Had I imagined I’d be in this situation, I’d never have entered the cave. Up to my neck in tepid water, I’m eyeing a hole above the surface not much larger than my head, which I will have to tilt at an unnatural angle to fit through. But there’s no going back – other members of our tour, including my wife and two teenage sons, are lined up in the narrow passage behind me. I block out the mounting panic and scrape my helmet through the keyhole.
To my relief, the corridor opens up on the other side and rises above the stream. Still, I’m amazed this adventure is permitted, let alone organized. Our tour of the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, an archeological marvel an hour’s drive from San Ignacio in Belize’s jungle–y interior, began with a brisk 45–minute hike, which included crossing a raging river while clinging to a rope. I couldn’t tell if our inscrutable Mayan guide, Emil, was joking about the crocodiles.