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“San Ignacio 'Must-Do' Activity”

Actun Tunichil Muknal
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Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave from San Ignacio
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Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave Tour and Picnic
Ranked #1 of 72 things to do in Cayo
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Owner description: This remote cave is filled with relics left over from the Mayans.
Reviewed May 24, 2011

ATM is an absolute must-do if you're in Belize. I did my tour through Pacz and thought that their guides did an excellent job. Just understand that this is an active tour and not for the faint-of-heart. It takes about 45-minutes just to drive to the site (the ride gets EXTREMELY dusty), 45-minutes to hike to the entrance of the cave and you will be inside the cave for several hours.

Here are a few of my recommendations: #1 Do NOT apply insect repellant or sunscreen before your trip to ATM. For starters, you really won't need it but most importantly you should know that the farmers and people who live in the area rely on the water flowing through ATM for their drinking/cooking, showering and for use on their crops. Insect repellant and sunscreen contain chemicals which will contaminate the water. #2 I personally would discourage you from taking your backpack with you on the hike. Once you get to the entrance of the cave you have to completely empty your pockets and leave everything behind. The only thing you need is your food. You're much better off leaving your bag with one of the guides who stays with the van. #3 Be careful when crossing all three creeks. The water level isn't high but the river rocks can be extremely slippery. There were several times when I almost slipped and fell. #4 If you can afford it, I would highly recommend a waterproof case for your camera. I use C camera company which makes hard cases for its entire model line. It's about as expensive as the camera itself but worth every penny. I was able to take pictures along the hike that no one else could because their cameras had to be sealed in a waterproof bag carried by the guides. #5 I highly recommend water shoes. I had purchased a $20 pair of scuba shoes several years ago to go canyoneering in Costa Rica and it turned out to be a perfect investment. The scuba shoes have a rubber sole so I could both walk and hike between the cave and outdoors, not to mention the fact that they were closed toe. #6 You have to swim several yards into the entrance of the cave. Not a big deal if you know how to swim, but if you can't there are no life vests provided. #7 You are instructed when not to touch certain formations because the oils from your hand will kill its growth. #8 Someone recommended I put my dry socks in my helmet and it was perfect. Once my group got to the chamber and were instructed to remove our shoes, my socks were dry and kept my feet warm while everyone else had to squish around in their wet socks. #9 One of the coolest experiences came when we were leaving the cave. At a certain point we were instructed to form a human chain and turn off all of our headlamps. One of our guides then led us through the dark until we arrived at the lone area of the cave where you saw natural sunlight. My heart was beating in my chest but it made for a memorable moment. #10 Don't be afraid of ATM because it's truly a remarkable experience. You will get wet, be in the dark and have to climb up and down extremely tight spaces but it's all part of the adventure. There are reviews from people old and young with different skill levels. If they raved about how magnificent it was, you can do it too.

7  Thank appetite4trvl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed April 23, 2011

The other reviews say it all. I just want to add that my husband and I are 65 years old and in good shape. We went with our 30 something children and all of us had an amazing experience. Some reviewers mentioned being cold. We were not, in March, but then our guide had us put our t-shirts under our hard hats to put on in the dry part of the cave. Our guide held our cameras in his dry pack which he gave to us to use in the dry cave. I would have LOVED to have had a camera to document the rest of the cave. There is one rickety 14 ft. aluminum ladder that you have to climb, which was a lot scarier than any of the rocks. The guides,however,are so familiar with the path through the cave that they can tell you exactly where to put your hands and feet to get through difficult areas. The first time I cracked my head on a rock, I was so grateful for the hard hat. Favorite part of the journey for me was swimming through the underground pools. There is some discussion on limiting visitor access to the cave and artifacts, so don't wait to go on this trip.

1  Thank rpowell
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 19, 2011

If you like adventure, water, cultural artifacts and having fun, then you'll LOVE ATM. The guide books descriptions don't do this "attraction" justice. This cave system is riddled with Mayan ritual sites, artifacts, human remains and mystery. To get to the cultural part of the tour, though, you have to swim, wade, crawl and rock climb through this amazing cave system. You will wear a hard hat and head lamp at all times. In the dry area of the caves, you have to ditch your sneakers and walk in your socks.

I would not recommend this activity for those who don't enjoy or are unable to do the aforementioned activities. There is no emergency exit or onsite first aid centers in this place. You will get wet and cold. You will wonder how more people don't injure themselves in ATM. This is all part of the fun though. :)

Our guide, Luis was extremely knowledgeable and appropriate reverent about the mystical ritual sites. He led our 5 person group through a section of the cave without our head lamps to give us a unique perspective of the caves. The caves are the real deal and SHOULD NOT BE MISSED.

Thank 524slouie524
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 19, 2011

I also reviewed this for PACZ tours, since they operated the tour for us!

They picked us up and dropped us off at our lodging! The drive to the cave location was scenic and very bumpy! Everyone in Belize drives a little crazy! This adventure could be strenuous for some people but there was a couple in their late 50's to early 60's who pulled it off with no problem. Please be advised you are in a cave, there is no lighting except for you headlamps, there are no guardrails, stairs, elevators, or other safety devices except for your own brain and common sense! You will need to swim, climb, duck, twist, turn, bend, crawl, and climb!

We did the ATM cave tour with Francisco and it was Amazing. Getting to the cave takes about 45 minute and you cross 3 rivers or streams depending on the time of year. A quick break for lunch and then it is on to the cave! This is truly an all day event and you will be wiped out afterward but in a good way!!

You're in the cave for the better part of 3 hours...more if you are the last group of the day like us. You scamper over around and under rocks, swim through underground rivers, climb up one BIG boulder, up one tall ladder and are rewarded with a Mayan sacrificial site that is over 1000 years old.

Our guide Francisco was great, he told us exactly how to maneuver through the tough parts, watched out for our safety, protected the artifacts, and provided in depth information about the Maya and their world.

If you do this be sure to bring water shoes, preferably the closed toe style but I did it in my Tevas just fine. A camera is nice to bring but it needs to be waterproof if you want to take pictures of everything. If its not a waterproof camera, the guide will carry it in his waterproof bag for you until you reach the site at the end. Lunch is provided but you must carry it on the 45 minute hike to the cave. So bring a small backpack to carry your food and water to the cave. There is a semi-secure area to leave the packs before you enter the cave.

Thank LeenieAZ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 9, 2011

Fantastic! Wasn't easy, but worth every step. I am 57 years old and not in the best shape, but managed to get through it with just a few bumps and bruises. Be prepared to get wet, a little dirty and love every minute of it. You need to be reasonably physically fit, and the spaces get a little tight, especially for someone who is a bit claustrophobic, as I am, but it is much better than other caves you can do and worth the effort. We loved the caves, saw river otters playing in the river on the 45 minute walk in and it was one of the real highlights of our trip...if you have the chance, my recommendation would be DO IT!

2  Thank drwiz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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