I went on a brand-new adventure with Barefoot Services. An all-day cave kayaking tour through not one, but two cave systems! This excursion is incredible and is my new top choice for crazy cool tours from Placencia. Belize is blessed with loads of singular experiences you’ll find nowhere else. Awe-inspiring natural beauty, extraordinary topography and geological features, astonishing biodiversity– Belize is a nature-nut and thrill-seeker’s paradise. This new tour takes you through pristine jungle and miles of underground caverns. Here are the details on what to expect.
Put in at St. Herman’s Cave System
From Placencia, Barefoot Services drove us out to St. Margaret’s Village on the Hummingbird Highway. I love this drive, it’s an easy and super scenic 2-hour ride before you transfer to an open-air off-road vehicle for a quick jaunt back to the caves. The launch point is somewhere behind Ian Anderson’s Cave Branch Jungle Lodge; if you’re familiar with the area you’ll know that St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park and the Black Hole Drop is in this vicinity. Everyone gets geared up with lifejacket, helmet, headlamp, paddle, and their own inflatable kayak. The kayaks are so light and maneuverable and most importantly, they’re super comfortable, which is crucial as you’ll be in them for the better part of 4 or 5 hours. You have a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your equipment in the most lovely little natural pool surrounded by forest before entering Xibalba (the Mayan word for the Underworld, or sacred caves). The entrance looks a bit sketchy, I’m not going to lie, I looked at this rather small open in the stones and had an initial flutter of claustrophobia but my anxiety was unwarranted because the cave opens way up inside. No worries!
Caves on Caves on Caves!
What makes this tour so uniquely special is the length of time and the distance you travel through the cave systems on this underground river. The further you float the more you’ll grow to appreciate the magnitude of these two systems. Cavern after cavern, weaving in and out of chambers, sometimes emerging into the sun dappled jungle; it is an improbable and spectacular journey! You may notice that different cavities have different geological features.
As far as fitness level requirement goes, this tour is shockingly inclusive. It isn’t hard but I suppose it is a bit long. You’ll want to be in reasonably good shape and nimble enough to maneuver over some slippery rocks but nothing extreme. The paddling goes with the current and is not strenuous, allowing you to really enjoy looking around. There are a few fun little rapids and a dicey part or two in which the guides will strategically place themselves to assist you through if needed, but even a complete novice shouldn’t have any trouble. At one point in the journey the river goes underground where there just isn’t enough clearance to allow passage so you’ll pull your kayaks and walk around to another portage. The boats are very light and comfortable to carry over a shoulder and the “hike” is really a ten-minute-trail-walk.
Dress for Success
Wear form-fitting, quick-dry materials and sturdy shoes. If you don’t have proper water shoes with a thick sole you can wear sneakers. I carried along a little water-resistant day bag for a granola bar and bottle of water. I took my phone along in a dry-case for taking photos and video. You may also want mosquito repellant just for that quick hike in the middle of the trip but you won’t have any pests bothering you in the caves. I brought along a change of clothes and flip flops that I left in Barefoot’s van so I could change at the end for a dry ride home to Placencia.
Ending in Nohoch Che’en Archaeological Reserve
This tour begins in the St. Herman’s cave system but ends in the Nohoch Che’en system, more commonly referred to as Caves Branch Outpost or Jaguar Paw, in Frank’s Eddy Village off the George Price Highway. You’ll come across all the cave tubing excursions putting in here and you continue kayaking the full length of that tour and finish at the same spot the tuber’s do. Nohoch Che’en has a busy little outpost of gift shops and food vendors and the park has a beautiful, big bathroom facility with showers and changing rooms so you can get freshened up at the end of the excursion. We drove the Coastal Highway instead of the Hummingbird on the way home so for half the journey we enjoyed a completely different scenery. What a wonderful day! If you can only choose one full-day inland excursion to do from Placencia, I would recommend you pick this one.
How to Book
This tour typically requires a minimum number of participants so you may have to check on availability but it would be perfect for families or groups of friends wanting a private tour. Contact Barefoot Services about cave conditions and how to schedule. Also, check out their website for other amazing experiences. Tell them RealLifeRecess sent you and enjoy this unforgettable adventure!