If you’re after things to do in Belize, cave tubing is a popular choice! “Butts up! Nuts Up!” is as crude as it sounds, and depending on the level of the river, is something that you may hear multiple times throughout your trip! But more on that later! There are several different companies that offer cave tubing in Belize. I went with Belize Cave Tubing lead by Major Tom!
I booked my tour by using an agent in Caye Caulker. Most of the cave tubing tours meet cruise ships. The main cruise season in Belize finishes at the end of May so when travelling in June, considered the ‘off peak’, things slow down and tours don’t run as frequently.
Cave Tubing in Belize
I was told that ‘Major Tom’ would pick me up at the San Pedro Express ferry terminal (as I was coming from Caye Caulker) and that I should look for a ‘tall man with a deep voice’. I felt like I’d be looking for a needle in a haystack…how would I know who had a deep voice without speaking to every single person in the terminal!? Turns out that the tour agent had given him a description of me and so I was found easily!
Major Tom at Altun Ha
As there were only 3 of us booked on the cave tubing tour, we were picked up and taken around in a car, rather than a mini bus, which was fine with us. I felt privileged to have ‘Major Tom’ as a tour guide. He was one of the very first tour guides in Belize and helped shape the tourism of the country into what it is today. He’s been the president of multiple tourism associations, with the most recent being the president of ‘The Federation of Cruise Tourism Associations of Belize’. He knows his stuff and is a well respected guide.
Hike to the start of the float!
The tubing takes place at Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve, an hour from Belize City. ‘Major Tom’ has been leading tours to this Reserve since 1992 and has explored all areas of the park.
When you first arrive at the site, you are kitted out with a life jacket, helmet, head torch and a giant tube. You do then have to CARRY your tube and equipment for around 25 minutes on a hike through the rainforest, where you will see lots of native plants and trees. Our guide for tubing also tried to track down a local monkey troupe that often hangs out in that area of the rainforest, but they weren’t around on the day of my visit (apparently they were seen at the zip lining area instead!).
I found it most comfortable to balance the tube on my head. I found the perfect position so I could carry it hands free and it also kept the sun off my face and head!
At the entrance to the cave network, we had 15 minutes to take photos, swim in a cave area and jump off some low rocks into ridiculously clear (and deep) water. There were loads of little fish swimming around too.
When it was time to start our cave tubing float, the guide tied all the tubes together in a line, so we could just sit back, relax and not worry about floating away into the darkness! This is when everyone has to then put on the lifejackets and the head torches.
Belize Cave Tubing video!
The caves for the most part are PITCH BLACK. The guide points out various formations in the caves with his torch and obviously if you look the same way, it then gets brighter and lights it up! The caves are pretty awesome, there is even a waterfall inside them!
Depending on how much rain there’s been, depends on how deep the water is. If the guide shouts “Butts up! Nuts up!”, you have to lift your butt up so the tube floats over the shallow areas easier…if you’re a guy and you choose not to listen…well there’s a chance that your nuts may scrape against the rocks on the riverbed, so you’ve been warned! The water can go from being an inch deep to 60ft deep, it’s so clear too!
Belize was once largely populated by the Mayans. The caves were a significant part of the Mayan faith and so you learn a lot of their stories and myths and how different rock formations represent different animals and figures. I found it to be very similar to the aboriginal beliefs around Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia. Things like the red colours of the rock being where mythical creatures have been killed and that’s the blood running over the surface etc.
Once the cave float finishes, you continue floating down the river to the part where the hike first started, so you go full circle! For this last bit, you are free to take off your helmet, undo your lifejacket and just sit back, relax and watch the rainforest pass by! The total float time lasts around 1 hour 30 minutes.
What To Wear For Belize Cave Tubing
Footwear – The most important thing to wear when cave tubing in Belize, is water shoes or some form of footwear. Footwear has to be secure, so no flip flops! I wore water shoes, others wore trekking type sandals. You can rent water shoes at the Reserve for $3USD, if you’re travelling light, this may be your best option. Remember that there is a hike lasting 25 minutes through shallow parts of the river and then on the floor of the forest so this may affect your decision for what you’d find comfortable. It’s a good idea to take a change of footwear so you aren’t left in the wet shoes for the rest of the day.
Swim wear – You are expected to take a complete change of clothes though so you aren’t wet in the vehicle afterwards. There are toilets and changing areas that you can use before and after the float. I wore my swim wear with a pair of board shorts and a rash vest over the top. Unless you choose to swim at the start, you don’t actually get that wet, your butt will be wet from the hole in the tube but that’s about it!
Waterproof stuff – Everything you take on the hike will end up going through the caves with you too, so only really take the things that you’re happy to get wet. I took my GoPro but other than that, everything else gets left and locked in the vehicle back in the car park.
Helmets, head torches & lifejackets are supplied
Money – There are a few stalls that sell drinks, t-shirts, shorts, towels, gifts and water shoes. I left my money locked in the car during the hike and float.
Towel – I travel with a small microfibre towel that again I left in the car. You don’t get absolutely dripping wet and because of the heat, you do dry off quite quick but it’s nice to have one just in case!
Exploring Belize after cave tubing!
All tours with Belize Cave Tubing includes lunch and drinks. We stopped at a little roadside cafe and had a takeaway which as a group we decided to eat ‘on the go’. I had chicken, rice, beans and a fried banana!
The cave tubing tours can be combined with various other options. A popular option is zip lining as it’s right next door to Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve. Other companies offer a combination tour with ATVing.
My cave tubing tour was combined with a visit to the ‘Altun Ha’ Mayan ruins. ‘Major Tom’ was our personal tour guide around Altun Ha. As a Mayan descendant he was very passionate and knowledgable, giving us lots of information on the culture, history and his beliefs. It is said that Altun Ha ruins date back to 250 BC!
There’s a plus to visiting in low season!
The temples were built for important people within the Mayan tribe. I particularly liked 2 that had carvings of Sun Gods. One faced the sunset and one faced the sunrise. We were able to climb to the top of one of these, which gave us a different perspective on the site! The tops of the temples are completely flat!
Altun Ha is around 1 hour 30 from Nohoch Che’en Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve where the cave tubing is located and an hour from Belize City. So combining these 2 together does make the day tour a little longer!
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