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“Go with Juan Carlos!”
Review of Pacz Tours

Pacz Tours
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Pacz Tours Belize leads daily tours Actun Tunichil Muknal, Cave Tubing and to all of the known Archaeologocal sites and quite a few unknown ones as well. Pacz Tours pride themselves on having the most experienced and knowledgeable tour guides in San Ignacio, Belize.
Reviewed July 23, 2013

We were in Belize last week, and one of the definite highlights of the trip was our ATM cave experience with tour guide Juan Carlos. Very knowledgeable and informative, as well as very friendly. My wife was a little concerned about the ATM trip before we got there, but once there she felt like we were in very good hands with Juan Carlos.

Thank Brian D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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348 - 352 of 522 reviews

Reviewed July 22, 2013

Touring with PACZ for ATM was totally worth every penny and the highlight of our time in Belize. You should request Juan Carlos as your guide. He is very knowledgeable and fun. We also felt 100% safe and well taken care of on the trip. Spelunking through ATM is no Disneyland and requires a certain level of fitness and fearlessness. Go with Juan Carlos and PACZ and you will not be disappointed.

Thank Minh H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 16, 2013 via mobile

I would not recommend this - the van arrived about 40 minutes late - and the one guide did not Always stay with the group - which for a dangerous tour - seemed to be something key. Felt rushed and the guide was going through the motions- it was a bit disappointing- particularly as this was to be a highlight of our trip. If safety is important - would not recommend.

1  Thank Cynth007
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 5, 2013

We stayed at Black Rock Lodge and this is the tour company that took us to ATM. Would not miss this tour. It was a memorable experience because despite being an active person, I have not had an experience like this before. A word of warning. We were lucky to go. Due to heavy rains, the caves were closed so we had to adjust our itinerary. Shortly after we went, the government closed all cave excursions so please check about this before leaving especially if you are traveling during the rainy season. Many others were notable to go and were disappointed.

Also, request Francisco. He was our guide and did a fantastic job and had a great sense of humor!

BTW, no cameras allowed in the cave because a tourist last year dropped it on a skull and ruined it for all others to follow.

1  Thank bluehornet2009
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed June 8, 2013

If I could add more to my rating, I would! I'm a researcher by trade and I did extensive research on tour companies before selecting PACZ for our ATM excursion (they were not the tour company our resort used). Manny was our guide and he was PERFECT...very knowledgeable of the Mayan history and the environment; very respectful of the cave as a spiritual sanctuary to be protected and preserved (and repeatedly impressing this upon the tour group); an humble yet confident Belizean, serious about his responsibilities as an educator, guide and protector; patient and attentive to our needs; friendly and down-to-earth; and he had a sharp, dry wit and great sense of humor that kept us all engaged and entertained. We couldn't have asked for a better guide.

Both my friend and I are terribly claustrophobic, and were super concerned about our ability to do this excursion. Additionally, I have a desk job and haven't exercised AT ALL in about 15 years, plus I have a significant spinal injury, degenerative disc disease and peripheral edema exacerbated by walking, so I worried (actually, pretty certain) that all of the hiking, climbing and swimming would be too much for me; but I had to try. My concerns were not realized. My legs/feet were swollen and my back did hurt a bit by the time it was said and done; but my muscles weren't even sore the next day.

The experience was worth every bit of temporary discomfort I felt that day. The hike was pleasant, very interesting, beautiful and easy...about 30 or 45 mins down a clear trail through the jungle, across three tranquil, refreshing, shallow rivers. We stopped about 3/4 of the way there to have a bite of lunch and stop at the restroom (an outhouse with a really nasty toilet...I couldn't use it...some people went in the woods behind it). The lunch PACZ provided was fresh and delicious! You can tell them ahead of time what type of sandwich you prefer, and advise of any food allergies. I had a chicken sandwich with the Belizean chips (I can't recall what they call them, but they're lightly salted, crisp and yummy.)

