Did you ever had a squeeze-me moment, because it seemed so unreal? Well, I had my latest one in Caves Branch. In the heart of Belize, deep into the jungle, there’s the entrance of the cave of Caves Branch. While hiking and climbing deep into the cave, I had a feeling I was a part of a National Geographic documentary. This was the real thing, were real adventures happen. I smiled the whole dark day from ear to ear.
Choose between 3 challenges
The day before, still in Ambergris Caye, I had to make a choice between 3 great experiences, and because we only had one day here to spend, I choose the most adventurous one. The unbelievable hike deep into the waterfall caves of Caves Branch in the highland of Belize.
The other two excursions, also quite spectacular, cave tubing and the black hole drop were also tempting, but this one was by far the most unique and special experience and the most difficult hike I could choose. And I do like a little challenge 🙂
For me, it was an extra challenge, because nearly 6 weeks before, I couldn’t walk for three weeks (because I dropped a 20 kg weight on my feet in the gym). Today I hiked deep into a cave, climbed waterfalls inside the caves and jumped from high rocks into the natural water-pools in the caves on our way back. This was one of my most adventurous days ever! And I was enjoying every minute of it.
“I came back happy, satisfied and unBelizable grateful after a 5 hours hike deep into the waterfall cave of Caves Branch.”
This is how my day started at 5 AM we had a flight with 5 passengers and two pilots from Ambergris Caye to Belize City. The man at the desk already knew our names. Not that difficult since we are the only foreign passengers. In Belize City, we were picked up by a private car of Caves Branch and we drove 1,5 hour to get to the resort of Ian Anderson (originally from Canada), who started Caves Branch 23 years ago.
“He wanted to create something special and unique, something that would not rob the local people out of their business and contribute to society and show the world unspoiled caves, with no tracks, still open to be discovered.”
Ian passionately told about how he started Caves Branch after he visited the waterfall cave with an archaeologist-friend who did research there. He came up with the idea to give guided tours there. Nowhere in the world were guided tours done in caves.
Ian new, this was ‘it’ and started a tent camp with high adventurous guided excursions into the cave. At that time he bought all the land around the cave so no other people could enter the cave. Only a small group of people accompanied by specially trained guides by Caves Branch have access to the cave.
“The Belizean people saw nothing at all in that vacant dark chilly cave where the gods of the ancestors lived … but Ian saw the adventure.”
The Belizean people thought he was a crazy man, wanting to get people into this dark, cold wet cave where they believed the gods of the ancestors lived. But Ian believed in his dream. Nowhere in the world you could do guided tours like this, this was unique!!! He bought the land around the cave, so hiking in the cave was only available for his small groups.
In the beginning, the business was difficult, but soon as the internet showed up, his guided tours became booming. Even other Belizean started to exploit other caves in Belize now, but I can’t imagine they are so unique as this one. The well-trained guides are tested every year on their experience and attitude by experts to guarantee the visitors safety.
The start of the trip to the cave, a hike into the forest.
We started with an open truck drive from the resort to the cave property surrounded by limestone rock-formations and orange-trees, to where the waterfall cave is situated. We’re crossing a river (no bridge!) and the fact we can cross the river means the cave is safe and the water won’t be too high in it.
We were with a small group of 7 people, two couples, 2 guides and myself. We started our way on a small path into the jungle. A 30 minutes walk gave us a ‘look’ into the jungle life here.We see a ‘give and take’ palm tree with ‘spines’ on his bark. The locals were using it for fishing. We also spot the ‘prickly yellow’ tree, with shell kind of objects on the bark.
“The Belizean seems to have their own funny names for their flora and fauna.” 🙂
We arrived at the cave, a huge eye-shaped opening in front of us. I wonder if they never get lost here… but the guides are well trained and they do have a map of the cave, so I trust them unconditionally. We put up our helmets with lights on and we carry a life vest and a belt in our backpack for later, as well for 2 bottles of water each. This is for physically fit individuals who are ready to tackle the ultimate climbing adventure.
“Here we get a chance to follow the trail of an ancient river cave and climb six waterfalls. Some include ancient Maya sites that were once used to perform sacred religious ceremonies.”
