I didn’t know a whole lot about this excursion before we set out on it. I woke up the day of the excursion with the basic idea that we would be tubing and ziplining and that was all.
Everyone put their swimsuits on under their ziplining clothes. The site required that close toed shoes and clothing down to the knees be worn for ziplining, but we didn’t have space in the backpack for everyone to bring an extra pair of water shoes for the tubing portion. To remedy this, we’d all gotten a pair of Keens for the trip. They were sandal-type shoes that could be worn in water and were also close toed. I hadn’t broken my Keens in before the trip though, and I didn’t like them much either, so I settled for wearing my Converse and decided that if I couldn’t take my shoes off I would just wear them in the water.
The family piled up and onto the bus headed towards the Natural Park site of the activities. The bus was a lot bigger than the vans we’d had on past excursions. There were a lot more people participating in this excursion than in the past.
When we arrived at the site, it was utter chaos. Our guide wanted us to eat before we headed out to the tubing, but for some reason, perhaps to keep the wildlife away, there was a DJ in the middle of the lunch line area who was blasting music and making it impossible to even hear your own thoughts, which was a thoroughly unenjoyable experience. It would have been better if the music related in some way to Belize or to the experience itself, but no, the guy was blasting early 2000’s party music. So we’re all just standing there in the blazing sun waiting to get our plate of chicken and rice while getting our ears blasted out by Pitbull.
After we had eaten and fled the scene of the Pitbull earthquake, we took off our ziplining clothes and stuffed them into lockers by the bathrooms and followed our new guide, Kelly towards the tubing experience (which was apparently cave tubing but I was the only idiot that didn’t know that until this exact moment.)
Kelly was clearly several tubing experiences into her day and was a great guide. She had the type of calm problem-solving presence that is exceedingly helpful in a guide. She was also immediately aware that David was different without anyone in my family having to voice that he has autism, and she was willing to help my parents to accommodate him on the experience.
We were all outfitted with helmets with lamps attached to them, life jackets, and tubes. We had to walk up a path that was made up of pretty steep stairs carrying our tubes in order to reach the cave, and though David is very physically fit, he struggles with motor control and can’t do two things at once, so my Dad and I were taking turns carrying David’s tube, but as soon as we reached the descending stairs to go down into the cave. Kelly decided it was too dangerous for me to descend the steep stairs while carrying two tubes, and she carried David’s herself.
When we reached the bottom of the stairs, it was pitch black at this point and we all had to turn on our head lamps and hop into our tubes. I somehow managed to do this without getting my converse wet, and I was extremely proud of myself for it.
Our group consisted of my family and one other family. Eight people altogether. Kelly used a bright rope to tie all of our tubes together so that she could just pull us along through the caves.
If you’re an avid fantasy reader, you’ll remember the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Gimli is staring in awe at the halls of the kings in the mines of Moria. This experience was something akin to that. The cavern was massive and glittering, with silent dark water, only disturbed by us and some tiny fish.
At first, Kelly was able to walk along the cavern floor and pull us along, but when the cavern began to slope down and the water was deeper, she started swimming, somehow managing to pull eight people behind her. We made a few stops along the way. First, on a little island in the middle of the water where the Mayan people had once performed sacrifices. There were a few pieces of broken pots in the cavern that were old Mayan pots. Kelly gave us a history of the ritual sacrifices, and then we were allowed to touch the pieces of pot, which seemed insane to me, considering the pots were pieces of thousand-year-old history and only looked to be made of red clay. The second stop was by a waterfall of stalactites that had grown down from the cave ceiling in individual clumps of stone over thousands of years, which was incredible to look at because the rock glittered as well. So it looked like this huge white gleaming waterfall of stone. After that, we had the opportunity to get out of our tubes and swim the last stretch of deeper water to the cave exit. David stayed in his tube, and Kelly pulled him along, so that the rest of us didn’t have to worry about tugging him through the water, which was very kind of her. Exiting the cave was a bit difficult because the stone in this area was very pocked and sharp and we had to climb up over a little stretch of it to get to the stairs, which were just as steep as the descent had been, and we were all heaving by the time we reached the top.
We all had to return our life jackets and head lamps and then rush into the locker rooms to change out of our swimsuits to go ziplining. The bathrooms were gross and the humidity was almost suffocating at this point so it was all I could do to change out of my swimsuit bottoms and put my leggings back on. I just decided to leave my bikini top on to save myself from absolutely melting in the heat.
We stood around and waited for a little bit then, until our group was suited up in our ziplining harnesses, and put into lines to march up the stairs. Somehow my family ended up as literally the second ones in a line of nearly fifty people marching up a steep set of stairs towards the dock where we would clip on to the zipline and ride it to another dock to clip on to the next zipline.
The stairs up to the dock were very steep, and in the full humidity of the day, everyone that wasn’t physically fit really started to struggle, so I think perhaps this excursion had been a bit understated with how strenuous it was.
Once we actually started sending people down the zipline though, it was great. It was super fast paced, because the employees were trying to get everyone through the ziplines quickly so the whole thing felt a bit harried, but it was still a great experience.
As one of the only young women in the entire tour group, my face was bright red the whole time, because every time I would reach a dock, one of the employees would say something to the effect of “hello, beautiful” and compliment my tattoos, and I would blush even harder. Flattering. Also embarrassing.
After the zip lining experience was complete, we all piled back into the bus for a long ride back to the cruise ship, and headed down to dinner.