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Cayo Cave Adventures

cave formations
The Cayo district is honeycombed with limestone caves, used by the Maya for centuries. The Maya entered caves through underground rivers, and climbed up on dry ledges for ceremonies, sacrifices, burials, and to store food. Caves symbolized both the underworld (home of the Lords of Xibalba and death) and life, just as the sun rises each morning when the night is gone.
Different cave tours are available, from an easy one hour canoe ride through Barton Creek Cave, to active cave tubing and hiking to see Maya sites within the caves. None of the caves have permanent lighting or paved walkways and railings kids will feel like real cave explorers.
    Barton Creek Cave Take a one hour canoe ride through Barton Creek Cave this cave tour is fun for children of all ages, no paddling is required, life jackets are provided.
barton creek cave
    The cave entrance, a rock face covered with ferns and dangling vines, seems impassable, until the guide paddles the canoe around an obstructing rock, and into a huge, high cavern.
    Floating through the cave, a bat or two flying overhead, delicate sounds of water dripping, look for Maya pottery and a skull from their ceremonies on the higher ledges. Other times the formations are just above your head, you have to duck, as the canoe glides underneath - sparkling stalactites, stalagmites, cave bacon and curtains are illuminated with a single headlamp. A unique experience!
    Cave tubing Cave tubing tours involve floating in inner tubes on underground rivers through caves; some tours also include hikes within the caves to see Maya artifacts. We took the River Cave Adventure from Caves Branch, a combination of floating and Maya exploration, good for kids ages 7 and up. Highly recommended.
cave tubing
    We hiked a short distance to the river, then floated into the cave. Our very experienced guides not only took us to see spectacular cave formations (one miniature room looked like a spun sugar castle), but pointed out various wildlife in the cave little bats that eat insects, "gardens" spun by worms to catch flies, albino crickets. Lunch was served in the cave (not something we'd done before).
maya fertility good
    We viewed broken Maya pots (pots are broken intentionally as part of the ceremonies), sat around ancient fire rings, and shined our headlamps on a striking figure of the Maya fertility god and shadowy formations that look like a Maya man and woman with a baby on her back.
      For cave tubing tours, wear clothing that can get wet (swimsuits, shorts, rash guard shirts) and shoes with a tread (no open toed sandals), as walking through caves is slippery and rocks can be sharp. A waterproof camera is handy.
    Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Teens will get a kick out of this cave adventure. Hike to the river, then walk/swim (depending on the water level) into the cave, and hike up where you'll see ritually broken Maya pottery pots and the skeleton of a teenage girl sacrifice (fifteen sacrifices were found in the cave). Wear clothing that can get wet, shoes for hiking, helmets and headlamps are provided.
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