We enter the cave and it’s really spectacular. This is no cave experience with lights or signals on the wall and beaten paths, how we should walk. No, this is the real thing, the real adventure! The only lights in the cave are our very own lights on our helmets, and some of us also carried a flashlight. I felt like I was in a National Geographic documentary. This was really exciting!
“Enormous high spaces covered by stalactites and bats on the ceiling, feeling like natural cathedrals. Alternated with narrow corridors to cross, or very low ceilings where we have to undergo on our knees.”
We go through water, first until our knees, but a few minutes later we had to swim to the other side to continue our route, we had no choice but going completely into the water.
“Real bizarre fairy-tale rock formations of limestone and stalactites with shiny crystal minerals on it cross our path. What we see is magic, nature in his pure prehistoric form.”
We see except for bats all kind if animals, like grey and catfish, a black devil spider, a scorpion spider, lobsters and crabs and they are all very harmless. It seemed like they did not like our lights… they try to keep away from the light. Poor them, as we shine on them cause we like to see them better.
“When we cover all our lights, it’s completely black around us. Black like the universe”
A certain amount of experience of walking over rocks could be handy and this is in my favour, cause I climbed and hiked on rocks as a kid many times with my parents in the French coast, Bretagne. A woman from Oregon gives me a compliment about it:
“Your balance is very good, you seem to flow over these rocks.”
Get scratched here is normal though. I only had one scratch on my leg but my pant is history.
At the point that we hear water running, it’s time to put our lifejackets on and our belts for climbing. I have to leave my big camera behind cause I have no water case for it.
We cross rivers and swim through pools to get to the next side. It seems like we follow all the way the river up into the rock formation where it’s coming from. The water is very refreshing and sweaty as we are, we needed that, a little refreshment. Waterfalls
And then finally we arrive at the waterfalls. Even here there is no climbing path. Only upstairs are two hooks punched into the wall, for the safety ropes, so in case we slip, and fall, we don’t get hurt. The only two tiny things in this 2,5 hours walk which isn’t natural.
“Small as I am, this is not easy. I have to find a spot to put my hands where I can pull myself up”
I have some experience at climbing walls, but there’s no running water over your head that pushes you downwards and makes your visibility almost zero. I can hardly see where to put my hands and feet to climb up and I lost my light, which was attached to my helmet, in between cause of the force of the running water on my head.
“This is more difficult than I thought it would be. But I’m not a quitter. I manage myself to climb up.”
The other smaller waterfalls we climb without a rope and everybody succeed to do it! We are proud of ourselves we made it. Smiling faces of happiness are all over. We love this.
On our way back, we didn’t climb but jumped off the waterfalls into the pools.
This was not easy jumping cause we had only one spot to jump at, right in the middle of the small pool where it was deep enough to jump in. But the middle of the pool was sometimes 2 metres in front of me, so I had to make a great far jump to get into the water where I wanted to be. And as while jumping, you had to watch out you didn’t slip first…We jumped from 5 metres to 2 metres.
Here’s a little movie of the jumping
We continue our way and suddenly we see one of our guides who set up ‘a table’ with a tablecloth on a big flat rock for lunch. What a surprise. And hungry we are. By this time we’re also a little cold, cause we are all soaked and wet for a while and sit still to eat for 20 minutes in this ancient Maya ceremonial centre.
“When we arrive at the gate of the cave, I thought the light would hit me, but it was not the light, but the heath that hit me… what a contrast compared to inside the cave.”
I could say this was one of my most adventures experiences in my life… I had quite a few, but this was one of his own kind, this one was unique and really social! The small group, that natural state of the cave, the cave and his wonderful nature itself deep under the ground, it was magnificent. Thanks to Ian who keeps the caves for one small group a day only, and who keeps the cave it his natural state. No harm is done by us coming here…This is how it should be.
At the end of the walk/ day after 5 hours of hiking/ climbing, I’m completely exhausted. I can barely walk or talk. I need a rest. All my nails broke and I have one scratch and a little painful ankle but I can say, it was all worth it!
“The next morning I felt incredibly satisfied, full of muscle pain and unbelievable happy!
Want to read about the Treehouses, Caves Branch provides? Click here: Caves Branch, luxury tree houses in the Belizean jungle
The next articles will be posted every week, so stay tuned:
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– Caves Branch, luxury tree houses in the Belizean jungle.
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