The highlight of our three days in San Ignacio was tubing through St. Herman’s cave. This region in Belize is known for its underground labyrinth of caverns and tunnels and since we love caves this was on the top of our San Ignacio to do list. Basically every tour company in town does a version of cave tubing, but Andrew in the Mayawalk office was the friendliest operator we talked to, so we chose to book with them.
The constant rain that the region had been experiencing in the days leading up to our visit meant that many of the cave systems were flooded or had extremely high water levels which made for dangerous tubing conditions. Most Mayawalk tubing adventures happen in the Caves Branch River, but because of the elevated water levels we ended up in the lesser-visited St. Herman’s cave, which for reasons unbeknownst to us was not flooded.
We woke up the morning of our tour to chilly, cloudy weather but after our overall positive experience snorkeling in the rain on Caye Caulker we decided to keep a positive attitude and with smiles on our faces we loaded into the Mayawalk van. Our group consisted of ourselves, a couple from Canada, eight hung-over adventure seeking Aussies and our guide, a Mayan local named Oscar. Together we trudged for 10 minutes through thick, shoe sucking mud before flipping on our headlamps and making the initial decent into the dark, DARK cave.
The underground river was about half a mile from the cave entrance, but tiptoeing down the steep path, tubes slung across our shoulders, with only the narrow beam of our headlamps to light our way was part of what made this adventure so awesome and unforgettable.
Just as was the case on Caye Caulker, the water ended up being much warmer than the air (although the cave air was MUCH warmer than the outside air) and we happily splashed our way onto the subterranean river as soon as it was in our sights. In order to optimize the amount of time we got to spend floating downstream we first had to paddle about a quarter mile upstream to where the river first enters the underground cavern.
We drifted for about an hour, past stalactites and stalagmites, through large rooms and narrow corridors, all the while astounded at how otherworldly our surroundings felt. We had been tubing before, but never underground and never for such a sustained amount of time. It was awesome!!
After running out of floatable river it became necessary to stand up and carry our tubes through the labyrinth of cave passageways back up to the open air. It took about half an hour of sloshing through the river (in some places it was a few feet deep) before we were up and out on the surface.
Once we were out we needed to trudge back through the jungle to the van and the much needed food that was waiting for us there. Even through we were walking through a tropical rainforest, IT WAS COLD! Logan and I had learned our lesson on Caye Caulker and had come prepared with spare clothes, but the rest of our group was ill prepared and spent lunch time and the ride home shivering and complaining about the weather. Apparently cold snaps in San Ignacio are few and far between because our guide Oscar was the loudest bellyacher of them all.
Obviously I don’t know what a “normal” Mayawalk cave tubing adventure would look like, but I loved our hybrid tubing/ hiking/ underground trekking day. Our guide was great (complaining and all), the cave was beautiful and despite the weather the day was amazing. I would love to go back to San Ignacio someday and experience more of this awesome activity!
Dollars and Sense
Cave tubing with Mayawalk (lunch and transport included)- $70/ person
TIP: Wear good shoes. A lot of our group was wearing only flip flops and they struggled with the walking parts day. Our Chacos once again proved to be a wonderful investment.
TIP: Wear clothing over your bathing suit. The cave is a bit chilly so an extra layer helped keep me comfortable.