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Cassandra November 13th, 2007 05:43 PM

Dangers of Cave Tubing - Any Island
Just a FYI for folks that are doing trips during the rainy seasons. This was copied off the other cruise site. It's good information to keep in mind if you are cave tubing either at Belize or another island.
You just never know...
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Despite all the wonderful reviews of this excursion, everyone needs to know that cave tubing in Belize can be very dangerous. We very nearly could have lost two or three people to drowning last Thursday, July 14. It is the rainy season right now and the river had risen to a high level and was moving swiftly. We had a bit of trouble crossing with the rope at the beginning, but at that point I thought it was just part of the adventure. Having never done this and having seen so many great reviews, my danger indicator did not stop me from calling off the excursion. I deeply regret this as I brought a family group of 9 people, including my 80 year old mother and two 11 year olds. There was also a family of four with us.

Our guide had us pair up but as soon as we entered the water the group was immediately split up by the fast moving water with no hope of hearing further instructions. It was chaos after that. In the last cave I noticed the other woman in our group who was ahead of us with her husband was struggling in the water at the edge of a wall. She was out of her tube, trying to hold onto the wall and not get sucked under. The river had risen over the opening at this part of the wall but was still flowing beneath her. She said her husband had gone under and he was nowhere to be seen. It was frightening. In my own struggle to get to her I let go of my niece and away she went down the river. I will forever feel bad about that. I helped the woman move over away from the fierce sucking and then my sister and step-son slammed into the wall between us, knocking my sister out of her tube and down she went before I could grab her. I thought she, too had gone under the now underground river. But then she popped up on the other side of me, and my son and I were able to get her back on her tube. I got the other lady back on her tube and told her to follow me out to the middle so we could get out of the cave. She was in a bad state, fearing she had lost her husband and I couldn't see since my headlamp had been knocked off.

I managed to get out of the cave and pull over to the side of the river. I couldn't see my neice or my mother but knew that she was with the guide. Then my brother-in-law told me they were OK and ahead of us. My niece had managed to get to the middle of the river and had floated down the river to where the guide could grab her. The distraught woman was finally helped back onto her tube by some other locals/guides after hearing her pleadings. They told us we couldn't get out here and had to travel further down the river. We did and then saw a large group pulled over to the side with several guides grabbing people as they went by and pulling them to safety. Everyone was there and safe, even the missing husband, who had somehow gotten away from the sucking action and floated down the river without a tube, finally grabbing onto my niece's tube as she went by. We were all frightened, emotional and thankful that we were all alive.

But we still had a ways to go. The guides told us there were no more caves and that we were only two minutes away from getting out. I told them we did not want to get back on the river but they said it was the only way out. Incredibly, back in we went and managed to get to the pull out spot safely. Again, there were many guides/locals at the pull out helping to grab people and pull them to the side.

As you can imagine, we were quite shaken up by the ordeal. I feel so guilty for getting my family into this excursion and not sensing the danger early enough. I was very grateful to our guide for taking care of my mother and keeping her safe. Though she's in great shape, this was something none of us anticipated. But I also let the guide know he made a tremendous error in judgement in allowing us to go forward. The speed and level of the water at the rope crossing should have been his warning signs.

So here are my new rules for cave tubing in Belize:
1. Err on the side of caution. If you see lots of rain clouds above and up river and the paths are very wet, don't go. Enjoy the lunch! It was great, even though we were shaking.
2. Don't take any weak swimmers, no matter their age.
3. Don't take children under 11 or 12 or older folks who aren't in great shape.
4. If it's hard to cross the river, Don't! Go have lunch.
5. Remember you're in a rain forest and conditions change. Be aware of your surroundings. You are ultimately responsible for your party.

I hope everyone will take these rules to heart. I'm sure this is a great excursion most of the time. But not all. God bless.

Irish Girl November 13th, 2007 07:58 PM

I was on the cave tubing excursion the first time Carnival stopped in Belize back in 2001. This was in November so it was the rainy season also. The guides had just macheted the trail through the jungle leaving small stumps that people were stubbing their toes on. People were tripping and falling during the walk. There were broken ankles, toes and sprains.

