Belize’s “No-Photography” Cave

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Belize is a modern-day paradise filled with ancient wonders, and we intend to keep it that way.

Sustainable tourism is extremely important to everyone in the Ka’ana family, and thankfully many local officials share our ideals. That’s why one of our country’s most awe-inspiring, gasp-inducing, photo-ready sights has a NO CAMERAS ALLOWED policy.

Sustainable Travel in Belize

As soon as you step out of your vehicle at the trailhead, guards will make sure you leave all your photography gear in the car. Not even iPhones are allowed in. Why the intense security?

ATM Cave Belize

Actun Tunichil Muknal is the mother of all caves in Central America. You enter via an Eden-like pool, a natural bowl of blue filled with fish that nibble at your fingers when you swim inside. Incredible formations hang from the ceiling above as you make your way deep inside the Maya underworld.

Actun Tunichil Muknal Entryway

And finally you reach the main event.

The ancient Maya people used this cavern as a site for some of their most sacred rituals. You’ll step gingerly around ancient artifacts, left exactly as they were found, and inspect amazingly preserved skeletons. A sacrifice to the gods, one in particular has become famous eons after her death for the unique calcification on her bones that shimmers by the torchlight. She is now known as “The Crystal Maiden.”

Crystal Maiden ATM Cave

Sadly, a few years ago, an over enthusiastic tourist lost their grip on their camera while trying to capture the beauty of the cave. The skull of our precious maiden was smashed.

So it was decided. We’d rather have a few unhappy photographers than risk our country’s rich heritage. Our history is told through these artifacts, and others like them, as much as through our food, music and gorgeous natural sights. We will protect it for future generations of Belizeans, and adventurers who come to experience an authentic Belize.

(You’ll also need to remove your shoes and walk the cave floor in your socks, just to make sure we don’t harm the fragile site.)

Mayan remains in ATM cave

While we realize some may be disappointed not to have photos of what is sure to be the most memorable part of your experience in Central America, we’re sure that the stories you’ll return with will be worth more than any image!

Find out more about our sustainable tourism initiatives here.

All photos in this post were taken before the photography ban in 2012.

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  • Dr. Peter J Shield

    Totally object to your NO Photography Ban!! A picture is worth a thousand words and everyone should be allowed the freedom of expression that todays camera phones allow. Pictures posted on social media are todays backbone of tourist generation. Dr. Peter J. Shield, PhD, ARP – retired archaeologist and award winning photographer!