Crossing the river to begin our hike through the Belizean jungle


Cavetubing in Belize was not what I expected it to be. I’d imagined an exotic adventure that started with a hike through the jungle, then being carried downstream on slow river rapids through cave after cave. The actual adventure was a little different.

After an hour-long bus ride (which I loved!) through the scrubby, impoverished countryside, we veered off the road and pulled up to the outskirts of the rainforest jungle. We left everything on the bus and were encouraged to strip down to our bathing suits because we were going to get wet. I imagined this “getting wet” akin to riding the log flume or other amusement park ride that involves water. I thought our butts might get wet through the hole in the inner tube, but that would be about it.


We were handed lifejackets to carry as we hiked half an hour through the jungle. It was hot, so we first thought we’d carry them, but then we were also handed great big yellow inflatable tubes to carry, so we hung our lifejackets around our necks. We walked quickly, carrying these tubes that were not that heavy, but were very awkward. Many of us stumbled a little on rocks and roots as we trotted down the jungle path toward the river. There we found a clothesline that we were instructed to grab onto as we carried our inner tubes across the river to begin the real hike.

We got wet. Very wet. The water was up to our waists and was surprisingly cold. We’d had the good sense to wear water shoes, but they weren’t the best choice for a jungle hike. The lush trail was beautiful, but we were moving at such a fast pace that we didn’t get to savor the beauty. Plus, we had those gigantic inner tubes and lifejackets to contend with. Luckily for the women, the tour guides took most of our inner tubes away and carried them for us. (I think because we were slowing things down.)

We worked up a sweat walking toward our river entry spot where the tour guides had each family or group enter the water together. They tied the group’s inner tubes together so they moved as a unit. Most groups were tied together like a chain, with one person’s feet resting onto another person’s tube. That person would then rest their armpits onto the ankles of the person behind him. A daisy chain effect that was immediately uncomfortable.

Maybe I’m just an old woman now, but we were reclined in an awkward position that left our heads unsupported. All I wanted to do was sit up, but alas, that was not to be. And we didn’t drift lazily down the river through a series of caves. We were pulled by tour guides who waded through the river, splashing loudly as they dragged us along.

The scenery was beautiful. The caves were pretty, the water was nice, and the lush greenery of the banks was awesome to look at. But I was too distracted by the awkward reclining pose of my body, trying to keep my feet latched onto my daughter’s tube, and the pampered guilt I felt as the Belizean men pulled us through the cold rocky-bottomed river. I enjoyed the outing, but the adventure was not what I expected. I found the whole thing UnBelizeable!

Is this how you’d imagine cavetubing down a river?


26 responses to “Unbelizeable!

  1. I did the ATM cave tour when I was in Belize. No tubes, lots of wetness and even more fun than wetness.
    I’ve never found tubing all that comfortable being 6’2. But if the scenery is worth it …

  2. That sounds like a very uncomfortable way to view scenery…
    …. really I’m just commenting to express my appreciation for your excellent title! 🙂

  3. Interesting tour. The scenery sounds definitely worth it. Not sure about the rest. Would seem to make more sense if the life jackets and tubes were waiting for you at the river, or carried in by a cooperating donkey.:) –Curt

  4. That’s a bit of an adventure, walking through the jungle to get to where you were going to leisurely drift down the river, or so you thought ! I think I’d be like you and have mixed feelings about the sense of adventure and the awkward discomfort that stops you from enjoying the landscape in the extreme.

    • I think if we hadn’t been so rushed (only had 7 hours total, including the bus ride into the countryside), it would have been more enjoyable. Though the hardest part for me to get past was that we were being pulled through the water the whole time.

  5. Remind me just to keep reading about these things 🙂 Thank goodness at least a few people have a (misplaced) sense of adventure or else the rest of us would never get to know stuff.

  6. Wow, unbelizeable is right! (Spoiler Alert…!) This is the same sense of dashed expectations that accompany nearly everything in Egypt, lol, you really haveto check your expectations at the border. Riding buses is always great excitement, though – I always love to travel by local buses… And tuk tuks.. Sounds like fun though – enjoy! ❤❤❤;^)

      • Hahaha, I warned you, bring a pair of rose tinted sunglasses and a big dose of laughing gas – they will come in very handy! Egypt needs to be done with a first rate tour agency for your first visit, so do your homework ahead and check traveller reviews, it will save you from a possible nightmare adjusting to the culture shock. It’s unbelievably crowded here and no rule of law in sight! It can be exhilarating in an alice in wonderland kind of way. I’m a big fan of Lewis Carroll, lol! ❤❤❤;^)

  7. It sound really uncomfortable. We had a rather hair-raising ride down the New River, and saw a few some Mexican Crocodiles. Our guide Carlos told us that there are lots of them. I wouldn’t have been too happy tubing down there with the threat of crocs. 😦

  8. Wow. Was this at jaguar paw? At the caves branch outpost? The scenery looks similar. If so, I’ve done this and the experience was the same. Great you loved it. Come back to Belize. 🙂

  9. Sounds totally unbelizable! Reminds me of a lovely article I read the other day about this lady who enjoyed her backpacking days traveling on cockroach infested trains in India, but worries abut stepping out onto the gritty streets from her posh hotel in Jaipur two decades later. Her advice to her kids: “Do all your really important traveling before you turn 25” 😀

    PS: i wasn’t disappointed by anything in Egypt! And I was only five years younger!

  10. Sounds awesome…except for the uncomfortable part! I’m such a wuss when it comes to bodily discomfort. I think it’s the dancer in me that’s so in tune with every muscle and bone—it makes me a big baby. I would have been so annoyed.

    • That’s funny. I would have imagined the opposite to be true; that because you’re so limber and graceful that being in such an awkward position wouldn’t bother you as much as it did me. It definitely detracted from the experience, but not so much that I didn’t enjoy the moment and the views.

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