Indiana Jones meets Iguanas in San Ignacio

Baby iguanas, San Ignacio Iguana Sanctuary

Baby iguanas, San Ignacio Iguana Sanctuary

The Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave is an unforgettable experience and a highlight of my travels so far. In a scene from Indiana Jones, this tour involves hiking through the jungle, crossing chest deep through three rivers before coming to the cave entrance. From there it is a swim and scrabble up river through the cave for 500 metres, clambering through narrow passages and up cascades, before reaching a Mayan sacrifice chamber.

This is an open museum where everything lies exactly where it fell when the Mayans abandoned the cave in 850 AD. There are dozens of pots used for carrying food offerings for the gods, human remains from sacrifices and the highlight; a full crystallised “dancing” skeleton that has laid untouched for 12 centuries.

San Ignacio also has an Iguana sanctuary which is well worth a visit, the country’s largest market on Saturdays and Mayan ruins.

ATM Caves, crystallised skeleton

ATM Caves, crystallised skeleton

Accommodation: J and R’s, a quiet, clean and excellently priced hostel or Bella’s for a more social atmosphere.

Tour operators for ATM Caves: Belize Pacz or Mayanwalks, US$90 for Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave. Includes guides, equipment and lunch.

Transport: local bus from Belize City, B$8, t-3.5 hours and runs every hour.

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