Related Blog Post: Barton Creek Cave, Belize
Belize is internationally recognized as home of some of the premier underground caverns in the world. Cave systems are primarily found in limestone regions. In fact, all major cave systems in the world are in limestone, or karst, regions. Other cave formations are created by the sea, rivers, lava flows and springs.
This one-day trip is available only for groups of 8+, maximum 14. We do not sell this package to individuals.
This all inclusive Belize trip also includes a stop off at the internationally famous Belize Zoo.
When available: Wednesday, Thursday or Friday only, Dec - May.
Cost: $195 US pp, includes pick up and drop off in Belize City and lunch.
Minimum and maximum ages to participate: 10 and 70
Deposit: $75 deposit pp (8 minimum) is due to confirm your space. This deposit is non-refundable. You may make your reservation by telephone, fax, mail, or e-mail. Checks, money orders, VISA, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express are accepted for all payments. The balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
After a reservation is made: A Registration and Waiver of Liability Form is sent. The completely filled out form and the final balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
Cancellation policy: No exceptions are made to our cancellation policy for any reason. Your deposit of $75 pp x 8 persons is non-refundable. If we receive notice of cancellation 59-30 days prior to departure, 50% of total group trip cost will be retained. If we receive notice of cancellation 29-11 days, 75% of total group trip cost will be retained.; if notice is received within 10 days of departure, no refund will be given..
Unused services: No partial refunds or credits will be given for unused services such as meals or transport. Our trips are quoted as a package; credits are not given for services not used. No refunds will be given for any reason once the trip has begun.
Slickrock reserves the right to sell additional seats up to the 14 maximum to others who might want to join this tour.
Late arrival or departure: Any conditions out of our control that delay your arrival or departure may add to your cost; all extra charges caused by delays (catching up with a trip in progress) or any variations from the itinerary (early departure, evacuation) will be at the customer’s expense
The Yucatan peninsula is a huge limestone block. Where this block borders the Maya Mountains, uplifting and folding has occurred, exposing multiple cave systems. A cave in southern Belize contains the second largest underground room in the world, over 1 km. long and hundreds of feet high, and when discovered in the 1980’s it was the largest room yet found. A cave in Indonesia currently holds the world record.
Limestone is a rock composed of remains of marine life (shells), and the precipitates of calcium carbonate that collect on the floor of tropical seas. Coral is also a big contributor to limestone formation. When limestone is uplifted or shifted due to geologic “tectonic” processes, it often becomes part of a continent and thus is exposed to groundwater movement. This water then is able to dissolve the limestone beds into cave formations.
Questions about a caving trip? Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 390-5715
Water dissolves limestone by slowly chemically bonding with calcium carbonate, which is then carried away in suspension with the groundwater. Regular erosion due to the surface water movement (rivers and rain) also occurs. Rainwater percolating down through limestone encounters organic debris on the surface, and picks up CO2 as part of the process, forming week carbonic acid, which also slowly dissolves calcium carbonate. When the acidic rainwater meets the calcium carbonate laden groundwater, a chemical imbalance occurs which causes the water to rapidly dissolve more limestone, up to 25 times more than it could otherwise. This reaction is what causes such extensive “solution erosion” to occur, which forms the huge underground caverns found in cave systems. This process is most active in tropical, rainy regions like Belize.
Just the opposite action occurs when a cave is uplifted (or groundwater drops) and exposed to air. When percolating acidic groundwater that has already dissolved some limestone hits the air, another chemical imbalance occurs and limestone is then rapidly deposited (precipitated out of solution) in the cave as “dripstone” formations. These are the stalactites, columns, curtains, and other “flow stone” formations found in caves.
Cave systems often form along waterways that groundwater follows (fissures and faults in the limestone), enlarging the cavities into long caves. Rivers are often found in such caves, as in the Caves Branch River in Belize. The Caves Branch is an “active” cave, eroding through both solution and mechanical means. It also has precipitation formation occuring. Karst regions in the tropics form “cockpit karst” topography, where many sinkholes develop and gradually lower the surface into a very rough, pock-marked terrain that is literally “peppered “ with cave entrances. This is the topography encountered on the Caves Branch River.
Many of the large caves in Belize are well known and easily accessible, but most are hidden in the jungle hills and hard to access and indeed difficult to even locate. Many of these caves were important Mayan ceremonial sites, as the Maya believed that caves were the access to the underworld, home to many of their important deities. As such, these caves often contain ancient offerings left behind during spiritual ceremonies in the form of pottery, incense, carvings, and even skeletons of sacrificial victims. The Mayans held caves especially sacred as the portal to the Underworld, where many important deities lived. The underworld was known as Shivalva (Shee-BALL-ba); the gods of death resided here.
Only the most intrepid and religious officials (shamans) entered caves, to conduct religious offerings and ceremonies. Lit only by torches (with no way to re-light), the Mayans would sometimes travel several miles into caves. It is rare to find such undisturbed, un-looted caves such as those seen in Belize. Caves such as Actun Tunichil Muknal ,Barton Creek Cave, and Footprint Cave contain a wonderland of incredible dripstone formations such as drip curtains, soda straws, travertine flows, columns, and crystalline coated fountains, as well as Mayan artifacts.
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Are you looking for a Belize excursion? Belize caving tours have recently become popular in Belize, but among the small world of cave explorers the country has been world renowned for decades. The Maya Mountains in central Belize have uplifted a large area of limestone beds that have subsequently eroded into a huge network of caves, many with rivers coursing through them. Hiking and caving excursions in Belize in the 1970’s and 80’s discovered the second largest underground room in the world in a cave of the Chiquibul system in the western part of the mountains, putting Belize on the map for extraordinary caves.
For more information on the Mayan caves in Belize visit our Belize Mayan ruins page.