Cave Man – River Cave Expedition, Caves Branch, Belize

It’s no exaggeration to say that Ian Anderson, of Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Co. & Jungle Lodge, invented cave tubing in Belize. Not that it’s such a complicated thing to invent. Get an inner tube, stick you butt in it, float into a cave, float back out. But the fact is that no one in Belize offered it as a trip before Ian did, so we call him the Cave Man. We hope he doesn’t mind.

Yep, that’s the mouth of River Cave. No wonder we float in on inner tubes…


By the time we got around to trying his signature adventure we’d already done his Black Hole Drop and his Waterfall Cave Expedition. The classic cave tubing experience, Ian’s “River of Caves” Cave Tubing trip, is only offered during high water. So we signed up for The River Cave Expedition (US$85 including transport, guides, gear and lunch) which includes tubing and walking.

To really get inside the cave with us, check out this video…



A giant chamber inside the cave draped in sparkling formations created by thousands (maybe millions) of years of flowing and dripping water.


The beginning of the trip was basic tubing so we just sat in the cool, clear water and slowly paddle our way to the mouth of the cave. Once inside, the lights went out, our headlamps went on and we continued to float inside the cave which is spooky since you can’t see what’s in the water.

Pretty soon the water got too shallow for floating, so we beached the tubes and took off on foot.

A giant chamber inside the cave full of stalagmites and stalactites created by thousands (possibly millions) of years of dripping water.


Once on our feet, the guides lead us into various chambers and up onto roomy ledges to check out areas that were used by the ancient Mayans as ceremonial sites during forays into caves (believed to be the underworld or Xibalba) to speak with their Gods. Because the Mayans were more than a little bit afraid of the underworld (some living Mayans still won’t go into a cave), anthropologists and archaeologists believe they had to have been in severe need of help from the Gods in order to perform these subterranean rituals. The bigger the problem, they believe, the deeper they went.

You’ve got to crawl to get inside a crystal cavern but it’s worth it to see wall-to-wall sparkling flowstones like this.


At the back of one of the largest “rooms” inside the cave lies a spectacular area which was like a tiny crystal cavern. It required some crawling and contorting to get into this area, but it was worth it to see the the massive sparkling flowstones created mineral-laden water running through the cave.

A pot on a fire site left behind by the Mayans when their ancient sacred ceremony was done.

River Cave is full of weird drippy formations like this.

Natural (and hand-carved) cave formations were believed to have been used by the Mayans to create representations of their Gods. Our guide used his flashlight to show us what this formation would have looked like to the Mayans when they placed a torch under it.

This enormous toad seemed to be doing just fine deep inside the cave, probably living on a diet of …

…giant cave-dwelling scorpion spiders.


Even after doing three awesome tours with Ian that still left at least half a dozen other tours we’d like to do someday, including his multi-day jungle survival trips. When we were there Ian was also building a new chess center in further support of the Belize National Youth Chess Foundation which his wife runs as a way of encouraging 5-15 year-olds to get into the game and stay (and excel) in school. Oh, and Ian was also thinking about making his own goat cheese. We’ll just have to go back again soon.


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10 comments on “Cave Man – River Cave Expedition, Caves Branch, Belize

  1. You guys love caves!! Fascinating stuff. I saw one of those scorpion like spiders in a cave near bocas del toro in Panama. In fact, almost put my hand right on it. Giving me the shivers just thinking about it!!

  2. Pingback: Cave Tubing & “The Cave Man” – as Eric and Karen describes it…

  3. We stayed at Ian Anderson’s Cave Branch a year and 2 weeks prior to you and it was fantastic! I just can not believe they are STILL building the chess center! We did a lot of the trips but did not have time to do the waterfall trip. We did go to ATM, a fantastic kayaking trip, zip lining, Black hole repelling, the Blue Hole, the night jungle walk but still want to do the survival trip so badly!!
    We stayed in a bungalow at first but were upgraded to a tree house and WOW!! Can you say wonderful??? One morning my son was in the outdoor shower and he stated screaming for me and my other son because he was watching a Jaguar on the other side of the river!!

  4. Pingback: “River of Caves” – Belize Cave Tubing: One of Ian Anderson’s signature Tours. « Belize Adventure Travel Blog

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