When we got to the river, we did not pair off, nor did the guides tell us what to do. There were no life vests available either. We just got in and went for it. After we got through the cave, a couple of us got caught up in the current and were pulled into some thorn bushes. The guy in front of me had his shirt ripped off him by the thorns, I saw myself going in right behind him. When I ducked to try to avoid the thorns, my tube was punctured and deflated. The water was deep and I wasn't able to touch, so I had to swim over to some other tubers.

After we got out of the river, I had cuts on my arms and a thorn in my butt that had to be removed. The other guy had cuts and blood was running right down his back.

This excursion is rated as Very active excursion involving constant effort. The excursion may require continual physical movement, including paddling, walking long distances, or climbing steep inclines.

I would never take children or older parents on this excursion. I know ours was unusual as it was the first one and we were the guinea pigs for it. We did get half of the cost reimbursed on our S&S cards because of all the trouble and injuries.

So, I know exactly what you're saying about cave tubing. Be careful and do research on excursions.

cherylroy November 13th, 2007 11:20 PM

Oh my goodness! What a scare! I am so thankful you all are ok. I also went on this excursion, however we had a grand time except for the fact it was slippery and I did twist my ankle. But, you pointed out some good things! Our river was not near like yours! I am glad you are all safe and sound! A lesson for us all!

Cruznut2 November 14th, 2007 03:28 AM

Thank you for posting this. In September of 2005 I considered taking a 65 year old woman with developmental disabilities on this tour. This would have been a disaster for her. I am glad I didn't.


Cassandra November 14th, 2007 09:40 AM

I'm just glad nobody has gotten killed yet. I still plan on doing this when we go on our cruise next October. Fortunately I'm a strong swimmer. But being a good swimmer doesn't do you squat if you don't know what to do in a emergency situation. It's the number one reason why people die in the water, they panic and they drown.

They really should give basic rescue courses in school at least for those schools that have swimming pools in the High Schools.

We had this in my Girl Scout camp, basic rescue & water safety. I never forgot the lessons.

lhp November 15th, 2007 07:26 PM

From what I have read about posts like this, Carnival has cancelled many of their tubing excursions due to high water. I remember this because the people whose booking was cancelled was mad as "you know what" and did an independent instead...

of course they came back and said everything was lovely and that Carnival had no "reason" to cancel their excursion "just because" of high water.

Thanks for sharing what really can happen, so people can make an informed decision!!

Salty Dog November 18th, 2007 07:37 PM

Anyone who does a tube or raft trip without an approved life jacket needs their head examining!!!!!

Style2k7 November 18th, 2007 10:37 PM

When we did this back in March of 2003 it was the complete opposite.
the water was really low and in some places you had to stand up and walk to a location with more water.

Irish Girl November 19th, 2007 05:01 PM

November is the end of the rainy season which runs from June - November.

RobRen November 21st, 2007 06:18 PM

We went in April and it was one of the best excursions we have ever been on. We booked through the ship.

I started talking to our guide during our walk through the jungle. He explained just how dangerous it can be after it rains and how the river paths change all the time during the rainy season. If it rains at all, they go back into the caves and map everything out. They do this each time it rains, that's how important it is.

Now, I would never take a young child or 80 year old, even if the water is totally calm.

When we went the water was between 1 inch and 40 feet. The river was as calm as could be so we had to paddle with our arms to really get anywhere. The only way you could ever get our of your tube was if you climbed out, not from the water.

That said, if I ever saw a wild river, I would turn around. Never would it be worth risking your life.

tigercat December 7th, 2007 11:38 PM

My husband and I did this but we went with a private tour. We were really thankful we did. We only had about 6 people in our group. We watched the tours from the ships go by and were flabergasted at how dangerous it was with them. There was a whirlpool at one point. Our tour guide took us out of the river just before it and had us go back into it after. We waited on the shore and watched the cruise tours went by. Our tour guide ended up having to go and save several people who got caught in the whirlpool. He started to yell for the tour guides to help him and to watch their people. Our tour guide didn't leave us at all. He watched over us very carefully.

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