We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Amazing Experience!!! Carlos the Cave Man is the best”
Review of ATM Cave Tour

ATM Cave Tour
Ranked #1 of 52 Tours in Cayo
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: Actun Tunichil Muknal “Cave of the Stone Sepulcher” or ATM Cave as it is locally known is located in the heart of the Belizean Rainforest. A 45 minutes hike to the cave, You will cross the Roaring River on three occasions and the return hike on that same trail. This cave offers a unique, eerie experience as it was once use by the Ancient Maya. It hosts a variety of skeletons, the most famous is the Crystal Maiden, ceramics and stone tools. This cave offers a unique, eerie experience as it was once use by the Ancient Maya. You will learn the history of this cave and the rituals that were conducted in the cave. From bloodletting to human sacrifice, and other rituals that occurred in the cave over one thousand years ago.
Reviewed 28 November 2013

I cannot say enough great things about Carlos the Cave Man and his colleagues. It is one thing to tour the cave (we went to the Crystal Cave because ATM was not open) which itself was an incredible experience. Carlos, Eddie, and Edward take the trip to the next level with their discussion of the local flora and fauna, the history of the country, and daily life in Belize. Would definitely take this trip again!

Thank Hunter C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a ReviewReviews (770)
Traveller rating
Traveller type
Time of year
Language

601 - 605 of 770 reviews

Reviewed 27 November 2013

Since there are already plenty of rave reviews of this cave, I’m going to focus on the practical details, particularly for those not sure whether they are up for the challenge. Suffice to say that the cave itself is beautiful (particularly the sparkling rock formations and the “Ballroom” cavern), eerie, full of antiquities, and overall like something out of an Indiana Jones movie – well worth the trip. But leading up to our tour, I never could find a truly accurate or detailed description of what is actually involved in getting there, beyond frequent uses of the word “strenuous”. So I’ll try to provide a detailed description for those who are on the fence about going.

Short version: If you are young, trim, flexible, fit, adventurous, and not afraid of darkness, rushing water, and enclosed spaces, skip the rest of this review and just go to the cave. For the rest of us, read on:

• Depending on where you are staying, at the very least you’ll have a sincerely bumpy ride over a rutted dirt road from the main highway to the park entrance, around 40 minutes or so. If you are some distance away, add on whatever extra time (and rutted dirt roads) may lie in between.

• Leaving the vehicle at the parking lot (where there are clean bathrooms, showers and changing rooms), you don your backpacks and head off on the trail to the cave entrance. Since you will be leaving your backpacks unattended when you enter the cave, you’ll want to leave any valuables you don’t want to get wet or stolen either at your lodging, or in your vehicle in the parking lot. Footgear for the cave should be something sturdy that you don’t mind getting wet, and that protects your toes from the many rocks your feet will encounter. Hiking boots or athletic waterproof sandals do nicely. If you are wearing sandals without socks, you need to bring a pair socks for the cave (more on this later). The trail to the cave entrance takes about 45 minutes one way, and involves crossing the river three times. When we were there in early November, there had been a recent storm that eroded the streambed, so that the first crossing involved swiftly moving water up to our midriffs. The trail is easy and mostly flat, and ends at a shelter with picnic tables (and the world’s nastiest outhouse – you’ll be better served to bring toilet paper and use the jungle). You leave your backpacks and anything you don’t want to get wet here at this shelter. Best to hang backpacks on one of the pegs on the shelter if you don’t want them full of ants when you come back. You will spend around 2.5 hours in the cave.

• You swim into the cave. Some descriptions I read said you’re never in water deeper than your feet can touch bottom, but this is not true of the cave entrance – you swim across around 20 feet of water that was deeper than my 5’8” body could touch bottom on. Plus you are swimming wearing whatever clothes and footgear you have on. So if you can’t swim, don’t go. Our guide said a number of people on the tour claim they can swim when they can’t, thinking they can somehow fake it once they get to the cave. Don’t.

• If you’ve been to Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Cave, or any major tourist destination cave, you may be used to caves that are wired with lots of artistic lighting. The only light in this cave is provided by the lights on your spelunking helmets (provided by the guide). If you’re seriously scared of the dark, don’t go. Tip: the other couple on the tour brought small high powered flashlights, which were a bit better than the caving helmet lights.

• 75% of travel through the cave, before you climb up to a higher level above the water line to get to where all of the Mayan artifacts are, is through running water. Sometimes it is up to your ankles, sometimes up to your neck. This also means that most of the time you can’t actually see where you are putting your feet, though thankfully most of the rocks underfoot are smoothed by the stream. If the idea of being up to your neck in running water in the dark gives you the heebie jeebies, don’t go.

• In one spot in particular, you need to squat, go sideways, and turn your head at exactly the right angle to pass through a very tight crack (this, by the way, is one of the spots where water is up to your neck). If you are very large and/or have claustrophobia, this would not be your idea of a good time.

• Toward the end of this watery, scrambly stretch, you need to climb up a boulder. This is not quite at the level of serious rock climbing, but close: you need to be able to pull your body weight up, have a strong hand grip, and not be afraid of falling. Around this time in the trip you also go up a tall metal ladder, in your stockinged feet (see below).

• Once you have arrived at the main attraction, you have to take off your sandals or boots, and switch to stockinged feet. This is to protect the many artifacts, which are literally strewn everywhere around your feet, sometimes inches away. The guide referred to this as something like the “place of ouches”, for good reason. Occasionally you will be walking on jagged rocks, more often on ridged rock formations, neither of which are very comfortable for civilized feet. If you have foot problems or balance problems, this may not be for you.

