The ATM Cave Belize (Actun Tunichil Muknal) is one of the most spectacular sites in all of Central America. National Geographic named ATM #1 on their Top 10 list of Sacred Places to visit in a lifetime! So if you get an opportunity, do not miss this wonder of the world.
This cave is very delicate and Belize takes pride in protecting the history and the artifacts that make up that history. Channel 7 News recently interviewed Dr. Awe about an accident that took place on a recent tour. This has sparked Dr. Awe to implement stricter protections of the cave.
“Recently, we had a small accident at the Actun Tunichil Muknal Archaeological Park. We believe that a guest – a tourist – who was in there, was taking a photograph with a camera. The camera slipped and fell out of their hands, and it landed and damaged one of the skulls, and it broke a section of the upper part of the skull. I sent in a team from the Institute of Archaeology, and we went in. We looked at the skull, and we think that we can make repairs to it. We have been, for some time, thinking about disallowing the use of cameras in the cave, unless under special permission. And when this incident happened a couple weeks ago, it really spurred that decision and urged us to implement it as of now. Hence, as of this past week, and we will no longer allow guests and visitors to go in with cameras. I am compiling that we will put on a DVD, and these will be available for sale to guests going to the site. And in many ways, this will help us – and again, to enforce this law – at the same time, it might be another source of revenue for the Institute of Archaeology. The cave is awesome; it contains the remains of people who were sacrificed in there. It contains artifacts that were left in there as offerings to the gods, and the cave is beautiful in terms of its formation. To me, it is not just the cultural remains in the cave that make it important; it’s also the cave formations in different rooms in some of the chambers in the cavern. So it’s certainly one of Belize’s premier caves. I think that this incident has made us all acutely aware of the need to be conservation-minded, of the need to be careful, of the need to tell people that they’ve got watch where they step. We can put in lights in the cave, and we could set barriers up, but then, it would total destroy the beautiful experience that one has. This incident has made all the tour guides a lot more aware that they are the vanguards. They have to be responsible for the tourists that go in there that they have to manage these groups with a lot more care.”
It has been speculated by some that there may be a time when the cave will not be available to visitors for touring at all. However you can still tour the cave just not take your camera in anymore. The alternative they are going to possibly offer is a great idea. Tourist will get a professionally produced keepsake and be able to fully be present when touring the cave because now they will not have to think about the next picture they should take for their memorabilia. Additionally, this will be a great way to finance in part the restoration and upkeep of the amazing archeological sites of Belize. Dr. Awe and his team work very hard and are very passionate about Belize and preserving its great beauty while providing a great education of Belize history.
I was fortunate a few years back to have a wonderful tour guide and participate in this amazing adventure. I would recommend it to all. It is truly a “bucket list” activity.