvings. However, what’s unique about ATM Cave is the full skeletal remain that is still intact after thousands of years.
One of the most intriguing (and somewhat relaxing) ways to experience many caves is by cave tubing. Visitors rely on their inner tubes to take them back into ancient times by floating downstream through cave passages. Along the route, guides will share geology and Maya history of the limestone surroundings.
Many tours explore different passages, with some of the caves forming natural swimming pools of clear blue water – a serene place for a swim. Want an added twist to the cave tubing experience? Ask about sunset excursions – you enter the park when the crowd disperses and exit the caves under the jungle canopy of a night-time, starry sky.