Day 8: May 22th 2018, Las Cuevas to ATM Caves to The Tropical Education Center
We had early start this morning as we ate breakfast at 5:30am. We left around 6:00 am for the ATM cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave). We wore snorkel booties instead of boots as we swam inside to enter and move through the majority of the cave. Inside there were 14 skeletons of sacrificed human remains, most of them male and half of them infants. As we climbed to the top, we were able to observe the remains of what has been dubbed the Crystal Maiden (which they are not sure is female anymore). The remains are calcified into the cave floor as the skeleton appears to be lying down. Our guide jokingly asked who would be the next sacrifice. Little did he know that we had actually joked around and decided that the Will Ricers in our group would be our offerings (they still protest). So naturally we offered up Sami. Unfortunately he didn’t take her.
On our walk back from the cave, we were having so much fun that we almost missed a Basilisk Lizard run across the path on its hind legs, and an Agouti sitting on a tree root. The Agouti is essentially a large rodent, the largest in Belize. I would liken it to a smaller, cuter version of the Capybara.
One lunch and an hour drive later, we were at the Tropical Education Center with nicer rooms and showers than we had seen in a long while. Hot water is such a luxury by the way.
Next was dinner and then the Belize Zoo for a night tour. We saw some awesome mammals including a porcupine, a gibnut, an ocelot, the Baird’s tapir, the Margay, a Puma, two Jaguars, and the Coatimundi. They were all very active including the diurnal Coatimundi which were playing in the dark. Additionally, the jaguars could do tricks, the pumas purred, we fed the Tapirs which extends their upper lips like elephants trunks and we heard the most bizarre purr like noise come out of an ocelot’s mouth (it sounded aggressive but it wasn’t). My favorite was the small wild cat, the Margay, which made a nasal whining sound that resembled the noise I make when a bug flies in my face haha. Lets just say I found my kin.
All of the animals into the zoo are native to Belize, have either been displaced and sent to the zoo or were born into the zoo. Most are permanent residents because reintroducing them into the wild would be unsuccessful due to their boldness around humans, previous issues, and lack of hunting ability. Overall it was a great experience, and nice change of scenery.