I was super excited to go to Belize this time. Let’s just face it… Belize sounds so … Exotic. I really just liked saying “We are going to Belize.” This time I wanted to do something Grand. I started my research and decided the Cave Tubing sounded really cool. #1 on Trip Advisor was cave tubing with cavetubing.bz. Mark’s Mom and Dad were going with us so I made sure that was physically going to be okay with them and we booked it. There were other options to add such as zip lining, but that wasn’t their thing so the price was $50pp for the cave tubing which included transportation and lunch. Not a bad deal.
There was not a “set” meeting time because Belize is a tender port. They just asked that we try to be one of the first off the ship and they would be waiting for us. We found them pretty easily, checked in and were led with a large group of people out to the parking lots. There we were offered water and waited a little bit. Shortly after a big charter type bus pulled up and we all got on.
The first surprise of the day was while everyone was going to the “cave tubing” many families had other excursions added (like zip lining). My immediate concern was would we be waiting for these people for the ride back to the ship because it was about a 45 min-1 hour away? Not that waiting for others was a bad deal, but if their activity was going to be an extra hour… I didn’t want to just be sitting there twiddling my thumbs. We were assured “not to worry” and to “be flexible” and it would all be okay. I was still kind of confused, but decided to trust them. They are ranked #1.
There were 2 guides on the bus with us and they did a good job of educating us on the drive out to the caves so it wasn’t too painful. The bus had an amazing air conditioner and Trenton and I found ourselves huddled under our beach towels trying to keep the hypothermia away. As we were getting close to our first destination the guide asked everyone what time it was for us and someone said 9:30. The guide says “Oh, that’s perfect. It’s 9:30 for us too… so we will just plan on leaving at 3:15 and we will be good.”
Now…Nope, Nope, Hold On…that’s not true. Here I am, raising my hand in the back of the bus... Excuse Me! In fact it was 10:30 ship time and the tour was scheduled to only be 4-5 hours. It just suddenly jumped to 6 hours which left ZERO time for shopping at the port… traffic… emergencies. I was not comfortable going back to the ship at the very last minute… and to top it off… according to her watch, we were going to be an HOUR late! So when I finally got her attention and tried to tell her it was really 10:30 she just said “Yeah, I know.” Umm… yeah, well, I'm not sure that you do know... 'cause that's not what you said.
We were in the back of the bus, she was in the front and the engine noise was kind of loud… So I decided to wait until we got to our first stop which really wasn’t that much farther. We pulled up at the cavetubing.bz place and this was where we were instructed to pay. People who ignored the instructions to come with hard soled water shoes were given the option to rent a pair for $3 and there was a bathroom available if you needed. We probably wasted about 30 minutes (or more) just sitting here…. For no real good reason. One family seemed to have a difficulty “renting” a pair of water shoes. They tried on every various size and color as if it was a fashion show. Other people were trying to pay with credit cards and travelers checks… and I don’t really know what else. I walked up with $250 cash and was done in about 15 seconds so that is what I highly recommend. I had plenty of time to find the guide and voiced my concerns in the most professional way I could think of, starting off with I am very concerned regarding the actual ship time, length of our excursion, and making sure my family gets back to the ship on time. She assured me she was aware there was a one hour time difference and we would get back to the ship in plenty of time... not to worry… OK, if you say so.
FINALLY everyone made it back on the bus and we went a whopping 3 minutes down the road and dropped off the people who were going to do the zip lining. The guy driving the charter bus tried to pull into the driveway to drop everyone off… but ended up wrecking the bus and hitting some rocks. We eventually backed up and the majority of the people climbed off. There were 13 of us left. We went a few more miles down the road to the entrance of the park for the cave tubing (subsequently you can use the rest room here and rent the same water shoes for $3). If they would have collected the money on the bus we could have totally eliminated the first stop.
We were directed where to go and were given our gear and set out for our walk through the forest/jungle.
It was very pretty and our guide was very informative of all the plants and trees. The walk is a mile and a half and you are walking on rocks the entire time. While it really isn’t steep or challenging… it is a continuous walk and there are some stairs. We walked through some above ground caves as well.
You really should have a good pair of shoes to do this. Water shoes are recommended as flip flops could be dangerous… but, if you don’t have a good sole on those water shoes… it will NOT be comfortable. I guess you could wear an old pair of tennis shoes… but you cross a river at one point and then have to keep walking… so I imagine squishing around in wet socks and shoes would not be very comfortable either.
Finally we made it to the area we picked up our tubes and prepared to get into the water, which was good because I could see Trenton was starting to get a little bored … a big difference I saw with booking independently here was all the other excursions had to CARRY their tubes the entire mile and a half. That would suck. We picked ours up right before we entered the water. I was happy to see the tubes had a bottom in them so you would not be “sitting” in the water the entire time. I am not sure about the water temperature year round, but we went in March and the water was … “brisk”.
Our guide set all our tubes down and tied them together with rope, then instructed us to sit down in them and loop our feet through the rope of the tube in front. That was a good idea in theory, but in actuality, all it did was pull my shoe off, so I either let my legs dangle or most of the time just sat Indian style in my tube (they are a good size).
