I had always thought that I would be accomplishing this goal by spelunking through the mud-filled, bat-infested, claustriphobically narrow caverns of California, which I was elated to do. But, when I heard that there was such a thing as “Cave Tubing” my direction turned to the water-filled, bat-infested, claustriphobically chilly caves deep in the rain forest of Belize.
After reading numerous, literally hundreds (because I am obsessive like that), reviews on TripAdvisor I decided on Cave Tubing with Vitalino Reyes. He happened to be half the price of the cruise lines ($50 per person) for, what seemed to be, a better experience. Yes…I am pretty cheap…but, would have happily forked over the extra fifty bucks if I thought my safety would have been compromised. There were so many praises about this tour group that I felt confident. I emailed the company and got a super rapid response, high-speed internet must exist in Belize. They required no money up front, just our word that we would be there. After confirmation, I received an email with a foolproof map on how to locate them when we were at port.
We were greeted by Vitalino himself, a humble, sweet man who introduced us to our guide and directed us to a small 6-person van which far exceeded the large tour buses that we had been used to on this vacation. The ride was about an hour, but filled with historical information, a shopping stop (AKA: potty break) and a quick glimpse inside the streets of Belize. We arrived at our destination and parked amongst the dozens of other buses. Most folks had brought their own water shoes, but we opted to rent ours for a mere $3. A part of me had the fear that they may be infested with all sorts of Belizean critters and wondering if they sanitized them after each use like bowling shoes. Probably not. We were then issued our ginormous yellow tubes and lighted helmets. We were ready for business. But, not so fast. We now had to walk, with our helmets on and lugging a 4-foot innertube, to the water which was 45 minutes hike away. After trying ten different ways to carry my tube, which was almost bigger then myself, I opted for resting the inner circle on my head. Highly recommended.
When we arrived at the waters-edge, our butts were plopped into the tube and our legs linked together. We looked like a giant yellow caterpillar, pretty sure we would not be turning into a beautiful butterfly anytime soon. For the next hour we were floated through the canals, learning the history and witnessing the beauty. During the high rain seasons, the water flowed more easily, but now our poor guide was subjected to an Olympic-like swim while towing us throughout. It seemed like harsh labor or a fantastic exercise regime. Not tipping him would have almost been a crime. This was not exactly the “white-water rapid” experience that I had envisioned, but a perfect excursion for all ages. My one big regret was not having a waterproof camera…still kicking my self, really.
On the bus ride back, we were taken to Vitalino’s personal restaurant (& home) where we indulged in a traditional Belizean meal made by the wife, aunts and children. We munched on rice & beans, spiced chicken and a never-ending supply of rum punch. I took an interest in the bottle of Cashew Wine for sale and when the driver overheard this he went back into the restaurant just to get me a sample.
All said and shared, Cave Tubing with Vitalino’s and his staff was one of the highlights of our trip. They were authentically nice, family folks who knew how to make their guests feel at home and their passion for their country was infectious.