Things kept on getting better after we left Caye Caulker. The next stop was San Ignacio, our home for a couple of days. The location wasn’t particularly astounding, barring a local market across the road and the Macal River bordering another town, it was mostly devoid of things to note. Yet, from this town, we were less than an hour away from one of my trip highlights—Actun Tunichil Muknal, or in less tongue twisty terms: ATM caves.
The fun started before we reached the caves, the minibus journey taking a very long winding road to get there. I lost track of the number of turns, but hopefully, the video below does some justice to it. Equipping ourselves with helmets, flashlights, and a liberal application of mosquito repellent we were ready to venture forward.
Getting into the actual caves was somewhat of an obstacle course, all adding to the experience, though. Initially, we had to wade across a river with the water level at chest height, followed by two shallower crossings. Once at the narrow entrance of the cave, we had to swim inside. Despite the forewarning of getting a bit wet, it was still an exciting surprise to find ourselves swimming at times. What a way to ward off hordes of tourists.
Into the caves and out of the water, things didn’t get any more straightforward, or any less exciting. Our guide breezily clambered up several rocks, finding different holes to act as footholds. “Follow my route!”. A little easier said than done when most of the light was from our head torches. A couple of bumps of the helmet later and through a small opening cave (seriously, no shortcuts or well-worn flip-flop friendly routes here) and suddenly the cave opened up. Observable were several skeletons and ceramics, the “feature” being a complete a young woman whose skeleton has a crystallized appearance. Our tour guide explained the skeletons were rather brutal sacrifices, adding an eeriness to the atmosphere.
Since we were not allowed to take cameras, this photo was supplied by our tour guide, likely from official website
I’ve been to other caves before and seen skeletons but this was unlike any other experience. Compared to the caves I visited in the Blue Mountains, where the destination is the prize, I found the journey to the destination the highlight of the ATM caves. Maybe it’s like catching your food, having to work for the right to experience the caves made the trip so much more rewarding. A fantastic end to Belize.