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 Barton Creek Cave 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.
By 2002 a cave survey had been completed by the Western Belize Regional Cave Project, recording a total of 6,400 m (21,000 ft) of passages; dye traces at sinking streams above the cave indicated that there could be a further 6 km (3.7 mi) of cave passages beyond the terminal sumps. – Wikipedia
Barton Creek is a living cave in that it is still growing and developing with 10ft of water flowing constantly throughout. The ancient Mayans believed that their Gods would reside in such places and Barton Creek Cave in particular because of its abundance of water.
The Mayan God Chaac (God of Water) was believed to occupy the cave, whenever the Mayas were going through a draught or needed a god rain for crops they would go into Barton Creek and sacrifice young virgins whom were thought to be suitable gifts to the Gods. The Mayans believed the cave was an opening or gate way into the underworld and treated it with great fear and respect.
Starts: 1:00PM Ends: 5:00PM
Getting there: Your adventure starts at 1:00PM after your Chechem Ha Tour. The trip begins as we make our way through and out of San Ignacio Town with a 45 minutes’ drive on a dirt road through a Mennonite farmland called Barton Creek. The scenery as we traverse this farmland is very quaint and pleasantly scenic with hills and valleys stitched with organically grown crops. As we near the park site, there’s a river crossing just shallow enough for vehicles to cross over.
At Barton Creek Cave Site: When we arrive at the park site, your guide checks you into the office and proceeds onto picking your canoe and then helps you to strap on your life jackets and headlamps. Once geared up, we head over to the river bank where your guide would have your canoe awaiting you for your journey into The Mayan Underworld – Xibalba.
The adventure takes flight when you enter the lime stone cave and float for about 1 hour into the cave. Inside the cave we’ll be passing impressive natural crystal formations and various archaeological highlights, all which your guide will be pointing out as you make your way upstream. This tour is very fun-filled and educational as well as refreshing and family- friendly. While inside the cave, at some point of the tour, the guide will ask you to turn off the flash light and you’ll listen to the flow of the water running and the water drops from the caves.
This adventure will amaze you with cathedral-like chambers & wide passages. Sit back and relax while your guide navigates your canoe for a leisurely visit. After exploring the underworld, you will head back into town.
Departing: Upon exiting the cave, we settle down to enjoy a delicious lunch meal link to tours menu (Fajitas, Burritos, Chicken Burger, Club sandwich or their vegetarian alternatives). dues at the canoe shop, board our vehicle and make our way back through the river, the scenic farmland, and back into San Ignacio Town arriving at around 5:45 PM. Remember, our combo tours are normally private tours, the duration depends on your leisurely pace.
Duration: Approx. 4 hours
Difficulty level: Easy
What to bring: Sunscreen, bug repellent solid athletic shoes (sandals are permissible as hiking is minimal), light clothing, bathing suite/change of clothes (optional if you wish to swim), camera (preferably water proof) with strap.
Provided: Canoe, Life Jacket, Helmet, Headlamp, & towel (for optional swim).
Note: This tour involves canoeing in an underground cave system, which is dark and wet. Beware if you suffer from claustrophobia. All equipment is provided by us.
Chechem Ha Belize
Chechem Ha Cave Entrance
Chechem Ha Cave pots intact
Chechem Ha Cave Tour Belize
Chechem Ha climb
Chechem Ha Upper Chamber
The monkey man at Chechem Ha
Chechem Ha Sacrificial Pots