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“This is a must do, must see, experience of a lifetime!”

Actun Tunichil Muknal
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Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Caves from San Ignacio
Ranked #1 of 70 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.
Los Angeles, California
Level Contributor
73 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
“This is a must do, must see, experience of a lifetime!”
Reviewed January 13, 2011

I am agoraphobic, claustrophobic, hypoglycemic (and not that adventurous) woman in my 50's and if I can do this, you can, too! Now I am not saying that it doesn't take some level of skill because it does. You need to be able to hike (moderate level) and swim and climb over rocks. So if you are reasonably physically fit, you will do great! This is recommended for all ages. It is so fun and unbelievable!!! Oh, and don't wear your best shoes because they get wet. I wore sneakers with a decent tread and gave them away to the guide when we were done. We booked an early tour out of Pook's Hill. It's about an hour drive (dirt road) from the lodge to the cave. Then a 45 minute hike that is fairly flat but you have to cross a 2 to 3 foot high river. Then they brief you about the cave and give you a helmet. You swim into the cave, they put a head light on you and you're good to go. The guide takes you through the cave climbing over rocks and through water. It is remarkably clean because a river runs through it. And there is a dry area that you get to walk around and learn about the Mayan civilization that inhabited the cave. I don't remember how long we were in the cave... maybe 2 hours? Remarkable! And they serve you lunch when you get out. Nothing fancy, just sandwiches and banana bread. Ready to book your tour? Good! Have fun!

Visited December 2010
Thank artladyla
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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718 reviews from our community

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Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
65 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
“An amazingly powerful experience”
Reviewed January 13, 2011

We went on the ATM tour with Pacz Tours (guide Manuel) on Dec 28. I was nervous b/c I am a bit claustrophobic and REALLY arachnophobia, but I guess I am an even bigger "Maya geek" because I went. Groups are limited to 8, but I don't think there is a limit to the number of groups. Manuel told us that his company alone probably brings about 50 people to the site per day. I know this doesn't seem like much, but when you consider the fragility of the environment and the priceless artifacts that it houses, 50 is probably even too many.

The hike in and out of the cave is a blast in and of itself. Definitely one of those this-would-never-fly-in-America experiences! We were with a fairly young group, but we saw kids (around 12 yrs old) and older people (60+) with other groups. As long as you are willing to go SLOW and listen to your guide, you will be fine.

When you get to the end of the hike, you climb some rocks, take off your shoes and proceed in your socks b/c, as Manuel explained, we are more mindful of where we step when we aren't in shoes. Everything that was found in the cave was left in pretty much the state that it was found in with only fluorescent orange tape on the ground separating trampling feet from centuries-old Mayan pottery. The "highlight" of the tour is the complete, calcified skeleton of a woman that they show you at the end. I've seen the Ice Maiden of Peru...in a museum. Seeing this body EXACTLY where it was laid hundreds or thousands of years ago was a completely different experience. One, in fact, that I wasn't sure I was meant to be having.

In summary, ATM is a great experience, but one that may be short-lived. Even our guides are conflicted about bringing tourists to the site, and I don't blame them. If you go, as you are wading through water with your fancy water shoes and headlamp, think of the Mayans who entered this cave with nothing but torches. And when you get to the end, please be respectful and thank the lingering spirits for sharing their space with you.

Visited December 2010
2 Thank trubeo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, MA
Level Contributor
17 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“ATM is a must see in Belize and Carlos Panti is the guide to use”
Reviewed January 12, 2011

My girlfriend and I were in Belize for New Year's 2011 and got to San Ignacio on January 1st, 2011. We booked our ATM tour through our hotel and got Carlos Panti as our guide on January 2nd, 2011. We paid $80 per person which is a very fair rate especially given the unique things we saw. The cave is a must see and was the highlight of our trip. If you are thinking about doing it do it before it is shut down. And if you decide to do it give Carlos Panti a call at 011-501-669-5552 or email him at carlos.caveguide@yahoo.com. I think he made the experience incrementally better, he is knowledgeable and has an acute sense of humor. If you do use him tell him Romania and Mrs. Jersey say hello, he will know what you mean...

Visited January 2011
Thank SergiuV
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
10 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“A "must" in Belize!”
Reviewed January 2, 2011

Good Points
* We went with CAT tours (Ben) who was brilliant
* Picked us up from our hotel which was in the middle of nowhere and took us back.
* Ben also dropped us off at a shop on the way to the tour to pick up some bug spray.
* Lunch was good - especially the banana bread, we even bought a whole loaf to take home.
* Great experience

Bad Points
* Maybe if we are being extra picky to find something to be critical about, is that we would have liked more time to take photographs (with a waterproof camera)

Points to Consider
* You have to cross 1 river 3 times to get to the cave which is cold and waist deep
* It is a wet cave and some places you have to swim
* Take a pair of socks that can be thrown away afterwards
* You do have to climb up rocks in some places

Great experience!!! There are two things you have to do in Belize, this and Hol Chan.

2 Thank PanaMan_UK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
3 reviews
“Happy Birthday”
Reviewed December 20, 2010

I took myself off on an 'Intrepid Tours Maya Explorer' 17 day tour for my 50th birthday. An option mid tour was to go to the ATM cave. Sounded great, was great, is great! So long as you are reasonably active, young at heart and a good communicator you will manage this tour. The experience for me was awesome. It will stay with me forever. The history and the adventure was fantastic! Something for everyone. Just go do it if in San Ignacio (Belize).

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

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