CAVES OF SOUTHERN BELIZE
One of the most impressive natural sites in Toledo is the Hokeb Ha Cave at Blue Creek. The cave is a 20 minute hike from the village. Hike a well marked, sometimes cemented path along to the creek, until a clearing appears. Pass through the research station in the clearing finding the wide trail on the other side. Follow this trail, bearing toward the stream on your left till you meet a wide dry creek filled with white stones. After crossing the dry creek, the trail may become vague, but continue along the creek heading upstream along the base of increasingly steep limestone cliffs. In a few minutes, a 10 foot waterfall and the main cave entrance appears.
Long vines hang from the sheer rock wall above the cave mouth. The huge cave entrance is carved from the summit of a hill where the Blue Creek gurgles up from underground. The creek runs out the entrance of the cave, cascading over limestone boulders, under the towering shadows of the surrounding rainforest. Archaeologists have found many Late Classic ceramics and an altar inside the cave, leading them to theorize that the Hokeb Ha cave was used specifically for ceremonial purposes.
While it is possible (though not recommended) to visit the cave on your own, a guide must accompany visitors for any exploration of the caves interior. With a guide it is possible to take a four hour tour through the cave that leads you out through another entrance. The calm water at the main entrance is perfect for swimming most times of the year. At certain times during the rainy season, the cave is not accessible due to the possibility of a sudden rise in water. Check at Blue Creek Village for a guide and cave conditions.
Tiger Cave is a 1 1/2 hour hike from San Miguel. The cave received its name from the villagers after a dog chased a jaguar cub inside the cave many years ago.
The hike to Tiger Cave requires a guide. The trail mostly passes through second growth forest. You will pass nearby corn milpas and jungle streams. Ask your guide to spot a jippi jappa plant. This plant grows wild in the rainforest. The freshly-picked, tender, white heart of the young plant is delicious.
A small hotspring called "Blue Hole" by the villagers is hidden along the way. Just before the entrance to the cave, your guide will point out a long vine and give you a chance to swing from a five foot high limestone boulder. The cave is only five minutes away from a wide blue green creek which you'll cross by canoe.
The dark entrance of the cave squeezes through narrow elevated corridors leading to a wide interior chamber. Large gaping holes in the ceiling of the cave emit shafts of sunlight into the dark interior. Over the years, rain pouring through the gaps in the cave ceiling have formed smooth indentations on the limestone floor of the cave. Large pieces of broken pottery lie scattered on a ledge. No streams or creeks run through the entrance chamber. Deeper into the cave you will have to cross water.
The return trip can be made by dugout canoe. Float downstream through riverine forests as your maya guide points out wildlife and plants along the way.
Laguna Cave is about an hour hike from Laguna Village. Leaving the village, you must cross a small stream. The first stretch of the trail lies over hilly grounds and through secondary forest. Cacao orchards are present along the way. Guides point out the jippi jappa tree and the jackass bitters. The jippi jappa tree is used for both food and crafts. The heart of the tree is eaten and the leaf is used for weaving baskets. Jackass bitters is a medicinal plant used to cure belly aches and malaria.
After trekking through tall forest for about half and hour, the gaping limestone entrance of the cave appears. A 12-foot-high ladder leads to the interior. Once inside, the ground slopes downward among stalagmites and stalactites. No streams or rivers flow through the cave - it is dry. A few pieces of broken pottery lie on the floor. A colony of bats hide in dark crevices. The ceiling of the cave has gaping holes where the forest canopy is visible. A 20-minute hike takes you to the end of the cave where there is another entrance.
Tours usually last from 8:00 in the morning to 12:00 noon. Contact a guide at Laguna Village to arrange for a tour to Laguna cave.
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