Belize Tube Trip
Home Up Roatan Catamaran

Mariner 2013 Story Part Two

The Belize River Tube Adventure

On the fourth day of the trip, 40 people from our group hopped on a bus to visit the Sibun River in Belize.  We were going to float down a lazy river through massive limestone caves while sitting in large tubes.

Marla and I had taken this same trip once before, so we knew it was fun.  But I also knew it was a pretty tame ride.  Instigator that I am, I decided to have a little fun.  I began to whisper that the jungles of Belize had more jaguars than any other part of Central America.  I fibbed and said we heard rustling in the bush on the previous trip.  It was probably nothing, I added. 

On the other hand, our guide was clearly worried about something...

Pictures of Belize

Belize - Home of the Jaguars

As with any good rumor, there was a kernel of truth.  Yes, Belize is a natural habitat of jaguars, but they are nocturnal creatures who sleep by day and hunt by night. They are rarely seen by the human eye.  But I didn't bother telling anyone that. 

As our group got situated on the bus driving to the Sibun River, I quickly discovered that Evan, our tour guide, was a wise cracker of the first magnitude.  Evan had all sorts of jokes.  He said if we didn't like the trip, we didn't have to pay for it.  But he hoped we had enough cab money for the ride back.  Then Evan said that he spoke five languages. He said that if we understood him, he was talking to us. But if we didn't understand him, he was talking about us.

Then Evan reminded us how much he trusted us to pay him at the end of the day. He pointed to a gigantic scowling Mr. T kind of guy at the back of the bus and said this guy's name was 'Mr. Understanding'.  Mr. Understanding was in charge of solving all problems and so far he had a perfect record for collection.

I took one look at the guy and 'understood' his spotless record completely. I don't think Mr. Understanding was ever taught to smile. When Evan added that Mr. Understanding was also in charge of handling complaints, I noticed we all kept our grumbling over the missing AC to little more than a peep. I could have really used this guy back when I ran SSQQ.

Once I realized Evan was willing to say just about anything for a grin, I began feeding him various lines to entertain the group.

For example, I reminded Evan that the jungles of Belize were a well-documented habitat for dangerous jaguars.  There were said to be more jaguars in Belize than anywhere else in Central America. 

With the jungle literally crawling with these dangerous cats, what was Evan going to do to protect us?

A hush came over the bus.  Obviously my whispering campaign had been effective.  Everyone wanted to hear Evan's answer to the question.  They did not know I was teasing.  However, one person was on to me.

Before Evan could even say a word, Jack Medley piped up, "Hey, we have nothing to worry about. Look at all the cougars we have on the bus to protect us!"

Jack was a little too quick for some of us.  It took several seconds for us all to get the joke, but once we figured it out, everyone on the bus applauded, Evan included.

What a great line!  So perfect for the moment and so spontaneous.  We all smiled. 

Jack is such a clever boy.  This was my
single favorite moment on the trip.

Jack Medley

Now that I think about it, Jack had a VERY GOOD TRIP.

Besides his memorable quip, Jack had several other highlight moments.  For one thing, he was the only person in our group who remembered how to do the Macarena on the night when Cindy Hudson hypnotized everyone. 

Those poor women were having so much trouble remembering what to do.  When Jack discovered the mass amnesia, he had to show various women the right way to put their hands on their appropriate body parts.  Tough job, but someone had to do it.

Then on the night of the ship's Disco Inferno performance, Jack got to dance the Hustle with countless smiling women.  Naturally Jack stole the show as the ship's videographer captured every exciting move. 

Best of all, Jack won the highly competitive onboard poker tournament. The reward was a free trip for two on the Royal Caribbean Oasis. Jack smiled as he said he was now accepting offers from anyone who wished to be his roommate on the trip.

This guy really knows how to play his hand.

Hail to the Chief

With each trip, Marla's experience pays off in ways that most of our guests are not even aware of.  A perfect example was our Belize River Adventure. 

Marla and I took this delightful trip back during our 2006 Rhapsody Cruise, so we already knew it was fun.  Naturally we wanted to share the experience. 

When Marla realized RCCL was charging $109 for this trip, she frowned.  That seemed kind of high.  Marla figured she could save the group a considerable amount of money by checking around.  Sure enough, Marla came up with a very satisfactory alternative.
 Marla negotiated the ridiculous low price of $50 a person by going outside the ship.

That is the power of a group - Marla was able to get a significant group discount by bargaining properly.  In the process, Marla saved everyone $60 a piece.

