Rappelling 300 feet down a cliff into the Black Hole
When the Belize Tourist Board asked me to come to Belize to get a taste of their “slice of paradise,” I gladly accepted. As a scuba diver I was well aware that Belize is the world’s second largest barrier reef, only Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in Queensland is larger. I figured a beach vacation would be a dream come true. But, I would begin my “Belizean Adventure” in the jungles of Belize. The Caves Branch Jungle Lodge and Tree Houses would be my home for my first three nights in Belize.
Caves Branch is an authentic jungle experience. The lodge is smack dab in the middle of the jungle. From Caves Branch you set out on various daily activities. One can go bird watching, visit Mayan Ruins, float down a river on inner tubes. There is a long bus ride that takes you across the border to Guatemala for a visit to the monolithic Mayan civilization of Tikal. But as Larry Venegas, the most helpful and informative, Caves Branch reservation manager suggested, “if you think that you can handle a more strenuous adventure, why not try the Black Hole Drop.”
The Black Hole
Now, I’m not exactly a stranger to adventure. I ‘ve tried most adventure sports, and have little fear. The way I see it, most activities with guidance are safe. After all, I would not be diving to depths of up to 100 feet if there was a strong possibility that I would traveling one way. So what the heck. Rappelling 300 down the side of a mountain into a cave, now how hard could that be? Piece of cake, right?
As Larry called the Black Hole, the “Mother of all Caves” Actun Loch Tunich, as it is known, begins with a vigorous hike up into the foothills of the Maya Mountains to the mouth of the cave. The edge of the Actun Loch Tunich sink hole sits over 300 feet above the basin below, 200 feet above the rain forest canopy that grows out from the sink hole basin. This is an adventure not for the faint of heart. You must hike an hour and half up and down the hilly mountain before you arrive at your destination.
The sink hole is not actually black, but since you cannot see the bottom from the top, thus, the Black Hole. Now, I had a concern, how to brake. What if I forget how to brake? Would I free-fall cartoon style and splatter to the ground? As my guide, Darrell outfitted me in assorted ropes a construction hard hot, and gloves, the reality started to kick in. I could feel the Adrenaline start to kick in and wondering if I should have gone Cave Tubing on my first full day in Belize. Maybe bird watching.
Nothing like lunch in a sink hole – Our guide Darrell prepares our meal
The moment was near and there was no backing out now. In my group there were about 20 fellow thrill seekers. I was harnessed, strapped, roped and tied, and ready to go. The first step off the mountain or first 10 feet provided me with a rush that only sky diving could equal. You simply don’t know what to expect. Then it hits you. You’re in the air suspended by ropes and slowly descending, an unforgettable experience. At this point I was not scared at all as I viewed the cliffs and foliage. The last 100 feet takes your through the rain forest canopy.
What a wonderful way to complete your journey to the bottom of the Black Hole. Upon arrival, you are treated to a picnic lunch. I live part of the year in Mexico, but Belize sets the record for largest tortillas in the world. Massive flour tortillas are stuffed with whatever your heart desires.
After lunch came my least favorite part. How does one get out of a sink hole? Very simple, climb back up the mountain. What, no elevator in the jungle. Get ready to rock climb and climb a ladder that will make for even more sweating, as you now climb back. Finally, you’re at the top where you started, and now must hike the 1.5 hours back to the van or bus back to Caves Branch.
I can now say that I survived the Black Hole Drop. So, what would any adventurous day be without dinner with your new friends. You’re bound to strike up new friendships at Caves Branch. The buffet style dinner allows guests to mingle and talk of the days exploits. Ms. Elvira, better known as “Mamma” prepares meals that are fit for a king. Allow Albert, the most gracious bartender that you will ever meet, fix you a fruity rum drink or one of his signiture cocktails.
Palms in the jungle
Getting to Belize:
American Airlines via Miami, United via Houston, Delta via Atlanta fly daily to BZE , Belize City. Caves Branch Lodge is about an hour and a half drive from the airport. San Pedro Water Jets Xpress offers a daily ferry service from Chetumal, the southernmost city in Mexico to San Pedro, Ambrigis Caye. The two hour ride costs $30.00 one way and $55.00 round trip.
When to go:
Belize weather basically consists of two seasons, wet and dry. The rainy season in Belize starts in early June and runs through November. January through May are the best months to travel to Belize.
Sunscreen, mosquito repellant, otherwise, you will get eaten alive. Proper hiking boots or good tennis shoes.
If possible book one of the tree houses at the Caves Branch. After all, you are in the jungle. It may be the closest thing to living in the jungle that you may experience.
About the Author: Nick Kontis – Travel Expert and Founder of the World Travel List
Nick Kontis started out as a world traveler at an early age traveling back and forth between California and Greece every summer. But it was a backpacking trip around the world at age 24 that proved to be a life changing experience. After traveling by car, train, plane, bike and, boat around the world, it would be this trip of a lifetime that would lead to a life as a travel entrepreneur and world traveler. Nick has been on both radio and television. Featured on Arthur Frommer’s television show, and referred by Lonely Planet writers. Frequently mentioned as the “father of around the world airfares.” Arthur Frommer once said, “If Jules Verne were alive today he would use Nick to go around the world in 80 days.” Nick and his various travel companies have sent over 10,000 people taking their dream trip through airfare discounts of as much as 50% off the airlines published fares. Now Nick promotes travel through his World Travel List and ‘Trip Rambler’ by World Travel List. Having traveled to over 80 countries Nick hopes to inspire others to travel the world. 80 countries visited and counting. Follow Nick’s “passion for travel” on the World Travel List