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Published: January 23rd 2008
Cave's Branch Lodge near Belmopan, Belize
We spent one week at Cave's Branch Lodge, located southest of Belmopan on the Cave's Branch River. The lodge was amazing, and our room was the most lavish of all our accomodations. Below are some pictures of our room, some of the views, and the main lodge.
Cave Tubing & Ziplining
The cave tubing is not your ordinary tubing down the James... although you may think so at first. It starts with a leisurly stroll down the river on innertubes, soaking in the rays and chatting with you new friends on the tour with you. All you need is a cooler of beer and you're on your way to paradise! Then.... the rapids approach. You go through several sets of rapids that require lots of tube maneuvering, paddling for your life, and occasionally swimming... if your tube pops or you fall out. Then you hop out of the river for a short hike, and then you enter the caves. You spend hours navigating through a sub-terrain cave system totaling 7 miles. The caves range from huge open caverns with giant formations to tiny openings where you can touch the walls and the ceiling at once. The entire time, you are guided only by the light of your headlamp. Totally kickin'! And when you get to the end you get to top it all off with a zipline through the jungle canopy. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
The Black Hole Drop
The Black Hole Drop was my 2nd day's adventure. It begins with an hour-long hike up a steep mountainside, covered in mud, poisonous roots, spiny trees... basically nothing you want to have anything to do with! At the top of the mountain you suddenly come across a giant sinkhole, approximately 400 ft in diameter. Thousands of years ago, the underground cave system collapsed from above, creating this giant hole in the mountain. We hiked to the highest point, and then rappelled down the 300ft cliff-face to get to the bottom. Once you make it to the bottom of the hole, you explore the carious caves inside, and then begin your trek up the steep terrain where you just came down from. Finally, once back at the top you hike all the way back down the mountain. This is their most popular adventure, and I understand why!
The first pic is Kat taking the plunge over the edge, I was next (and last) to go. The second pic is halfway down, the white specs at the end of the rope are people.
Cave of Waterfalls
This adventure was by far the coolest. It begins with an easy hike to the cave entrance. You then prepare yourself for a 4-hour hike through a cave system, with only the light of you helmet's headlamp. After climbing over giant formations, swimming under giant boulders, and crawling on your hands and knees where the roof only reaches 2ft tall, we finally made it to where the series of waterfalls began. We harnessed up and began our climb. There were a total of 6 waterfalls ranging from 6 to 20 ft in height. The most difficult climb was the 20ft, which required climbing straight up through the roaring falls. The force of the waterfall and the lack of reliable handholds made it seem impossible, but we all made it. After we successfully climbed all 6, we got to jump off the tops of them into the pools of water to get back down.
After some rather strenuous adventures, I decided to take a day off to visit with the howler monkeys. The Community Baboon Sanctuary is a 60,000 acre preserve where the howler monkeys roam freely among the community, protected from outside influences. Our guide was this cute woman who has a way with the monkeys, she coaxed them to come down from the trees to play.
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
The Mayan ruins found 3 miles deep inside the "ATM" Cave were discovered in 1989, and opened to the public for viewing in 1998. This rare adventure was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It begins with an hour hike through the jungle with our guide armed with a machete in case we run into any "wildlife." We cross through the river 3 times before reaching the entrance of the cave, an hour-glass shaped silhouette in the mountain-side. After swimming through the entrance, we hiked deep into the cave with the water ranging from 3 in. to 10ft. deep. We then climbed a 15ft ledge to reach the dry portion of the cave, and began our exploring. The cave was used up to 2,000 years ago as a Mayan sacrificial ground, and the relics include various forms of pottery, human bones and full skeletons.
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