The Chiquibul Cave System (CCS) is located within the Chiquibul National Park. It is the largest known network of cave systems in Central America with 65 km of passages mapped along with more than 60 sinkholes. The surface is covered with an exuberant broadleaf forest containing archaeological, geological, and biological assets. The largest cave room in the Western Hemisphere is considered to be found in the Chiquibul Cave System. Flowing under is the Chiquibul River that forms part of the headwaters of the Belize River Watershed; distributing water for recreational use, crop-irrigation, hydropower, and drinking water for more than 130,000 Belizeans.
In 2008, Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) entered in a co-management agreement with the Institute of Archaeology for the onground management and administration of this cave. Management of this cave is guided by a five-year management plan. The goal of the management plan is to maintain the Chiquibul Cave System as a world class heritage site within the Chiquibul Forest recognizing its great cultural, archaeological, geological and biological significance. The vision is to promote, conserve and protect the biological, geological, and cultural environments of the internationally recognized and unique Chiquibul Cave System in a sustainable manner for Belize and the world.
The Chiquibul Cave System is a window into the cultural past of the area. The Institute of Archaeology considers the entire CCS an archaeological site. Within the cave system there are several chambers that hold archaeological artifacts. Artifacts within the caves are vulnerable to looting but a number of artifacts are still in place and undoubtedly, many still remain, undetected.
This huge cave system is the underground passage of the Chiquibul River. The system consists of four big caves and numerous sinkholes, which were extensively explored during the late 1980’s. These caverns are known as Kabal, Tunkul, Cebada, and Xibalba.
There is much cultural significant artifacts within the cave system. Caves were seen as a portal to a mystical underworld for the Mayas. It was a sacred place where their gods dwelled and where ceremonial activities were practiced. The CCS provides that portal to the past. Incensarios, Pots, Manos and Metates, burials and alters, can all be found within the CCS providing evidence for cultural and spiritual activities within the cave system.
The Chiquibul Cave System forms part of the cultural and historical aspect of our History and opens many doors for exploration and study by offering the opportunity for research in areas of archaeology, paleontology and geology. The cave system offers a vast amount of information, waiting to be explored. Explorations, mapping and inventory inside the caves have occurred but there is limited data regarding the cultural aspect of the cave.