Actun Chapat - One of the Best Caving Experiences in Belize.
Actun Chapat Cave is one of the best caves in Belize to explore! Inside this massive cave system are crystallized rock formations, Mayan stories, flying and crawling cave critters, a beautiful cenote, and an area known as "The Skylight".
Where is Actun Chapat located? It is located in Cave World Adventures, at #1 Minhocao Trail, San Jose Succotz Village, in the Cayo District of Belize. Cave World Adventures is an adventure and wilderness park created as a preservation project for Belize's flor and fauna.
Actun Chapat = Means Centipede Cave
The name “Actun Chapat” means “Centipede Cave” and (yes you are correct), the cave is littered with centipedes inside, but don't worry they won't bite. There is much Mayan tales about the cave, which refer to a serpent (more like a dragon), that lives deep inside the cave. So far, we haven’t found that serpent, but we have indeed found many centipedes. This cave sits next to a smaller cave known as Actun Halal (Cave Of The Spear) where archaeologists have found evidence of a mastodon tooth and the remains of an extinct cave bear. Certainly this evidence refers us back to the Paleolithic era when humans were still hunters and gatherers and the age pleistocene animals were still roaming these country sides.
The first cave that you will encountered is called “Baby Chapat,” which is basically a smaller cave within the much larger cave system. Passing through Baby Chapat, you will enter into Actun Halal, which is a rock-shelter where the Mayas carved faces into the soft limestone of the cave walls. After briefly visiting Actun Halal, you will hike a bit further before getting to Actun Chapat, the cave you will be exploring on this day. The first challenge you will encounter, is the entrance to the cave. You will need to keep a 3-point contact to climb inside the cave. We found most of the rocks to be slippery - so be careful.
Once inside the cave, you will be greeted by a grand crystalized rock formation, along with many broken pieces of pottery pieces, AND (you got it!) centipedes! Each piece of pottery is said to have been brought into the cave by ancient Maya priests, when they conducted their rituals and human sacrifices to their deities. After the rituals were performed, the pottery was then broken to release its spirit. Many of the pieces in this cave date back to as early as 1800 A.D.
The ancient Maya never lived in caves, cave were predominantly used for rituals and burials. There are skeletal remains in this cave, either from human sacrifices or as a final final resting place for the dead. There is are a couple sacred ritual rooms where certainly the activities there were of religious and spiritual importance.
When exploring Actun Chapat, you will entered into one of the largest chambers for caves in Belize. The cave ceilings are very high, and the inside has a rather hallow feeling to the rock formations. Usually at this point, your guide will stop and ask you to turn off your headlamps. This is when you really get to experience just how dark a cave really can be. Try calling out your name, and listen to your voice echo back to you in this cavern.
After you have completed alot of walking and rock climbing, you will reach the skylight. The skylight is a cenote or sinkhole that the Mayas believed was the entrance to the underworld of Xibalba. The sinkhole is caused by the process of carbonic acid softening of the minerals inside the limestone mountains, which later collapses. The carbonic acid comes from water that had accumulated on top of the mountains. Making it to the skylight was definitely worth all the climbing and crawling!
When is the best time to go to Actun Chapat? - The best time to visit Actun Chapat is in the morning - you don’t want to be hiking out of the cave when darkness is approaching. Taking into consideration that most days in Belize are warm and sunny, any day is appropriate to go spelunking in Belize.
What is the level of difficulty of Actun Chapat? - On the difficulty scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most difficult, Actun Chapat is a 4.5. Inside the cave is rather slippery, even in the dry season and exploring the cave requires a lot of crouching and climbing.
The geological “art works’ found in Actun Chapat is spectacular and is generally not seen in many caves around Belize. So far, there are a little more than 200 registered caves in Belize. You will find wide open and long spaces in this cave, up to 500 meters in length. This alone is incredible to witness, as underground water years ago, created these wide open spaces - deep inside the cave.
Archaeologists suggest that this cave can be longer than 6 miles in length. Not very many people have ventured that deep into this cave to bear witness to it. What we do know, is this cave has 3 lakes inside of it, along with a wonderful beach area. We also know that the ancient Maya modified stalactites, stalagmites and glow stone formation (in this cave), to their advantage. Whether to be for entertainment, style, or to respect the underworld as an even more ominous a place to visit.
We also know that, the ancient Maya also created some stairs and hand and footholds in the sharper and higher reaches of the cave. One most impressive evidence of this, is in the sinkhole, high within the bowels of the cave.
How to get to Actun Chapat? - Getting to Actun Chapat takes a total of roughly one (1) hour and thirty-five (35) minute drive from San Ignacio Town. This includes the time to get from San Ignacio to San Jose Succotz Village (about 15 minutes away). The drive on Waterhole Road (1 hour), and the hike from Cave World Adventures to the cave entrance (is about 20 minutes).
Getting to Actun Chapat from Belize City - takes about 3 hours and 35 minutes. You can get to Actun Chapat in a private vehicle or car rental.
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