A few years ago, while on a cruise, my family decided to go cave tubing. For those of you who don’t know what that is, you basically float around on an inner tube downriver. The river just so happens to run through some pretty cool looking caverns on your way downstream. It’s actually quite relaxing, and although I don’t like enclosed spaces, I really enjoyed the experience!
When we first learned that we could go cave tubing in Belize, we looked up a couple companies that took tour groups from the cruise ship to the caves. I convinced my family to go with a group called Butts Up!. The website looks sketchy, I’ll give you that. But I really liked the name, and they had excellent reviews. Having gone once with them, I would do it again in a heart beat. They also offer Jungle ATV and zip-lining through the Belize jungle in addition to cave tubing.
We traveled to Belize on the Norwegian Jewel cruise. I think the best part about the cruise was that I didn’t have to do anything to make the ship run (I had been out of the Navy for almost two years at this point 😋). It’s something I would recommend everyone try at least once, but I don’t think I’ll be doing another one. I’m not a fan of being on the water for days on end. But if you’re looking for a short cruise, the Norwegian Jewel goes to Belize, Cozumel, and Honduras. You have plenty of time for adventures, and the staff were terrific!
Once we arrived in Belize, we nearly died (according to my sister). Butts Up! decided to put us on a tour bus that had already taken off for the caves. We had arrived on time for our normal tour, but since we were the first to arrive (and they had room on the other bus), they decided to get us on the earlier tour. My sister, who is not one for international travel, wasn’t too impressed. In fact, she was seriously upset about what happened next. To hear her tell the tail, we were nearly kidnapped and murdered. Although, I assure you, that was far, FAR from our reality! 😂
Race Through the Streets
They hauled us quickly around the corner to an unmarked van. My poor sister was starting to freak out at this point. We were, after all, completely alone in a foreign country. She just knew we were going to get mugged. Once at the van, they slid open the doors to reveal the inside, completely wrapped in plastic. I was thinking, “Oh, clever, because everyone is going to get wet.” My poor sister, however, was having a heart attack at this point. According to her, she knew we were going to be murdered and the plastic wrap was for easy disposal our soon-to-be mutilated bodies.
They hustled us into the van and proceeded to TAKE OFF. As in, “Space Ball One has gone the plaid!”. We we racing through the streets of Belize in an attempt to catch up to the tour bus. We saw things I’m sure you’d never see if you weren’t leaving the immediate vicinity. The van stopped at a check-stand patrolled by guards with machine guns. The drivers told them we were from the cruise ship and were heading towards a tour bus that had already taken off. The driver screamed “NORWEGIAN JEWEL!” at the top of her lungs at the guards with machine guns, and we were let through. I swear, that was an event in itself. My poor sister’s heart was racing about as fast as the guy driving the unmarked van, covered in plastic. Eventually we caught up to the bus.
Once we arrived at the bus that was waiting for us, we were mocked by some rude tourists (for making them wait, like it was our choice). We quickly took what seats were left and the bus took off. At this point, several magical things began to happen. The rude girl decided to open her window, not caring at all that it was marked “Emergency Exit”. She sounded the alarm and the bus came to a screeching halt. With the sudden stop, the locking mechanism for the luggage compartment on the outside of the bus dislodged and the compartment flew open.
The driver, upon duct-taping the window of the rude girl completely shut, went outside to take a look. Deciding the locking mechanism couldn’t be fixed, he found a sturdy twig and shoved it into the latch to keep the compartment shut. After admiring his work, he got back on the bus and we started moving again. To make matters even more interesting, Speedy, our tour guide, decided it was the perfect time to introduce us to something Belize is apparently famous for – Cashew wine. He opened the bottle and began delivering shots to all the tourists on the bus.
The rest of the ride went off without a hitch.
Welcome to the Jungle
We eventually arrived at the Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve. While there, we saw several other tour groups gathering their inner tubes and beginning the 30 minute hike through the Belize jungle to the cave opening. We, however, didn’t have to carry our inner tubes. Butts Up! had already carried our inner tubes down to the caves. We did have to make the jungle hike on foot, donning our life vests. Another tour guide would stop and explain some of the plants and animal life in Belize. We came to a river where we had to hold onto a rope to make our way through the rushing currents, but the river, although rushing, was shallow enough to make the hike.
Once we arrived at the cave entrance, our inner tubes were waiting for us! They were tied together so that Butts Up! didn’t lose anyone during the dark portions of the caves.
Not the greatest picture, but by the time we got here, my phone died and my camera wasn’t waterproof. I’d go again, with a go-pro or something like that!
Beginning our ride into the caves.
We each wore a headlamp so that we could see, but the caves themselves were still really dark.
Our guide was really knowledgeable about the formations in the cave. I know this one in particular was pointed out to us on the tour. However, I can’t for the life of me remember which one this is. I think it’s because one of the tour guides grabbed my foot, which was dangling in the water, while it was pitch black. I nearly jumped out of my skin!
As we began to make our way out of the caves, we learned that one very, very wide but shallow rock lays at the exit. This is the rock they call the “Butt Snatcher”. When we got to this point, our tour guide yelled out, “BUTTS UP!!!”, at which point, we all clenched up and lifted our butts out of the water as best as we could do we didn’t get “snatched”.
Exiting the caves. Hello, sunshine!
As we exited and made our way back on to the river, we gave a shout-out to our cave guide. I can’t remember her name, but she worked her little heart out trying to make it a fun and interesting experience for everyone. The guides that went into the caves didn’t have life vests and weren’t in a tube. They swam, and hauled us around with them. This lady was actually pregnant, but she didn’t show. The guides seem like they get quite the workout, and she, along with the others, promptly passed out on the (uneventful) bus ride back to the cruise ship.
I would totally go again!
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