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“Caves Branch Jungle Lodge” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge

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Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Mile 41.5 Hummingbird Highway | P.O. Box 356, Belmopan, Belize   |  
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Washington DC
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Caves Branch Jungle Lodge”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 15, 2008

Imagine a place of adventure . . .
. . . where you live in a cabana tucked away in the jungle, climb underground waterfalls in the pitch blackness of the deepest caves, and hike through the jungle to rappel down a cliff face - suspended hundreds of feet over the rain forest canopy . . .
. . . where you can enjoy the company of wonderful people who help you experience the magnificence of a their country.

From Goldson International Airport we were picked up by Reuben. It was a pleasant drive to the Lodge, and a chance to relax after a long morning’s flight. As I sat, I watched mist-shrouded mountains brimming with dense foliage, pass by our window. We drove through the odd village, our driver nodding and waving to familiar passersby.

Upon our arrival to Caves Branch, we met Walter, who took our bags and introduced us to our new home - the Jungle Cabana. Caves Branch is situated within the living jungle itself. The sounds of the rain forest filled our ears, the chattering of monkeys, the chirping of insects, and the calls of birds. It is also home to numerous species of orchid and plant, all lovingly tended to by the resident gardener, and arboretum designer, Chan.

Beautiful orchids and towering trees made for an incredible impression . . . I remember looking up into the sky through an amazing variety of plants, seeing the massive palms with thick fronds waving gracefully in the air.

The cabana was a comfortable affair hidden amidst the flora of the Belize wilderness. With a deep, comfortable bed, full bathroom, indoor and outdoor showers, and personal bottled water supply, I was more than content to relax for the rest of our trip . . . especially with a personal supply of cuddly towel-animals we had found populating the room on arrival (some day I need to figure out how they did that!).

So, with our bags safely stowed in the cabana, we entered the Caves Branch Lodge. With a veranda style dining area, numerous chess boards, and high-speed internet, the Lodge was a comfortable respite from the surrounding jungle. The food was amazingly delicious . . . fresh fruits and fresh local foods were prepared with love and attention. Each day a new dish was created. All the visitors dined together and we had the chance to meet many other fascinating travelers.

Our first adventure was called "The Black Hole Drop." This is perhaps the most formidable of any Caves Branch activity - and one that should not be missed. We hiked up and up through the jungle on winding paths, trekking along parts that only seemed to resemble a path at times. At the top, we peeked over the edge of a cliff. 300 yards below was an immense, wide basin of forest canopy. We were to rappel down this sheer cliff face! Well, it was the thought of lunch awaiting us at the bottom that gave me the courage to hop over the edge.

Hovering over the rain forest canopy, suspended several hundred feet above the ground, it was absolutely spectacular. As I hung, weightless in the air, the cliff face having receded well away from arm’s reach, I slowly spun. Dense trees below in every direction yet one. There the jungle surrounded the gaping maw of a massive cave - its presence made more prominent, not only by its size, but by its intense blackness within the rich greenery.

In fact, the entire valley was a huge sinkhole over a network of collapsed caves - the Black Hole, one of the last reminders of these huge undergound structures..

As I hung, with a gravity-defying view, I regret that I was a little too nervous to pull out our new HD video camera, and sadly, didn’t capture any video footage of the drop… But then again, it’s an experience you can only truly fulfill in person.

At the bottom, slightly exhausted and hungry, we watched as, in a daring display of technical wizardry, one of our guides rocketed down in a dazzling display of speed and skill to land featherlight and grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Lunch was set up in a small clearing - fresh eggs, cheeses, lunch meats, toppings, and tortilla bread were provided so we could make our own wraps. Now with a bit of rest and with satisfied bellies, we headed off again, zig zagging back up to finally meet the trail we had earliet taken. Of course, during the trek back, several Howler Monkeys made their presence known as they, well, howled with gusto. . . the serenade intensified for miles by the echoes created in the valley.

Our second adventure was to be a trek through a cave along an underground stream.

We rode over in a hay trailer, trundling along behind a tractor.
Again, we hiked through the dense jungle until we came to a large opening in a towering cliff face. We all paused to take stock before adjusting our helmets and entering.

We clambered over rocks, waded through pools, crawled under tight spaces, and climbed waterfalls . . . all in a deep blackness lit only by our helmet lights (and the occassional camera flash).

Massive stalactites hung dauntingly from the ceiling, while equally massive stalagmites rose mightily from the floor. Small currents wound around rocks and boulders, forming pools in some areas and rushing strongly through tight spaces. I took the time to use the night-vision equipped video camera and film portions of our journey (at least, those I could without falling flat on my face).

When we arrived at our first waterfall (there would be 7 total), we paused to leave our packs (and my camera) aside - in the high and dry. We also put on our climbing harnesses since we would need those to ascend some of the higher falls.

