The howler monkeys served as our alarm clock in Belize and ordered us awake around 5:00 AM. It was lucky we had to be up early for our excursion! After breakfast, a hot cup of coffee, and a quick briefing from our guide Lenny, we were off to the ATM cave. As I quickly learned, close toes shoes are a must for the cave and clothing that does not reveal your shoulders or knees is preferred, especially from clumsy people like me! Even with the proper attire we still encountered a few stubbed toes and a minor scratch.
After the 45 minute hike to the cave entrance Lenny fitted us with our head lamps and we jumped in the water. Even moving fairly quickly, it was about an hour of scrambling over rocks and swimming though deep waters in order to make it to the main cavern. However, with Lenny leading the way we always felt safe! At the main cavern, we climbed up a ledge where we were asked to take off our shoes in order to help preserve the cave. It was unbelievable to see the broken pots, the burn marks on the walls from the Mayan rituals, and several skulls from the Mayan sacrifices. Our lights danced over the remains and the incredible stalagmites and stalactites sparkling all around us. After taking it all in Lenny instructed us to turn out our lights and gave us a moment to experience complete darkness and utter silence. We were so thankful that we had the entire cave to ourselves in this moment.
Eventually we broke the silence and Lenny led us deeper in to the cave to see the most common attraction. People typically refer to this as the “crystal maiden”. However, during recent cave excavations archaeologists learned that the full skeleton is actually not a maiden at all, but rather a teenage boy!
We reunited with our shoes and continued the trek though the lower caves just as two other groups were making their way in. Staying at Pook’s Hill allowed us to avoid the bus loads of people and made the experience incredibly unique. It made the early morning wake-up call totally worth it. I only wish we were allowed to bring our camera and capture it!
Pook’s recommended that we don’t arrange any additional excursions for the day since the 3-4 hours in the cave can be tiring. They were absolutely right and the rest of the afternoon was spent leisurely exploring the river and jungle surrounding the hotel grounds.