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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Actun Tunichil Muknal-Belize's ATM Cave

When I arrived at Actun Tunichil Muknal cave (Belize ATM), I knew there were certain steps I had to take before planting my feet firmly on the ground.

I made my first stop at the Belize Tourism Board to find out which agent would be conducting tours of the ATM Cave in Belize. Entrance to the cave is strictly limited to certain license holders in an attempt to preserve the foundation and its holdings.

History of the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave

Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, otherwise known as the Cave of the Stone Sepulcher, was first entered by the Mayans in AD 300-600. It was not until the late AD 700-900 that the Mayans went deeper into the cave to perform their ceremonies. The cave was officially opened to the public in 1998. The cave houses various types of artifacts from ceramics and stoneware to the remains of skeletons. The Mayans considered Belize ATM Cave a highly sacred location, enclosing the famous "Crystal Maiden," who was thought to be a sacrifice victim. After decades of weathering and natural processes, the surface of the skeleton appears to be covered with a geological sanded finish, which gives the maiden a somewhat magical fairy-dust appearance.

How to Get To Actun Tunichil Muknal cave

I had to make sure I was properly attired for the hike, as well as prepared with a change of clothing. No flip-flops, ladies and gentlemen, this is the jungle! Hiking boots, heavy socks, cargo pants are great, tank tops or short sleeve shirts work well, and a bathing suit underneath. Remember, you're going to get wet; it's inevitable. The Actun Tunichil Muknal cave is a short 45-minute trek through the jungle in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. You will cross three streams, learning about the surrounding vegetation and history along the way. When you arrive at the entrance of the cave, you will receive the necessary tools from your tour guide to make it through the cave safely. Just remember, you will be in the cave for nearly 3 hours, so make sure you are comfortable, even if that requires you to change into dry clothing.

Tip: Actun Tunichil Muknal cave takes a lot of physical energy. Make sure you drink a lot of water the morning of your trip and stretch out for at least 15 minutes. Bring a change a clothing as well as a backup pair of shoes.

What You Will See At Actun Tunichil Muknal cave

The cave is a maze of chambers, along with a cathedral-like area for ceremonial sacrifices. In fact, I found some slate steels, which by my research, were used by the leaders to cut away flesh, allowing their blood to be an offering to the gods.Aside from the remains of different sacrifice victims, there is also an assortment of ceramics exhibiting "kill holes", which indicate they were used for ritualistic purposes.

The ceilings are dripping with stalactites, which are a type of speleothem seen only in limestone caves. I had to resist the temptation to touch them, as it takes so much time for them to develop. It's a show of respect to the local culture; however some travelers still can't resist the urge.

All of the artifacts that were used on a day-to-day basis at Actun Tunichil Muknal were left as they were, making it an amazing experience, seeing ancient life come alive before your very eyes. The Belize ATM Cave exceeded  my expectations. As for the sacred nature of the site, I found the experience both gratifying and educational. I would urge anyone that is traveling to Belize to explore this wonder of  Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave.

1 Comment:

bathmate said...

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