Enjoy the Natural Wonder of Guatemala, Semuc Champey, through an HD adventure travel video from 2 Backpackers, Jason and Aracely Castellani, while visiting the jungle in Lanquín, Guatemala. In travel video episode #3, we trek a few hours through thick jungle with our guide and other friends. After climbing up and down steep steps, we arrive to the peaceful turquoise pools of Semuc Champey. Enjoy the show!
After a long and exhausting 10 hour bus ride from Panajachel, Guatemala in a cramped shuttle bus we finally arrived in the small town of Lanquín, but without hostel reservations. We were now traveling with Andy and Paulina, travelers from London we met a few days ago.
Semuc Champey Hostels
Our shuttle dropped us off at El Retiro Hostel where most of those that traveled in the shuttle with us were staying. Luckily, as soon as we stepped off the van we were approached by a man who showed us pictures of El Portal. “It’s only meters from Semuc Champey,” he said. The pictures were of beautiful cabins in a jungle setting. He quoted us Q40 (about $5) per person with a private bathroom. Once we negotiated free transportation to the location we hopped in the back of his pickup truck for an exciting 20 minute ride down a winding dirt road that led us further into the depths of the Guatemalan jungle. After traversing a wooden bridge whose loose boards jolted when the heavy truck road over them, we arrived at El Portal.
Semuc Champey from Above
The next morning, with Paulina, Andy and Ari (who was also staying at the same hostel), we departed El Portal at 9:00am for our tour with our Spanish speaking guide, Toto. Semuc Champey is a magical place offering panoramic views of natural jungle beauty. To get there, you must take a steep 30 minute hike up natural and man made steps. A lookout deck is built into cliffs at the top of the climb. Everyone rushed to get out their cameras for views of stunning turquoise pools and a lush green paradise. The sight gave us a burst of energy to continue our trek for the 30 minute decline to the river’s edge.
Arriving to Semuc Champey
As we neared the river, sunlight glistened off the turquoise water, making it’s way through the last remaining trees. The entrance of the Cahabon river roars from a strong waterfall that rushes into a tunnel underneath the naturally formed limestone pools.
The water is actually crystal clear, but a turquoise color is emitted as it reflects off different types of rocks. After taking a few pictures we were instructed by our guide that we could not take any cameras beyond this point. “You must swim your way from one end of a pool to the other end and then jump into the next pool making your way down the 300 meters just before the exit tunnel.” He took all of our bags, handed them to native workers on the river’s edge and then led us through each pool allowing us to enjoy the scenic view and a refreshing swim.
Caving, A Guatemala Adventure
Our guide began to tie a rope to a rock just a few steps away from the top of a waterfall. Toto gave no instructions yet; we just watched and tried to guess what was going to happen next. It was explained to us that we each needed to repel down the waterfall by holding on tightly to the rope tied around the rock above. One by one Toto would tap at our feet indicating which foot he wants us to move next, since it will be too loud in the waterfall for us to hear him. “You will do this until I tell you to sit,” he continued. Aracely descended first. It took about ten steps down with heavy water splashing on her head before he yelled out, “Sientate (sit).” She sat, and found herself sitting behind the rock wall of the waterfall she just repelled down.
It was a large beautiful cave with stalactite formations everywhere. There are no pictures, because we didn’t have a waterproof camera at the time. After looking around we asked ourselves, “How are we going to get out of here?” Toto began to tie yet another rope. This time he tied it to the stalagmite formations and threw the rope into a narrow opening which led down further near the rushing river below. “You have to crawl your way through this narrow hole while holding on tightly to the rope. When you get to the other side lay down on your stomach and let yourself slide down the rock slowly.” Aracely went first and we soon followed. We were now looking at the exit tunnel of the Cahabon River. It was in great contrast to the quiet pools we just swam in. We rested for a few minutes in this loud echoing wave crashing cave.
12 Meter Jump
We climbed back up just above the cave, but not yet through the waterfall we previously repelled. We had two options at this point. We could jump 12 meters (40 feet) down from this cliff or climb back up the waterfall. Before he finished his sentence he launched himself into the air down to the river. From below he waived his hand at us, inviting us to join him. We all stared at each other in disbelief that our guide just left us. Ari, Andy and I jumped. Paulina and Aracely climbed up the waterfall. Us guys originally tried to entice the girls to jump, but once we climbed back up to the top we were relieved they didn’t. The climb back up didn’t involve any ropes or assistance, and as Andy put it bluntly, “I didn’t think I was going to make it up… alive.”
After an eventful morning, we headed back to El Portal for lunch. Aracely and I had a second tour booked for that afternoon. We explored the KanBa Caves.