Going through the caves was one of the most amazing experiences. They really were beautiful and I would say a “must do”. I did not hear one complaint about this experience from anyone and several people from our group stated it was their favorite excursion from the entire cruise. As soon as you exit the caves there were some steps leading up to the path and our guide told us that is where the cruise sponsored excursions end. The private excursions went on down the river and back to our original starting point.
Down the river was actually the most excitement we got. The water in the cave is very calm… as we entered on down the river it did pick up a little bit. (Not roaring rapids by any means, but we did pick up some speed.) At one point however, our group of tubes started heading towards some trees and low lying branches. It appeared Mark’s Dad was the point of target. Somehow though… he came alive and there was no parental sacrifice going on here, no taking one for the team, it became every man for himself as he reached over and literally dunked Mark and his entire tube under the water trying to escape the tree. I thought Mark was going to fall out… but somehow he hung on and popped back up in his tube … looking like a drowned rat that now had his own personal little swimming pool of freezing cold water in his tube! You know if it was happening to anyone….It would happen to Mark.
Of course, not long after... I am not sure what happened in the front, but the guy next to Trenton took an unexpected tumble too! LOL That one I atleast got a picture of :)
After this we went back to the bus and enquired “what’s next”. At this time it was 2:30 and we still had not had lunch… we were still an hour away from port… and not all of the zip lining people had even started to enter the caves. Our guide asked us to wait a few minutes and shortly after a small van pulled up. He told us to gather all of our things off the bus and get into the van. As we started to crawl in I noticed several bags and people’s belongings. They said to just set them in the floor and not to worry. They would bring the van back. They were just using it to take us down the road. That is fine… however, we were told to leave all our things on the bus while we did the cave tubing and that our personal belongings would be secure. This was not the case with the people who had left their belongings in the van that transported us. So… keep that in the back of your mind for future reference….
We were taken back to the place where we originally stopped forever and paid for the excursion. Our guide instructed us that they needed him to go back to the caves and get the rest of the people through, to enjoy our lunch and when we were done to tell the girls at the front and someone would take us back to the port. There were tables set up in back and we were served a little lunch of chicken and rice. We were starving, it was pretty tasty, but it really wasn’t much. Several people were asking for more chicken as we were only given one small piece. They did have sodas and rum punch to drink.
When the 13 of us were done eating we made our way up to the front and we were told to wait and someone would come get us. After 10 minutes or so, a lady enquired again… when we were going to be taken back to the port and she was told all the drivers were still at the caves and it would be 15-20 minutes more. It was now 3:00. We were an hour away from the port and last tender was 4:15. This was not acceptable and 5 of us tried to explain that. 2 girls were on the phone and basically what it boiled down to was … there wasn’t anyone that could drive us back. Finally a car pulled up with 3 guys in it, purely coincidental, and the girl said one of the guys could drive us, but she apologized because he spoke no English. We didn’t care as long as he knew how to get to the port. All 13 of us were starting to get pretty apprehensive about the time…. The cavetubing people didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.
So, happily, we climbed in the van and headed back to Belize. I am looking out the front window and I see us cross the solid dividing line on the road… you know the one that signals you are crossing into on coming traffic… that one. We are now driving on the wrong side of the road for no apparent reason. We started asking what was going on and a guy in the first row of seats says “Oh, he’s texting.” We frantically started looking for seatbelts and surprise! There are none. Great! We tried reasoning with the non English speaking driver that texting and driving was a No No. He didn’t care. We continued to speed on down the road… all of it. We passed other vehicles on solid painted lines, up hills and around corners. Clearly this is the norm because as crazy as I thought we were driving we were passed in this same manner by a Police Vehicle and a Minister! I thought I was going to have a heart attack and my mother who opted out of this excursion was about to become a very rich woman, because we were all about to die!
Then… out of nowhere they dude slams on his breaks and off the road we go, into the ditch… and come to a stop. WHAT THE HELL…. Then as we are trying to figure out what just happened. Did we break down… run out of gas… who knows because the guy opens the door to the van....jumps out.... and takes off RUNNING DOWN THE ROAD!
I am not shitting you!
There was lots of confusion and expletives going on in that van… lol. Then we see another van on the other side of the road a little ways down… in the ditch… with a guy running towards us. He finally reaches us, hops in, shuts the door and starts driving.
Como se llama? Habla English?
What in the hell is going on here!?
So the dude says Yes, he speaks English and Yes, his plan is to take us back to the port. _____ No further explanation is given. And the kicker is he drove worse than the first guy!! However, we made it back to the port … in one piece … and made it in line at 4:15 which was the last tender time going to the ship. Everyone was still panicking because we could not all fit on the first boat that was available, but I assured them if we were in line on time, they would take us back to the ship.
We came busting through the cabin doors a little before 5:00. My mom was frantic and was about to go down and report us all missing. The ship did not leave until almost 6:00 so I am really hoping by some miracle either another “Carnival excursion” was late or by the goodness of their heart they waited for the other 30 people we left behind in the caves of Belize.
On a positive note… it was quite the adventure. The caves are AMAZING! How in the world this company is #1 on trip advisor… I have no idea… however they continue to have rave reviews and all 5 stars. ... and that's all I have to say about that :)