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“A little overrated, but still a must-do in the Cayo”

Actun Tunichil Muknal
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Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Caves from San Ignacio
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Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave Tour and Picnic
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Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave Tour from San Ignacio
Ranked #1 of 72 things to do in Cayo
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: This remote cave is filled with relics left over from the Mayans.
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Level 6 Contributor
110 reviews
66 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 77 helpful votes
“A little overrated, but still a must-do in the Cayo”
Reviewed March 25, 2013

I really enjoyed ATM, but it took me a while to get comfortable with the fact that it was basically a conga line of tourists when you get to the dry section.

A lot of people say you need to be in good shape, but really you just need to be game to do some clamoring and be excited to try new things - it's not that physically demanding.

Reviewing the activity per se isn't really as helpful as reviewing tour companies would be - the guide you get is the key to getting the most out of your experience. We went with Hun Chi'ik, which seemed a little sketchy, but we all enjoyed our trip at the end (I was trying to listen to other guides on the way out of the dry section, however).

Another drawback is the price - it's not the cheapest experience you'll have in Belize, but it will definitely be a memorable one, so I would suggest taking the plunge.

Another warning: we expected this to take all day and didn't plan anything else, but if you leave by 9, you get finished in just enough time to tack on another short activity in San Ignacio (Cahal Pech, for example).

Overall a solid experience, but didn't reach the level of, say, Chechem Ha for me because of the hordes of tourists, camera prohibitions, cost, and average guide.

Visited March 2013
2 Thank William_Walker24
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Sydney, Australia
Level 3 Contributor
22 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Awesome experience”
Reviewed March 23, 2013 via mobile

One of the highlights of our trip through Central America so far, such an awesome experience! Not really knowing what to expect we were blown away by the whole day, the hike and caving to get to the central chamber was fantastic and our guide Patrick was an encyclopedia of knowledge about the area and ATM itself. The artifacts and remains are beyond belief, definitely recommend this for anyone planning to visit Belize!

Thank bon H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bremen, Germany
Level 6 Contributor
179 reviews
52 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
“One of the best experiences of my life”
Reviewed March 23, 2013

If you are used to a life of couch and office desk, you get to dive into someone else's life for a day in the ATM cave. (My partner was whistling the Indiana Jones Theme the whole time!)

You will climb a little, swim a little, be wet for the whole afternoon and work your way up to the end of the cave, where you will see maya pottery and human remains. We went with the PACZ tours from San Ignacio, got a fantastic guide who took his time to explain all the theories about this place, and even got us to walk in total darkness for a short time on the way back.
It could be dangerous, yes; you are required to climb some slippery and high rocks, the last part even barefoot or with socks only (to protect the rock formations). If you are claustrophobic, skip it. If you dislike bugs, bats or crickets, don't go. If you don't like being wet, go elsewhere.

If you want a blast, if you want a bit of adventure, caving, history, myth and nature in the same afternoon, you cannot miss this. It has been a FANTASTIC experience. I have also never climbed in my life before, and hate heights, though I survived this one. And it was totally worth it.

Visited March 2013
1 Thank nini_it
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Houston, Texas
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Carlos Panti Belize ATM Tour (Actun Tunichil Muknal)”
Reviewed March 22, 2013

