Chechem Ha (Poison Water Cave), is a Mayan Ceremonial Cave, known to be a major tourist destination. It is located 8 miles southeast of Benque at the start of the Maya Mountains of Belize. – Wikipedia
Chechem Ha Cave consists of a main chamber filled with rocks lined up which is believed to have been used for sacred Mayan rituals dating from the middle preclassic period (900-300BC) to the late classic period (700-850AD). Also, there are many chambers found high up within the cave which contain many large pottery vessels which may have been used to collect ‘pure water’ to be used for their rituals.
The Cave lies within a private farmland belonging to the Moralez family. One fateful day, Mr. Moralez was out on the field with his sons and dog when they stumbled upon the cave system which would change their lives forever. One story has it that they were out in search of cohune leaves (used for building thatched roofs) when they made the discovery. Another has it that their dog fell into a hole and upon jumping in to rescue him, they found it to be a sacrificial cave.
They found that the cave lead deeper inside with many broken potteries which the Ancient Maya used in their sacred ceremonies. The Maya believed that these caves were the entrance to Xibalba – the “Underworld” and that it (the underworld) encompassed 9 of the 22 layers of life which made up the world in which they lived. Here, they would leave offerings to their gods (presumably to their rain god Chaac during times of drought), sometimes even in the form of human sacrifices. One astonishing example of this can be seen at the ATM Cave where many human remains lay preserved by natural calcification, one in particular – the Crystal Maiden.
Today, the site is managed by the Archaeological department of Belize and since the site is within a private property, it can only be accessed through the Moralez Family, accompanied by their resident guide.
Starts: 8:00AM Ends: 12:00PM
Getting There: Your adventure begins at 8:00 AM with an approx. 35 minutes’ drive which leads you through the westernmost Town of Benque Viejo, along the Arenal Road (the road the the Vaca Falls Dam), then onto a cut-off road through farmlands and onto the Moralez’s farm within which the cave system lies.
At the cave entrance: Upon reaching the Moralez’s farm, you will un-board the vehicle to embark on a 45 minutes hike through the jungle trail that leads to the cave entrance. At the cave entrance, you’ll notice that the mouth of the cave has been decorated with a Maya motif and has been reinforced with metal bars to keep any looters away.
As you enter the cave you will start to see broken pieces of ancient clay pots and will also notice a change towards a fresher and more moist atmosphere. This cave is not as spectacular in terms of its formations (stalactites & stalagmites) as other caves in Belize, however; what makes this cave truly amazing is the size of the pots left behind by the Maya (some of which were used to collect water seeping through the limestone to use in their rituals), their intactness and their numbers in this cave.
As you progress deeper into the cave you will come upon ladders that lead to higher chambers within the main cave system. This is where the most impressive Maya relics can be appreciated. It’s amazing how upfront and close you will have these ancient relics, almost at the tip of your finger. However, you are cautioned not to touch any of these relics as they are understandably fragile and priceless.
Enjoy the enchantment of this Indiana-Jones-like adventure as you explore this wonderful Ancient Maya World, a most worthwhile experience.
Departure: Upon completion of your tour, you’ll head back through the trail and back onto the Moralez’s farm where you’ll board the vehicle back through Benque Viejo Town and onto your next adventure. This is a half day tour which is best done in combination with any other half day tour, in this case you’ll be heading over to the Big Rock Falls Site for your next adventure.
Duration: Approx. 4 hours
Difficulty level: Active
What to Bring: Sneakers with good traction or hiking boots, preferably long trouser pants, hat, camera, water.
Provided: Waters and snacks.
Note: This tour is not for persons with disabilities, heart conditions, back or leg problems, or claustrophobia. All guests must be in good physical conditions & able to walk in a jungle setting.
Lush, romantic waterfall on granite bedrock in the Mountain Pine Ridge reserve.
Big Rock Falls is a 150-foot waterfall on Privassion River, in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve of the Cayo District of Belize. – Wikipedia
This tour is normally done in combination with any other half day tour (in this case, with Chechem Ha Cave) If you’re visiting with children or non-swimmers please let us know this ahead of time so as to provide life jackets or other floatables for their convenience. Also, you must be very mindful of the elderly and the young, be sure they are obedient enough to follow the guide’s rules, especially when climbing up or down the cliff.
Starts: 2:00PM (or any time after your other morning tour) Ends: 5:00PM (duration depends on your leisurely pace)
Getting There: Since this tour is normally done in combination with another tour (in this Chechem Ha Cave), your journey will commence as we board our vehicle, drive into and through San Ignacio town, and then make our way onto the Mountain Pine Ridge road. The drive is about 45 minutes on a partially paved road, the farther section of which is dirt.
Along the way, we’ll pass the villages of Cristo Rey and San Antonio. These are small settlements of mostly farmers along the Macal River. Along the way, your guide would normally point out to local flora and fauna such as Toucans, Roadside Hawks, Iguanas, and Medicinal Plants and trees. He’ll also tell you the history of the villages you pass along the way. Feel free to ask him any questions.
At the site: The parking lot approximately 5 to 8 minutes’ walk from the waterfall so you want to take everything you’ll need with you for an enjoyable time at the waterfall. From the parking lot we’ll be walking through a little trail which leads to quite a steep climb down to the river valley. Flip flops are not advisable for this part of the trek. Once we’ve made our way carefully down that cliff, the tremendous view of water rushing over the huge 150-ft rock formations and plummeting into the deep rounded pool at its base provides a rush of excitement. Our walk through the granite boulders takes us to the waterfall pool.
You won’t regret visiting this site for a nice cold swim amidst the scorching Belizean heat. You may choose to swim all the way up to the water fall but try to contain the temptation to climb up any of the wet rocks, or do so at your own risk, they tend to get very slippery. Your guide will allow you ample time to swim or bask at your own leisure. When you feel you’ve had your fix, he’ll escort you back to the parking lot.
Departure: Getting out of the river bank entails a climb up the steep cliff. It’s not as difficult as it may seem. Slow and steady does it. You may choose to change into dry clothes while you’re at the river bank or when you get to the vehicle. There are no changing rooms or restrooms. You just have to wing it.
We then board our vehicle to traverse the same road through the villages and back into San Ignacio, returning around 5:00PM depending on your own pace.
Duration: Approx. 2 hours (at Big Rock Falls)
Difficulty level: Moderate
What to bring: Swimwear, change of clothes, hiking or water shoes (no flip-flops), sun screen, insect repellent, sun glasses, camera, just about anything that would enhance your visit.
Provided: Towels, snacks, and water.
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The monkey man at Chechem Ha
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Chechem Ha Upper Chamber
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Chechem Ha Cave pots intact
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Chechem Ha Cave Entrance