While there, having lunch, we were geared up with helmets and headlamps. All personal belongings had to be left there at the camp site, unsupervised...nothing loose like backpacks or cameras or food/drinks are allowed in the cave; so, don't take anything with you that you don't want left unattended. Additionally, once inside the cave, there is no place to use the restroom. If you have urinary frequency or intestinal issues that cannot wait for 2-3 hours, you'd be well-advised to skip this excursion. It is unforgivable to urinate in the fresh, crystal clear waters inside this sacred place...like someone peeing in your church...NOT cool. So do your business before you go or wait until you get back to the camp site.

Additionally, my friend is very thin and tiny and, middle aged, I'm still fairly petite. In retrospect, I'd suggest that this tour is not recommended for people who are significantly overweight or very large in stature. There were 3 or 4 VERY tight spots that we had to crouch down and squeeze into/through, and a few places where we had to climb up large boulders and tall ladder. The hike alone would be a major challenge but the cave would be virtually impossible for a large sized person to navigate through.

Very early into our hike through the cave, at the first tight spot, my friend started crying, fearful that much more of the tour would be in really narrow/tight spaces; but Manny handled her panic like a pro. I'm sure he's been in that situation many times. He kindly and professionally told her that he'd take her back to the entrance right then if she wanted to stop, but explained that we'd be in open spaces most of the time, and that the tight spots are fast and few.

He said that the fear was entirely in her mind, not based on reality...that she was totally safe; and that all of these other people will go through the cave with no problems, enjoying the beauty and majesty that the cave had to offer. He said, "You decide what you want to do now. If you go forward, then you're committed to seeing it through...no more crying. Right? This is your chance to face your fear and overcome it, with all of us to help you. You can do it! When you feel afraid, just center yourself in the moment, focus on the beauty you're seeing all around you, put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving. Choose to put the fear out of your mind. Then you can go home and tell your kids how brave mom was and how incredible it was to have this experience. Ok? So, are you in?" She reluctantly agreed. From then on, Manny did a GREAT job of keeping her entertained, focused and motivated.

His dry sense of humor and ability to not take her (or himself) so seriously made her forget whatever she was afraid of. There were 2 or 3 more really small spaces to get through, and she and I both dreaded each one, but they were very quick. Within no more than a minute or two, we were back into wide open areas that would take your breath away...because of their magnificence. The 1000+ year old natural formations, cathedral ceilings, Mayan artifacts and well-preserved human remains were incredible to see. It was a spiritual experience.

The only part of the trip that rattled me a bit was swimming through the really cold entrance to the cave and a couple of other places that we had to swim through. The other sections of water that we had to pass through were more tolerable, only about knee or waist deep; and once we were out of the water, we were perfectly comfortable. It was really warm outside the cave in Mid-May, so cooling off now and then was, overall, a good thing.

We felt extremely privileged to have had the ability to see and learn about such an amazing part of God's creation. When we returned to the van after the hike back, we were able to shower off in fairly clean public showers and change into clean, dry clothes before our journey back to the pickup point several miles down a very bumpy road (the great conversation, jungle views and excitement and inspiration we felt after that experience made the bumpiness barely noticeable.)

Takeaways were: 1) It's a MUST SEE if you're anywhere in the vicinity...worth the money and the effort...and it may be closed to the public soon, 2) Use PACZ tour company...all of the guides are good from what I've heard/read (there are some people in the world who'll complain no matter what; just ignore them), 3) Dress in light-weight, quick-dry clothing, and wear good, lace-up hiking shoes or sneakers with thick soles/good grip and that won't fall off in the water, 4) Don't carry a camera, backpack or other valuables you wouldn't leave unattended, 5) Expect to work for this experience...it's not a cake-walk, nor is it too hard for a 50-yr old lacking physical fitness; however, it's not recommended for people who cannot swim without assistance, very small/young and impulsive children who can't or aren't willing to follow strict instructions, very large people, those with major physical limitations, or unfit, elderly folks, 5) Be respectful of the cave and mindful of the guide's instructions, 6) Don't drink or eat a lot prior to your excursion, and use the restroom whenever you can before entering the cave, 7) If you can buy a really bright headlamp before your trip, DO...the headlamps provided are sufficient but I wish I had had a much brighter light, with more distance, and that would also cover a wider area. ENJOY!!!

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

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