Sleeping Giant’s colossal cave- an ancient Maya ceremonial site

Okay wow!  First of all, Sleeping Giant will astonish you with their property- the views, the rooms, the restaurant, the incredible grounds. 

panoramic view from the lookout tower at Sleeping Giant rainforest lodge, the Sibun river and reserve
horse drawn carriage on site at Sleeping Giant

But they also have exclusive access to a magnificent cave and I took the tour yesterday… it’s hard to describe such a place, one of those you have-to-see-it-to-believe sort of things.  Firstly, the cave is MASIVE!  It’s theorized it’s the largest dry cave system known in Belize at the moment.  The mouth of the cave is so impressive that when our ladies group hiked to it last year half of the group felt too intimidated to venture even a few feet inside. (they said they could feel the spirits of the sacred place and they might have been right!)

stopping to take photos at the mouth of Sleeping Giant ceremonial cave in the Sibun Reserve, Belize

But during the guided tour (complete with helmets and head lamps) you spend about 2 hours venturing in and then out of the cave.  I don’t know what its total distance is but each new chamber you enter is impressively as large as the previous: cathedral-like throughout!

the Sleeping Giant ceremonial cave is a Belize rainforest adventure

Aside from its grand scale size, the cave is also impressive in its density of artifacts.  Inside the huge ceremonial chamber you can hardly take a step without fear of treading on ancient pottery shards.

ancient maya artifacts, pottery shards
beautifully preserved Maya ceremonial clay pots

And remains! Skulls and bones scattered about tell a story of human sacrifice. 

bones and a skull in Sleeping Giant ceremonial cave hint of history of human sacrifice
perfectly preserved ancient Maya artifacts in Belize caves

We were awed by the natural formations: stalagmites and tites, columns, flowstone and rimstone pools.

healthy and active caves in Belize rainforest make for one-of-a-kind adventures
rimstone pool in Belize cave

There must have been loads more treasures hidden in this cave before it was officially rediscovered but our guide guesses that looters removed most of the valuables years ago.  We got to hold a precious jade bead though and sniff at some copal resin that could have been used in ceremonies a thousand years ago!

precious jade bead in Belize cave was offering to ancient Maya gods
copal resin was used in ancient Maya ceremonial cave in Belize rainforest

Caves are cool!  And this one is especially cool because of the small number of modern people to have been allowed to enter; making it feel like an authentic archeological site.  I’m often struck by the personalized and unique experiences available in Belize and this is certainly one of them; yes, it’s an excursion for tourists but holy moly is this intimate experience drastically different than any Cancun style, assembly line type tour you would get elsewhere. An only-in-Belize adventure!

About the author

Megan Rodden

never met a vacation she didn't like. Megan is a self-centered, snarky, unambitious derelict... like most of her peers.


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© 2014 Megan Rodden and Phil Nagengast.