The Belize Tourism Board and Ministry of Culture and Tourism, along with the National Institute of Culture and History, held an inauguration ceremony for the newly built visitor’s facilities at the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave in the Cayo District on Thursday, March 7, 2013.
Improvement of visitor facilities at ATM included a complete male and female restroom, shower facility changing rooms and hand washing basins, incorporating a water reservoir system and a septic and sewage maintenance system.
Kenote Speaker – Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. – Minister of Tourism and Culture
Keynote speaker for the event was Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Culture, stated that The Actun Tunichil Muknal Archaeological Reserve is an extremely important destination, not only because of its popularity with foreign visitors, but also because of its preservation as a cultural icon.
He continued on by stating that the site has been featured in many international magazines and television documentaries that promote Belize, and as such we must ensure its conservation and integrity.
Other developments planned for this park such as new picnic pavilions, new parking area, and improvements to the road are being planned by the Government of Belize and its partners to ensure the growth of the ATM site into a true world class attraction and facility.
“My Ministry is commitment in improving the capital infrastructure at our cultural and tourism destinations,” stated Hon. Manuel Heredia. “My Ministry is also keen on stewarding the implementation of best practices in terms of the service we provide, and on striving for efficiency at all levels; these are highlighted by the development of management manuals for our Archaeological Sites that was initiated by the Institute of Archaeology in 2012. In our upcoming fiscal year, this work will continue via the establishment of Health and Safety Standards for our main archaeological sites around the country.”
Heredia also stated that the inauguration of the facilities is of great importance as the past facilities were almost non-existent, consisting of one very rudimentary bathroom facility with outside wash basin. This lowered the quality of the visitor’s experience, as well as presented environmental concerns and security risks for visitors to the site.
Later on that day the Belize Tourism Board and Ministry of Tourism and Culture also inaugurated the new Cayo Welcome Center in San Ignacio. All together the works in the Cayo District by the Sustainable Tourism Project comprise an investment of a little over $4 Million Belize Dollars by the Government, in western Belize.
Actun Tunichil Muknal lies in the heart of the Tapir Mountain Forest Reserve approximately 45 minutes from San Ignacio town. It is one of the most spectacular subterranean Mayan archaeological sites in the region, characterized by a series of chambers (some requiring swimming access) housing substantial remains of sacrificial ceremonies that includes pottery and human remains.
The cave system was discovered in 1989 and opened to the public in 1998, with current visitation restricted to specific tour operators. The ticket office is several hundred yards before the car park within a joint station with Belize Audubon Society presence for managing Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve.
NICH has recently purchased 5 acres of land at the entrance to the cave. There are plans by Institute of Archaeology to move the ranger station to the area at the gateway to the cave and the site of the new bathrooms.
Fundamental Importance of ATM
*95% of all tours to ATM originate from San Ignacio, therefore any improvements resulting in increased visitation will result in positive economic impact to the town.
*ATM is the most documented archaeological site in the country in terms of media coverage (past features on ABC, BBC, National Geographic, and the Travel Channel) and is a unique selling point for Belize internationally.