Today was a perfect day! After taking care of all the animals, Celisha took Rachel and I to Caves Branch River to go cave tubing. Celisha’s sister’s boyfriend, Edwin, is a cave tubing guide and he met up with us to give us a personal tour. Unfortunately we were unable to bring a camera with us so I will have to describe how wonderful it was to you. After traveling 6 miles on a dirt road we arrived at the entrance to the park. The river is part of Belize’s park system and there is a small fee to access it. You must have a guide in order to go cave tubing and there are several large companies that cater to cruise ship passengers and other tourists. Edwin told us that on very busy days he can have as many as 20 people in his group – which is pretty amazing since he often gets out of his tube and helps steer his passengers down the river! Luckily it was just the three of us! It was amazingly beautiful and peaceful.
As soon as you pay your entrance fee and enter the parking lot you see a very large building that belongs to Caves Branch Outpost – it is a huge giftshop. There are also buildings that house showers, changing rooms and bathrooms, and a large row of storage closets where the guides keep their equipment. Edwin equipped each of us with a large yellow inner tube, a head lamp and a life jacket. With the inner tubes slung over our shoulders we began the 20 minute walk to the entrance of the cave. The walk was beautiful. We walked under the jungle canopy along a rocky trail. We saw a baby pineapple – it looked like a purple pineapple-shaped flower – a very large tarantula with her egg sac which was the size of a chicken egg – incredible! She had her front legs over the top of it, protecting it, and when Edwin got too close to her, she rolled her egg down her burrow. We also saw a group of coati mundi including an albino one. Edwin told us that his previous employer actually had this group at her resort and when she closed shop she released them in the jungle. Not many people know this fact however and even some of the guides got excited seeing these “wild” animals.
At the end of the walk through the jungle we came to a large cliff face with the river right below it and the cave entrance to the right. It was an incredible sight. The water was crisp and cool and different shades of blue and green. There were cliff swallows flying over the water and scaling the cliff. It was finally time to get in the river! We put our head lamps on, Edwin connected our inner tubes together and we were off. Once we entered the cave the light slowly faded. The cave was very large and the water depth ranged from inches to 40 feet. The crystal formations in the cave were incredible and they sparkled in the light from our headlamps. Edwin pointed out the various natural formations in the cave – there was the mother looking down at her child (or George Washington, depending on your point of view), there was a large bird looking into the river, a large serpent along the ceiling, a dolphin and a jellyfish. At one point in the cave we could hear the sound of water rushing, Edwin reassured us that it was just the 150 foot water fall that we would be tubing down – he might have exaggerated a little bit. The cave opened up to the outside and the view was so perfect it was surreal. The top of the opening was jagged and it almost looked like you were looking out from inside a fish’s mouth. There was a perfect sliver of jungle visible with the sun shining through – and the 150 foot water fall was actually three small water falls that flowed from the outside into the river where we passed. It was incredible. We continued down the river to the cave’s exit which was populated with insect bats (tiny little bats clinging to the ceiling) and the sounds of baby cliff swallows filled the air.
Once we exited the cave we continued to float down the river. We had toucans and aracaris fly over us, the group of coatis caught up to us and we saw various other birds including a black phoebe! It was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon!
After our cave tubing adventure Celisha took us to the Art Box, a small gallery and gift shop along the highway. Belizean artwork is very beautiful, very colorful and often nature-inspired. Rachel and I are both looking for that perfect piece of bird artwork! They also do quite a bit with wood, creating different animal carvings, boxes, kitchen ware and furniture. Celisha then took us out to dinner to experience some local food. We went to a part of Belmopan known as Salvapan because it is where the people from El Salvador have settled. We dined on empanadas, garnaches and salbutes – all are different variations of fried corn with meat, beans, cabbage and tomatoes. It was very good!
We have less than one week left before Matt and Devin arrive and we are both excited to see them again. However, there has been one major change to our plans – Nikki has a family emergency to tend to in the UK and will not be able to return to Belize in the immediate future. Rachel has offered her help and will be staying in Belize through the month of June to take care of the animals and to train Celisha who will move onsite and work for Belize Bird Rescue full time. I, on the other hand, am still heading home on May 30th. It has been quite an adventure! We are both looking forward to the break we have coming up and finally getting to see the side of Belize the tourists come to see!