New facility at ATM Archeological site inaugurated
Sunday, March 17th, 2013
The Government of Belize through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture inaugurated a new facility at the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) archaeological site located on the outskirts of Teakettle Village in the Cayo District. The inauguration ceremony took place on the morning of Thursday, March 7th and was spearheaded by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) through the Belize Sustainable Tourism Project (STP). Located in heart of the Tapir Mountain Forest Reserve, the archeological site is co-managed by the Belize Audubon Society and National Institute for Culture and History (NICH).
Actun Tunichil Muknal, also referred to as the Cave of the Stone Sepulchre, is approximately 45 minutes from San Ignacio Town and is considered one of the most spectacular subterranean Maya archaeological sites in the region. The caves at the archeological site is characterized by a series of chambers (some requiring swimming access) housing substantial remains of sacrificial ceremonies that includes pottery and human remains.
According to BTB, 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 and district. While visitation to the area are strictly monitored and can only be done by a few selected, well trained tour guides, improving the facility was important especially since it is fast becoming recognized as it is documented worldwide. “The Actun Tunichil Muknal archeological site is an extremely important destination not only because of its popularity with foreign visitors but also because of its preservation as a cultural icon. This site has been featured in many international magazine and television documentaries that promote Belize and as such we should ensure its conservation and integrity,” said Heredia as he explained that the facilities will improve the tourism product at ATM.
He also spoke of future investment. “There are other developments planned for this park, such as a new picnic pavilion, a new parking area and improvement to the road that the Government of Belize and its partners will be shortly undertaking. In order to continue to grow ATM to become a true world class attraction and facility, such an investment in the new bathroom facility was essential,” underscored Heredia.
The ATM got improvement to its visitor facilities and includes complete male and female restrooms, shower facilities, changing rooms, hand-wash basins incorporating a water reservoir system and a septic and sewage maintenance systems. It will replace outdoor latrines and the small thatch roof shacks that were not the best for visitors to the site. The cost to the facility is estimated at Bz $192,488, which was obtained through a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank through the STP.
The cave system was discovered in 1989 and opened to the public in 1998, with current visitation restricted to specific tour operators. The ATM site 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.
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