From the moment I first met Marla in 2001, I sensed she had a business acumen unlike any woman I had ever met before.  I may still beat her at Crossword, but when it comes to stuff that is important, Marla has a gift for seeing angles that completely escape me.  She grasps the ins and outs of the travel business so much more quickly than I do that sometimes I just sit back in awe.

I have a favorite axiom... "Beware the man who praises intelligent women.  He is preparing to quit his job."

That phrase fits me to a T.  Marla and I have an understanding. Marla helped me run SSQQ for nine years. SSQQ was the main event and our travel business was the sideshow.  After I sold SSQQ, I told Marla she was in charge now.  It was her travel business to run the way she saw fit. I promised to support her as best I could.

At this point, I work for Marla.  She's the brains of the operation.  I have no problem with that.  That should tell you how much I respect my talented wife.

Evan provided a very interesting rite of passage during our morning bus ride.

Evan knew full well that Marla had arranged this entire river tour on her own.  He also knew that Marla had talked his boss down.  But Evan didn't seem to mind a bit

And why should he?  Marla had put 40 people on his bus today.  In a poor country like Belize, a $2,000 payday was very much appreciated.

I noticed that Evan treated Marla with great respect at all times.  However I can't say he did the same for me.  To the delight of the crowd, Evan had a little fun at my expense.  Marla and I just happened to be sitting in the very front about two feet from Evan.  Once he figured out that I was a fellow smart aleck, Evan decided he was safe taking liberties with my dignity.  

When I began heckling Evan over something he said, Evan saw an opening. He grinned and decided to take me down a notch.  

Evan looked me over and said, "Just who are you anyway?  I see you are sitting next to Marla.  Are you by some chance Mr. Marla??"

Uh oh. I had that sinking feeling. Sure enough, the crowd on the bus howled.  They obviously enjoyed my well-deserved comeuppance.

What Evan didn't know was that no truer words have never been spoken.

Everyone has known who is in charge for some time now, but I am glad that Evan finally gave voice to the leadership transition.  The baton has passed.

Tubing down the Sibun River

I thought it was amazing that people can literally float through a cave.  But I was also curious how the cave had formed, so I asked Evan.  I told him that I assumed that water usually went around mountains, not through them.  

Evan answered that almost all cave systems are formed through limestone bedrock.  Limestone is a very soft, porous kind of rock.  Water trickles through small pores in the rock. Slowly but surely small openings become larger.

Over the eons, the Sibun River has seeped its waters through openings in the soft rock.  Erosion slowly created wider and wider openings until finally the entire river broke through with a clear channel to the other side of the mountain.

Apparently the water did a good job.  Take a look at the size of the cave mouth. 

I will let the pictures help tell the story of our event.


All in all, our river tube event was sheer fun.  However it did involve a little bit of work. 

The village where we picked up our tubes was the "End Point".  So it became our job to walk upriver to the point where we would enter the water.  This meant we had to carry our tubes for about 30 minutes to the place where we entered the water.

Part of our trip involved crossing the river at three different points. 


As you can see, the jungle walk was not particularly glamorous.  In fact, it was hard work and tiring. 

That said, the overhead canopy kept the temperatures very pleasant and gave us constant shade.  The tubes were no problem for the men and I noticed the ladies more than held their own.  I enjoyed the chance to chat with people as we trudged along.

I can't speak for the rest, but I enjoyed walking through the dense jungle foliage. 

I was careful to look around for jaguars, but as Jack predicted, the cougars made sure we were all safe.


This is the spot where our 2006 trip began.

This is the spot where our 2013 trip began.

Marla and I had done this same trip in 2006, so I was surprised when the jungle route seemed a bit different.  Then I noticed we started our river trip at a different point.  There were several obvious differences in the two starting points

First, in 2006 there was a ledge where I was able to leap into the pool from 10 feet above. 

Second, there was no beach in 2006 like we had in 2013.

Third, the water was blue in 2006, brown in 2013.

Fourth.  But the most notable difference was how shallow the water was.  The water in 2006 was deep enough to swim in, but we were able to easily wade through the water in 2013. 

I never found out why we had a different departure point, but I think our trip was a bit shorter as a result. I think there is another entry further up the road.  Oh well. I didn't tell anyone.  The group seemed happy, so why bring it up.

What I did do, however, was ask Evan why the water was so shallow.  He answered that the rainy season begins in June and goes all summer long through September.  Since this was April, the water was very low. 

Another difference is that they tethered our tubes together in groups of eight.  I didn't understand this at all.  We had floated separately back in 2006.

