Belize Top Destinations
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave
Belize travel destination
The Actun Tunichil Muknal cave is also well known as the ATM cave and is located in the heart of the Tapir Mountain Nature reserve. This 6,700 acres park is managed by the Belize Audubon society and is a 45 minutes drive from San Ignacio Town in the Cayo District and in walking distance from the Pook’s Hill Lodge. It is one of the most impressive caves in the Mayan world. It was not until the late terminal classic period (700-900AD) that the Mayas traveled deeper into the Cave to conduct their ceremonies. Actun Tunichil Muknal means “the cave of the stone sepulcher” and this cave has received this name after the remains of a young Maya woman were found in a sacrificial chamber within the cave system.
The coral actually breaks the surface in many sections at low tide. Except for two narrow channels, the reef surrounds the hole. The hole itself is the opening to a system of caves and passageway that penetrate this undersea mountain. In various places, massive limestone stalactites hang down from what was once the ceiling of air-filled caves before the end of the last Ice Age. The hole is the opening to what was a dry cave system during the Ice Age. When the ice melted and the sea level rose, the caves were flooded, creating what is now a magnet for many divers. Today the Blue Hole is famed for its sponges, barracuda, corals, angelfish, and a school of sharks often seen patrolling the hole’s edge.
A stalactite marks an entrance to the Blue Hole’s underwater cave system. This famous sinkhole at Lighthouse Reef, became an icon of Belize after renowned researcher Jacques Cousteau, explored it in 1970. At the crest of the thousand-foot circular reef, snorkelers in its clear waters delight in seeing exquisite corals, energetic fish, colorful sponges, and graceful sea fans. The rim descends to 90 feet at 60 degrees, then drops vertically to 120 feet. Mammoth caverns perforate the walls.
The Actun Tunichil Muknal caves also contains much broken pottery. Together with the culture, history and geological formations it creates an unrivalled natural museum. More than 2000 years of history are shut up in these amazing caverns. The most famous of the human remains is known as "The Crystal Maiden". Mayan people believed the caves to be the openings to the underworld. These caves held power and awe for them. They made ritual deposits in caves, for reasons such as to beckon rain.