Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Tour- Belize

Posted: December 3, 2012 in ADVENTURE STORIES!, TRAVEL
Tags: , , , ,

I meant to write this a long time ago, but time slipped away from me.


A caving adventure where a guide takes you, not just to see ancient Maya artifacts, but give you an experience of a life-time.

Tour Guide:

Carlos Panti (From everything I’ve read, he’s the best. He has his own company now- so give him an email: carlos.caveguide(at)yahoo(dot)com.


San Ignacio, Belize.


75$USD (or 150$Belize).

Things I wish I did differently:

They suggest to bring snacks, good shoes, towel, change of clothes, and bug spray. Carlos told us to not use bug spray anymore as it’s killing the wildlife once you go swimming (which you do). Besides that, I wish I brought more snacks (so I could have shared with the group) and warmer clothes for the ride back. I wore my Vibrams and that was probably the best idea I’ve ever had.

Who’s it for?

People who like rock-climbing, caving, exploring ruins, hiking, going on “real Indiana Jones adventures”, getting an amazing workout.

Who is it NOT for?

Kids under 12(ish), unfit people, closterphobic people, people who can’t swim well (or freak out if their heads are under water), people who don’t like water/caves.

My experience:

I stayed in San Ignacio for the night and went on the tour the next morning. You hike for 45 minutes through the jungle and cross a river 3x (the same river every time). Then we stopped for lunch and a swim in the most clear water I’ve ever seen! It was basically magical. Then Carlos gave us headlamps and took us into the cave.

We swam into it (as it was too deep to walk) and turned on our helmet lights. Carlos told us a crap ton of Maya culture (fun fact, it’s not “mayan” unless you’re talking about the Mayan Language). What they were like, what history tells us, what this cave may/may not tell us, what historians have found here, what biologists have found here, etc. (It was quite the history lesson and I loved every bit of it!)

In between history and guiding, we walked/climbed/oriented through sections of really slippery/sharp rocks and spiky stalagmites hanging from the ceiling. There was even a segment called “decapitation rock” where you squeezed through this segment of cave where the skinniest part of you (your neck) had to get past this jagged rock. As a team, we all helped each other through the cave without getting hurt.

One of my favorite parts was this big open room with a pretty shallow floor and Carlos told us to turn off our lights. We wandered into the cave in total pitch-black. Using our footsteps as a sonar and “trusting our hearts” we made it through that section. The quietness and pitch-black-ness is unlike anything that you experience on land. Carlos would sometimes yell out suggestions of “Think about the Mayans and what it was like coming down here with just a torch… What do you feel? What do you think you see? Are you using your heart or are you straining your eyes?”

Once inside the main chamber (how the mayans did this with pots on their heads, I’ll never know) we turned on our lights and climbed up some giant rocks to a much drier part of the cave. Took off our shoes (as to preserve as much as possible) and continued onto the magic.

We saw dozens upon dozens of pots in all sorts of conditions, shapes and sizes. Some were perfect. Some were cracked, but most were in their original positions– still with stuff (chili peppers and other sacrifice materials) inside! Some were in places that only Gawd can explain on how they got there (with no light and no equiptment—how did they get them up 30 meters??? UNBROKEN!??) This main room was, or so we were told, a sacrifice room where they would pray to the Gods for some rain and leave offerings (sometimes people. We saw 4 human body remains total).

Overall- the tour was AMAZING and my silly descriptive words don’t do it justice at all. Honestly guys, it’s worth every penny and more. They are probably going to be closing it/restricting it soon (I didn’t have to sign a waiver and there were no built up pathways like there would be in the states– that will all change soon. As well as achiologists taking out the pottery and analyzing it). They don’t allow cameras anymore because some jabroni dropped his on a skull and broke it. 😦 So here is a decent video on Youtube.


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