Glover's Reef and River of Caves - Caves of Belize
By Jack Wilde
We are hiking along a trail near Caves Branch, a tributary of the Sibun River. This is no ordinary hike, as we are each carrying a big inner tube over our shoulder. Sitting high in a tree over the trail perches a slaty-tailed trogon: a multi-coloured tropical bird that eats insects and berries.
Soon the trail ends at the river. We put on our helmets and headlamps, and lower ourselves into the floating tubes. As soon as we push off from shore a gentle current tugs us downstream. We paddle with our arms and drift through dappled shade. Ahead the stream disappears into a wall of rock draped with ferns and vines, and we switch on our lights.
It is not as dark in here as I expected, but the lights help to keep us together as we drift through the cavern. Overhead the ceiling is pocked with dark hollows. These are bat roosts, but the bats remain asleep as we pass beneath them. Her and there, roots penetrate the roof of the cave and hang in tattered clumps, their tips making a tiny wake in the surface of the water. Our excited laughter echoes wildly underground, as we take in this new experience. Soon all is quiet again as we pass through the other end of the tunnel and emerge in the bright, tropical daylight.
We rush through a couple of riffles, in water barely deep enough to keep from hitting bottom with our, well, bottoms, but we pass through to calmer water unscathed. The echoing of our voices is replaced with the mysterious calls of unseen birds and the buzzing of insects. Even without the caves, a drift downstream on a hot day is a great way to see the tropical forest.
The next cave is longer, with enough turns that we cannot see the other end. As we drift through this one, the sound of falling water slowly grows louder. I begin to wonder if we will find ourselves going over a waterfall in the darkness. The excitement grows as the waterfall approaches. We round a bend and there it is: a sidestream is pouring over the rocks into our little river. There was a falls, but not in our path.
The river continues to pass in and out of the mountains, until eventually we arrive at the place where we crossed the stream on our hike. Now to get out and change into dry clothes before our next adventure with Island Expeditions