• Finally, take all the above steps, and do them in reverse! Bear in mind that by the time you get back to the park entrance you will be sopping wet and muddy, and will want to have a change of clothing waiting for you.

For perspective, my traveling companion was 72 years old and not the most physically confident person. But she is passionate about caves and adventures and loved every minute of the excursion. Our guide said that to date his oldest guest was 82. So the above is intended not to discourage, but to provide details for an informed decision.

11  Thank ArtAndFood
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 November 2013

The ATM tour was awesome and Carlos made it so exciting and fun!! He's a really funny guy and full of knowledge about the caves. He shows such great passion for them and for his country. Went on a tour with 3 other people and we all clicked and it was super fun having such a nice friendly group of people in addition to an awesome and funny tour guide! my girlfriend and I really enjoyed ourselves and still talk about Carlos and the caves to this day!

The reason I chose Carlos was because of the raving reviews I read and how much of a personal approach he gives to the tour unlike those big companies out there that just take you in and out and move on to the next group.

Carlos can be reached at carlos.caveguide@yahoo.com
Make sure you pick him, you won't regret it!

2  Thank RahKing
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 October 2013

This was an absolutely incredible experience. One I'll never forget. We went with Carlos the Caveman... well actually he wasn't feeling well so we went with Martin, but it was through Carlos. What an experience! If you want to book with him, i HIGHLY recommend it. I don't think he has a website, but you can call him (669 7619) or e-mail him carlos.caveguide@yahoo.com.

But just to warn you, this is REALLY not for everyone. You hike for about 45 minutes, and through 3 rivers, to get to the cave entrance. Once there, you spend about 4 hrs inside a pitch black cave, with bats flying around, you're climbing on slippery wet rocks, up dangerous rock walls. Oh, and you never know if the water will rise. We heard a few weeks back a group got stuck inside because the path back was flooded. They all made it out OK, but it's a crazy thought.

At one point, the path forward was so narrow, you need to slide your head through an opening so small that a rock is about 1inch from your throat. If you're overweight... this could be difficult.
Most of the time you're wading through water you can't really see, and if you get to a point where you decide you don't want to go on... good luck. They're not going to stop the tour and take you back because you don't like it. Remember, there are other people on the tour.

It's dangerous, and not for the weak (physically, or mentally). It's not for people who want to be catered to. These guides are very cool, but they're not going to pamper you. It's a real hike and you have to be prepared. If you don't like climbing, are claustrophobic, don't like or know how to swim, don't like the dark, don't like bats, or if 6 hours of walking/climbing is too much for you, then I'd find something else to do. There are other caves in Belize, and others will likely be much better suited for you. Oh, and you can bring cameras into the other caves too.

But with all of that said, this was an amazing experience for me. It's far too dangerous for this kind of thing to be allowed in the US, so I just thought it was incredible that I was able to do this stuff without stairs built in, and everything roped/fenced off. But who knows how much longer they'll allow that.

I will say, part of this amazing experience is because we went during the slow season (Oct). There were probably only 25 people in the cave all day. We were able to get a private tour because it was so slow. Just me and my girlfriend. But during the busy season, you're going to be with a larger group, and there will be many more groups that you'll be passing on the way in, and out. Personally, i think that would ruined the experience. I loved the absolute silence and darkness we experienced. It was so unique. We were told that normally, you get about 250-300ppl going through there every day during the busy season. Although, they also said the government was going to start limiting that to 150/day. I imagine just making a booking is going to get difficult.

So check it out, while you can. As long as you're ok with everything I mentioned above... it's a hell of an adventure, and definitely something to see.

8  Thank JimPowell22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 October 2013

Originally I was not going to do this tour because of my knees which are a problem. My 21 yr. old son talked me into it and I never looked back. We took a 20 minute plane ride from Ambegris Caye to San Ignacio where we were transported by van for an hour and a half ride to where we met our guide, Gonzalo (with River Rats). From there we traveled 45 minutes by jeep to the site. Once there we started a beautiful and an easy walk with Gonzalo who provided us with a tasty lunch of chicken, potatoes, rice and plantains. Then we were off again. The walk about 45 minutes and it was a perfect beginning for our adventure. We crossed 3 rivers. The water was only knee deep. Feeling kind of unstable Gonzalo did a wonderful job of guiding me through. Once there at the mouth of the cave, you swim into it. The water was unbelievable. We wore helmets with lights. There is a lot of climbing, swimming, squeezing between tight spaces, more swimming and more climbing. Carlos was there every step of the way when it came to climbing. I held his hand for dear life. What an amazing guide, but I'll do a separate review for River Rats. BOOK with RIVER RATS. That's all I can say. That and the fact that he is a Mayan Archeologist and extremely knowledgeable and well versed on the cave and Mayan culture. The first sights we saw we stalagtites and stalagmites that glistened when the lights shone on them. That would have been an adventure in itself. But further on we went to discover ancient pottery and artifacts even skeletal remains, all the while learning about the history. Gonzalo took his time and didn't rush us through like we saw with another group passing through. Make sure to wear good walking shoes and socks. There's a part where you remove your shoes. We stayed in Belize 11 nights and explored every day. By far, the trip to and from ATM with Gonzalo was the best and most memorable. Do this trip! you won't regret it. Not for the faint of heart. An adventure like no other.

2  Thank elliomaxx
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Travellers who viewed ATM Cave Tour also viewed

 

Been to ATM Cave Tour? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing