This excursion includes a one hour drive into the interior of Belize, a hike along the river that you will be tubing down, tubing down the river through some very long caves and the drive back to the tender port.
I had selected Reggie's Tours because they had very good reviews and they didn't seem like they took large groups. I didn't want to be in a huge chain of people going down the river. We had sent in a $10 deposit for each of us when we registered, which was good because we were very late getting off the ship.
I was convinced that we did not have enough time for this excursion, but my wife convinced me to see if they were still waiting for us. We started walking down the street towards the location the instructions had said to go and within a couple of minute a pleasant young man called my name. To my surprise he picked me out. After discussing the time and the fact that we were the only couple that had booked with Reggie, we decided that we did have enough time and we headed out.
Our guide's name was Dennis and he is Reggie's son-in-law. Dennis was extremely knowledgeable and acted as both our driver and guide. Our transportation was a small van which was old, but safe and it had air conditioning. Dennis talked with us the whole drive about the different parts of Belize that we drove through.
Once at the cave area which is a national park area that the government runs, Dennis handled all of the permits and had all of the required equipment. There were a large number of local guides looking for groups that did not already have certified guides, but we did not need them. We could tell that some companies typically deal with large numbers of people in each group. I am glad that we went with a smaller company.
The hike was 30 - 40 minutes long, so it is important to know that going in. It wasn't very strenous and Dennis pointed out different types of trees and plant life along the way. We got to the first point to enter the caves and entered the river at that point. If we had gotten off the ship earlier, we could have walked further down the trail and had a longer journey down the river, but we didn't really have the time.
The cave was much larger than I had expected and it was definately interesting to go through them with just head lamps. The water level was a little low, but there was no area that we had to get up and walk.
After the tubing we changed clothes and headed back to Belize City to catch our tender.
Overall this was one of the best times of our trip, but I would recommend getting started as early as possible. I would highly recommend Reggie's Tours (regtourbz.com). They are not one of companies that crowd the tender port and try to hawk their services. They only come if there have people scheduled. I spoke with someone on another ship who had booked the same excursion through their ship and he said that they had paid over $100 per person and that it did not include transportation to the caves. Reggie's only cost us $45 per person.
As it turned out, we either didn't get off the ship early enough or our plans were too ambitious. By the time we got to Play del Carmen we only had a couple of hours before we had to catch the ferry back to Cozumel in order to get back onto the ship. So, we canceled the trip to Tulum and instead had a relaxing visit with my wife's pen pal who had immigrated to Mexico from Germany some 20 years ago.
The beach at Playa del Carmen is a beautiful white sand beach and there is a large number of shops and restaurants along the beach. We found a beach side restaurant and had some drinks and enjoyed a relaxing visit. We also walked along the beach before heading back to the ferry.
I wish we would have had the time to go to Tulum, but I think the only sure way of making it would be to book the excursion through the ship.
Once the group was organized at the port, we were bused to a dock with a large pontoon boat. The staff running the boat were very professional and very entertaining. It took about 20 minutes to motor out to the edge of the reef where we anchored. The equipment that was provided was in very good condition and the reef was very close.
We enjoyed snorkeling around the reef for a good amount of time and saw a wide variety of fish. From there we motored to another site for the sting ray interaction. I do not think this was the famous Sting Ray City, but the area still had a good number of rays. This was a little too much crowding around the staff who handled the rays, but I enjoyed separating from the crowds and watching the rays swim around without worrying about touching them.
As I said the staff was excellent and on the way back to the shore we were able to purchase drinks and souvenirs. Once we got back to the bus we were giving the option to be dropped off at the Seven Mile Beach to be picked up later to get back to the ship.