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Thursday, January 12, 2017

January 11, 2017
Branches River, Belize

Day #7: An inland cave adventure

This morning we awoke for a 6AM breakfast, packed our bags into taxis, and headed to the ferry terminal to leave the island of Ambergris Caye. A rainbow appeared to wish us farewell:

We boarded a 7:30AM ferry that took us to Belize City (after a stop in Caye Caulker):

After disembarking at Belize City, we loaded on to a bus that towed a trailer for our bags. Our drive is LaCelle. He will serve as our drive and guide for the rest of the trip:

We drove through the city and into the countryside. Our first stop was a national park called Jaguar Park. This site is famous for the Branches Cave River, which carved a series of caves through limestone bedrock. It is one of the few places in the world where you can river tube through caves.

We started by getting our equipment: proper footwear (no flip flips), helmet, dive light, and life jacket:

We hiked through the rainforest. Along the way, our guides taught us about the local plants and pointed out interesting features. We walked upriver for about 45 minutes:

When we reached the end, we put our tubes in the water in groups, and floated downriver. We passed through crystal caves with really interesting rock formations, some internal waterfalls, and the occassionale passageway out. Our headlamps illuminated the walls of the caves:

After about 20 minutes, we emerged from the caves, and had a nice relaxing float downriver for 30 minutes or so. The guides pointed out wildlife along the banks, including some river iguana.

After tubing, we enjoyed a typical Belizean local lunch of rice, beans, stewed chicken, and fried plantains. We then drove to our next site: St. Herman's Cave National Park. Our guides led us through the jungle, pointing out local flora and fauna:

We then reached the entrance of St. Herman's, a large limestone cave that was considered sacred by the Mayans:

We walked along a path through the caves as our guides explained how the caves were formed and how the Mayans used them. The walk was slick and winding and a bit treacherous, but everyone availed themselves well and really enjoyed the experience. At one point we turned off all our lights to see how dark it truly was.

We walked back through the jungle as the sun started to set. We drove about an hour to the far western edge of Belize to the town of San Ignacio. We checked into our resort for the night (which is rather swanky compared to the places we've been staying) and enjoyed a group buffet dinner of rice and beans and stewed pork and fried plantains (sound familiar?). The students worked on their lab reports and generally went to bed early.

Thanks for reading! All is well and we are looking forward to a really long but interesting final full day in Belize tomorrow.

- Prof. Eric J. Simon

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