I would have much preferred to float freely on my own like I did the last time.  

However I soon learned the reason for the tether. Since the rainy season would not start till June, here in April the water was pretty low in some spots.  As a result, the water current was so weak that a guide had to pull us down the entire river.  Although we were able to float, we basically just sat there.  So they tied the tubes together so the guides could pull us.

There were about six different spots where our guides literally had to drag us across the rocks.  Otherwise we would have just sat there until the rainy season began.  

It didn't take long to learn the reason for the company's nickname "Butts Up". Several times my backside became well acquainted with the rocks below.

Fortunately the rocks weren't sharp.  I should know; a couple times I didn't get my butt up fast enough.

We all had little lights on our helmets.  Although I enjoyed looking at the walls of the cavern, I have to admit the pictures of the cave were not exactly breath-taking. 

Still, you wouldn't know the pictures were boring if you didn't see them.  Unlike our previous trip, at least this time I was able to get some pictures.

On our first trip down the Sibun River in 2006, I didn't get a single photograph.  Why not?  I was afraid my camera would get wet. So I didn't dare bring my camera into the river.

Irritated that I came away with no pictures on our previous visit, in preparation for this trip I had Marla find me a waterproof carrying kit. This way if the water was too rough, I could simply put the camera in the protective case.

Consequently I was able to photograph the entire tubing trip complete with action shots of people screaming as their butts scraped the river bottom. Ta da!

Except the screamers said I was dead if I used the pictures.

There were all sorts of formations in the cave.

I quickly learned a good imagination helps. As we passed various formations, in the dim light our guides would suggest that this stalactite resembled the Titanic and another one was the Madonna with a baby on her lap.

I didn't connect with any of their suggestions, but I suppose when you do this once a day year-round, you do indeed begin to hallucinate a bit. Or maybe some of local marijuana helps.

Marla said this formation was a giant ice cream cone. 

I'll take her word for it.

Here's an obvious crack in the ceiling. 

They said limestone was a very porous rock.  As I looked up, here was the evidence. 

I noticed water seeping through the crack.  I could not help but wonder if this section might collapse into the water someday.


This is the Madonna holding her child. 

This is Debra pointing at the Madonna formation. 
Pretty exciting, huh?


As you can see, the water isn't every deep. 

Our caravan of eight had to be physically carried through the water practically the entire trip because the current was so slow. 

If given a choice, I would definitely prefer the trip in the rainy season. 

I liked the independence of not being tied up and I much preferred floating in deep water to floating in shallow water.  Plus the current was swift enough to carry us without assistance needed.

That said, the 2013 experience was still fun this way. 


I would say we were in the cave for 30 minutes.  Then we spent another 20 minutes floating outside the cave.

The water outside the cave was very shallow.

Here you can see the rocks just below the surface.

This was one of the spots where the man had to literally drag all the tubes forward across the rocks.

As usual we are lifted our butts as high as we could to avoid having them scraped raw. 

My tube companions warned me no shots of this procedure were necessary.  They were kind of hostile about my camera use.

I think the girls didn't feel very pretty with their massive orange life vests on. 

We all died a million deaths as the man openly strained and grunted pulling us across the rocks.

We each looked at each with guilt. 

It seemed like the group ahead of us had crossed with less effort.

We were kind of low in the water, weren't we?  

Maybe we shouldn't have had that second portion of carrot cake last night. 

Once the water deepened again, this sunny part of the trip became very pleasant.  What a thrill to be floating along with this stunning jungle surrounding us.

Unfortunately, there was one person in our group that wasn't very happy.  Thanks to Debra, I learned that poor Cindy Hudson had a serious snake phobia.

I was incredulous to discover that Circe the Wild One had human weaknesses like the rest of us.  Till now I had only viewed her with apprehension due to her near-mythological powers. 

Now that we knew the woman had an Achilles Heel, we took turns asking the guide about water snakes.  Or we would point to long dangerous sticks floating by. Was that a stick or a snake?

Rough crowd!  Unfortunately, judging by the pale worried look on her face, I think the teasing worked.

Cindy was almost certain this would be the day when a water moccasin would bite her in the butt.  Cindy, a noted karaoke enthusiast, definitely did not appear to be in a singing mood.


Of course there was one more picture that had to be taken!  Butts up, everyone!


Our Next Story: Catamaran!!

Mariner 2013 - Circe Mariner 2013 - Belize Mariner 2013 Catamaran Mariner 2013 Cozumel Passengers Formal Pictures
SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