Viewpoint from an archaeologist/anthropologist

My husband and I recently took a tour to Belize for an adventurous honeymoon. I had been to Belize before on an archaeology dig in the northern part of the country,Orange Walk, but did not really get to experience much else of Belize the last time I was there. For my husband, this was his first time. After having been on one side of the rope as an archaeologist, my husband and I decided that this time around we should enjoy the Mayan sites as tourists. Going on this tour was BY FAR the best decision we made for our trip. I have been spelunking in the states, and I have worked as an archaeologist in Belize but nothing can compare to what this experience has to offer, ESPECIALLY if you are not in the archaeology field. This tour affords you the opportunity to view the rain forest and some wildlife, an active archaeological excavation site and the sheer magnificence of a cave system. As one who has worked at a Mayan site excavating in an area that is not yet open to the public, it is AMAZING to see the sheer number and size of artifacts that are in the ATM cave. Working in the field, you find a lot of pottery shards, but it is extremely rare that those shards or pottery pieces are in as pristine a condition as the ones you see in the cave. Moreover, for the public to be able to walk through the cave literally inches away from those pieces of pottery, and skeletons is unheard of. ATM is a MUST SEE if you do visit Belize. There is nothing quite like it that is open to the general public. On another note, the cave by itself was quite awe inspiring but our tour guide Carlos Panti MADE the tour what it was and put it at the top of the list for my husband and me as the BEST TOUR we have ever (together and separately) gone on. To begin, there is a 45 minute hike into the jungle in which you have to cross through water 3 times. During this trek, Carlos points out different flora and fauna along the way informing you of the different medicinal purposes of specific plants, and sharing funny and sometimes serious anecdotes of run-ins with the wildlife. Upon arriving at the cave, Carlos gave us a safety briefing and then a short break to allow everyone that was in the cave a chance to head out. I cannot explain to you how VALUABLE that is/was. We were in a small group and had the entire cave to ourselves. Normally there are at LEAST 2 or 3 other groups in the cave at the same time. Additionally, upon finding out that I had a particular interest in Mayan archaeology, Carlos took us on a slight detour to another cave that is generally not shown as part of the ATM tour where we were able to see hand prints left by the Maya on a wall in cave not too far from our original destination. Now every traveler/adventurer's fear is to have some type of serious malfunction at the beginning or middle of their journey. At the entrance to the cave, my shoes fell apart (the sole of one and then the other shoe came off). So I essentially did 1/3 of the tour barefoot the ENTIRE TIME in the cave-- sliding, squeezing, and climbing through (with socks only). Another 1/3 hiking out of the forest with two shoes that had no soles, and only had working shoes for the initial hike in. I say this to emphasize that firstly this tour can be done as long as you listen and follow directions, and secondly to show how wonderful of a guide Carlos was. He took the time to slow down when needed, and overall took his time showing us different features and artifacts in the cave. So if you need a tour guide that will be extremely concerned about your safety, attentive and open to your questions, passionate about sharing his knowledge with you about the forest and cave system, and extremely amiable Carlos Panti is DEFINITELY your guy. If he can take me barefoot through ATM, anyone can do it! At any rate, I cannot reiterate enough how GREAT Carlos was.

Lastly, a few words of advice. Bring good sturdy water shoes, open ears, and a great attitude on the tour. If you have very young children or are feeling particularly lazy, this tour may NOT be meant for you as you will be ACTIVELY swimming, climbing, sliding, and squeezing through different areas of the cave. The tour is not hard but it is most DEFINITELY NOT easy. As long as you are willing to listen and follow directions you should be fine. I am short at 5'1 and not a particularly strong swimmer so if the swimming is your worry, do not fret as long as you can swim a pool length without touching the bottom. And if you are still worried,have no fear, just tell Carlos to bring you a life jacket.

Visited March 2013
2 Thank Vanessa R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 3 Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Amazing and Unique Place”
Reviewed March 19, 2013

I had the best time in this cave system! Our guide was amazing and really spent a lot of time showing us extra things. I love caves and this is definitely the coolest one I've ever seen. As a photographer and fan of the Hobbit I really went crazy in here, but NO CAMERAS allowed unfortunately because of some idiot tourists in the past who have BROKEN the ancient relics and remains in there. Shame on them, humans are so destructive. Have these people heard of camera straps? I did take a photo of my friend that night and we seemed to have brought back a Mayan spirit with us.

If you are able to go, you should not miss this, it was so amazing!! What an experience! Just make sure you are physically fit enough to get through some climbing wading through water!

Visited March 2013
Thank Missy237
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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