The words “waterfall” and “cave” sound weird together. Is it a waterfall inside a cave? A cave formed by a waterfall? Heck, let’s just go find out. That’s how we ended up signing up for the Waterfall Cave Expedition (US$90 including transportation, gear, guides and lunch) at Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Co. & Jungle Lodge during our travels in Belize. We’d already done the Black Hole Drop rappelling trip with them but this trip added darkness and water to the equation.
After a 20 minute hike through the jungle (the easy part) we reached the mouth of the cave–and the last of our daylight. From here on out we entered a world of profound darkness (except for our headlamps).
The cave floor is a riverbed but excursions (sometimes on our butts or hands and knees) up into side chambers above the main flow lead us into various “rooms” which the ancient Mayan used as spaces for what archaeologists believe were sacred rituals aimed at gaining favor with the Gods of the Underworld, a feared and revered place they called Xibalba.
We saw lots of ritual remains during our trip inside the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave but the artifacts and ritual sites on this trip rivaled what we saw in the ATM, minus the skeletons. And, because this cave is owned by Ian Anderson, we were the only group inside it unlike the much-more-famous ATM cave which can get crowded.
With six waterfalls inside the cave, this trip definitely had the ATM trip beat when it came to physical challenges and adrenaline. Each waterfall had to be climbed on the way into the cave, then leapt off or rappelled down on the way back out of the cave. Jumping off a waterfall inside a cave in near darkness into a pitch black pool of water that you’re trusting is deep enough and obstruction-free lends new meaning to the phrase leap of faith.
The Waterfall Cave Expedition is as fun as it looks in this video.
Read more about travel in Belize