Belize : The ATM Cave

In 2011 I got to experience the interior of  Belize for 7 days. Although naturally there were MANY highlights, the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave was in the top. This cave features the famous “crystal maiden” and extends far back into the darkness beyond human vision.

This video represents the tour to the ATM Cave. Our tour Guide, Gonzo, did an excellent job of giving us the archaeological history of this cave! The audio here starts at the mouth of the cave and a description of why the Mayans worshiped in caves. The audio starts back up once we have climbed into the upper caverns – it was too wet for a camera until that point! The pictures and audio line up where possible. There’s a TON of information contained here! Someday it would be great to have a transcript of this video so that I could retain more of it! This video an hour in length, however, if you have the time and interest in Mayan caves I think there’s a ton of great information.

The conversation is mostly unabridged and the pictures line up with the audio where they can.

The pictures below are a short, short, short look at what the ATM cave can tell you about the complexities of Mayan civilization.

The Hike to the ATM Cave
The Hike to the ATM Cave
You have to take a swim just to enter this cave! A cool dip in a pool of cave-filtered water is your initiation to the ATM cave!
You have to take a swim just to enter this cave! A cool dip in a pool of cave-filtered water is your initiation to the ATM cave!
More shots of navigating through the ATM cave. This picture represents one of the "Wide" open spaces :p.
More shots of navigating through the ATM cave. This picture represents one of the “Wide” open spaces :p.
The ATM is a 'real' cave. By that I mean you have to crawl through crevices, through the water and small holes to get where you want to go. A rewarding experience!
The ATM is a ‘real’ cave. By that I mean you have to crawl through crevices, through the water and small holes to get where you want to go. A rewarding experience!
Every piece of pottery in the ATM cave has a story to tell - if you can figure it out! Smashed pottery was often a sacrifice or let spirits go from the pottery. Pots flipped upside down in the water with "kiln" holes in them were believed to have living spirits.
Every piece of pottery in the ATM cave has a story to tell – if you can figure it out! Smashed pottery was often a sacrifice or let spirits go from the pottery. Pots flipped upside down in the water with “kiln” holes in them were believed to have living spirits.
Here's another calcified skull. It's tooth was knocked out by an errant tourist. Please be careful if you visit!! I have heard they have considered closing this cave due to damage. That would be a pity!
Here’s another calcified skull. It’s tooth was knocked out by an errant tourist. Please be careful if you visit!! I have heard they have considered closing this cave due to damage. That would be a pity!
Some of the giant "organs" (like a tall church organ :) ) are truly remarkable!! These calcified towers give you lots to look at as you trek deeper into the cave.
Some of the giant “organs” (like a tall church organ 🙂 ) are truly remarkable!! These calcified towers give you lots to look at as you trek deeper into the cave.
This is one of several calcified remains the ATM cave
This is one of several calcified remains the ATM cave
Here's the Crystal Maiden, but warning!, Spoiler Alert! This maiden is a man!
Here’s the Crystal Maiden, but warning!, Spoiler Alert! This maiden is a man!
Tight Squeeze in the ATM cave while up to your shoulders in water
Tight Squeeze in the ATM cave while up to your shoulders in water
One last group shot before exiting the ATM cave with my family and girlfriend.
One last group shot before exiting the ATM cave with my family and girlfriend.

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