By far my favorite day in Guatemala was spent exploring Semuc Champey National Park and adventuring around the river. I stayed at Greengo’s hotel, an isolated paradise deep in the jungle. From here I purchased a one-day Semuc Champey tour for $20 USD, which left at 9 am and returned just before sunset.
Our first stop was Semuc Champey National Park. Semuc Champey means underground river and you wouldn’t know why without closer inspection.
After arriving at Semuc Champey, we trekked for thirty minutes up the stairs and steep path through the jungle. Along the way spotting huge butterflies and iguanas. With little airflow and extreme humidity in within the trees, it was a sweat fest. When we finally reached the top I was dripping, but relieved to find a family selling mangoes and watermelon. Ain’t nothing better.
I walked out to the viewing platform and was blown away by what I saw. The cascading natural pools had carved their way in between huge mountains on either side of the gorge. Water tipped from one pool to the next before finally crashing down a huge waterfall, which is out of sight from the viewpoint. At this point, I was more than amazed by Semuc Champey but still didn’t understand what the underground river meaning was all about.
We trekked down another thirty minutes and arrived at the cascading pools. I was ready to jump in. However, our guide told us to head to the left. We followed him trusting his local knowledge and this is when I finally found out where and what the underground river was and why the area had the name Semuc Champey.
It was to date, one of the most incredible natural forms I had seen. Underneath the pools I had expected would be solid ground but there is actually a 300 meter long raging river. From this point we could see the beginning of the underground river before it flowed directly beneath us.
For the next two hours, I explored the cascading pools of Semuc Champey, which had underwater caves, places to jump from and warm crystal clear water. It is the kind of spot you bring a lunch to and spend the whole day!
We left the park and headed to the Semuc Champey Caves known as the Kanba Caves. I’ve been in a lot of caves, especially in Southeast Asia. Some of these tours are average some are great so I didn’t know what to expect. Before we entered the cave our guide handed me a candle. This was going to be interesting.
Before I knew it I was neck deep in the water, holding my candle above my head trying to swim in the darkness. We clambered up ladders, through holes and swam in the pitch dark until we reached the end fo the cave after twenty minutes. We didn’t just turn around and head back. In the deepest part of the cave is a little 5-meter jump. Normally no problems for most but the darkness and weird atmosphere in the cave even had me a slightly tentative. Nevertheless, I jumped and survived and had such an adrenaline rush during the whole cave experience.
That was our second adventure for the day we still had three to go! Up next we headed down to the river to enjoy a pretty epic rope swing. It is actually a normal swing with a seat but you are able to launch yourself into a flip at the end. Once again, you could hang out at this spot all day.
Onto our next adventure, we grabbed a tube and started floating down the river. You can do a tubing experience that runs for several hours and you get beer holders in your tube. However, as part of, the full-day tour, we just did a 30-minute cruise down the river. Young boys jump into the river on tubes to sell you ice-cold beers if you are looking for a refreshment. Along the river we passed families washing, bathing and hanging out by the banks of the river. It must be a crazy place to grow up in such a natural setting.
We got out of tubes and walked back alongside the river as trucks full of kids on their way to soccer practice zoomed past screaming at us. Our fifth and last adventure for the day was an optional bridge jump. The bridge was about 13 meters high and I told myself I was going to backflip from it and I hate backing out.
My legs were shaking profusely as I stood on the rails and then I just went for it. Landing perfect, no dramas. It was a great end to a long day of awesome adventures. I felt so full, so many good vibes flowed throughout myself and our group as we walked back to Greengo’s to recover over a good dinner of Shwarma.