When my turn arrived, I leapt into the pool below the falls. It was a bit daunting since I was wearing jeans as well as boots, but I kicked and swam till I was under the falls, gasping as the water sprayed around me. I made it up aided by our guide who showed me which rocks to grasp and which crevices to grip. We pushed onward, making our way through the pools and the falls in much the same manner - occasionally with the assistance of ropes and our harnesses - until we had—at last—completed all seven falls.

We'd reached the end of our journey. It was time to turn back. Going back was easier as we were able to slide down most of the falls. Of course, the largest was about 15 feet tall. We all, one by one, stood at the top and leapt off into the pool below. I was ecstatic. I had no difficulty jumping off the lip of the falls into the pool below, sinking deeply and resurfacing, splashing, my head-beam darting wildly about as I swam to the far edge. Several more smaller leaps and bounds later, we found ourselves reunited with our gear.

Here, our guides spread a tablecloth over a huge flat-topped boulder and set out our lunch. To the light of only our helmets, we sat and munched, drenched (but warm) and ate home-made tortillas with eggs and lunchmeats, much like we had eaten on the Black Hole Drop.

Our mission completed, we stumbled out of the cavern, clambered aboard our trailer and promised to return again to experience the wonders of thesse caves.

There are, of course, more offerings of a more relaxed nature.
For instance,
. . . there's a nearby swimming area called the Blue Hole - named for its dazzling blue waters. . .
. . . you can walk nearby trails to explore Mayan artifacts or be taken to famous Mayan archeological sites . . .
. . . you can go cave tubing in which you float down the river in inner tubes - and some float through caves . . .
. . . or just stay at the lodge to enjoy the surroundings, visit the arboretum, and sip drinks along the veranda.

Whatever you do, be assured it will be a beautiful experience - one I would love to repeat again and again.

Oh, my! I can't forget, but Ian Anderson, owner and driving force behind Caves Branch, co-founded the Belize National Youth Chess Foundation a few months ago. Recently claiming international attention, the foundation allows children throughout Belize the opportunity to learn and play chess . . . not only is it incredibly fun for the kids, but it increases their critical thinking skills!

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558 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (191)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Venice, CA
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 21, 2008

My boyfriend and I took a cab to Caves Branch. We attempted to take the bus, but when we got to the bus station, we found out it would be a 2 hour wait for the next bus, and we just wanted to get there by dinner time. We later took the bus back. It's pretty easy actually and not to bad at all. Its the bus station in Belize City thats a little sketchy.
Our room, room #1, one of the jungle suites only had electricity for the ceiling fan and bathroom light. The only light we had in our room was 2 oil lamps. Admittantly it was kind of neat. We spent a total of about $1,000 for 2 people with a 3 night all inclusive package, with 2 adventures included. It was a ton of money for such rustic settings. What you are really paying for is the adventures of a lifetime, and for the meals, and not the accomodations.
The meals are all you can eat buffet, and all you can drink local booze and beer. At first all you can eat seems fantastic! But after you stuff yourself uncomfortable every night at 20 a meal, you realize, it would be better to have normal portions.
Bring the bug spray, but regardless of how often you spray it, you WILL get bug bites.
The lodge area is pretty neat. But there is not much to entertain you after dinner. Its a good thing the day time adventures are so fun and exhausting and well run, that after dinner, all you want to do is sleep. We went to sleep at 9 every night and were ok with that.
At dinner time, the employees always make sure to seat a bunch of strangers at a table together so you meet people! I like that they do this. However, after hours, there is only so much to keep you busy. They have 2 board games, Trivial Pursuit and something else. Very few books and crappy old magazines. I suppose you could say, that they are providing such little nighttime entertainment, so that you make more personal connections. However, because Caves Branch is so far from the town, and there is no other option to entertain yourself, I wished they provided SOME sort of entertainment after dinner. There was none provided. Perhaps one tv, with one movie showing a night, would be a start. Or trivia night, or something of this nature.
The adventures are amazing and the tour guides are the best. Abel, who has been working at Caves Branch for 13 years, is awesome. He has been running tours at Caves Branch since he was 18, and it shows. He is very knowledgeable, very friendly, and will chat your ear off if thats what you are looking for. He seems to feel the situation out good, if you are feeling chatty or not. He pointed out the village he grew up in to us, about an hour outside of Caves Branch.
The tours are unforgettable. My boyfriend and I did the waterfalls in the caves tour! Something we have never done or imagined and it was amazing. I hear the ATM caves tour is even more so!
At 1000 for 3 nights for 2 people, it seems worth it, but only because of the adventures. I don't think the actual resort had such great accomodations, service or meals that made it worth the money. Thank god for the adventure aspect. besides I have a feeling that is why most people go there anyway.

  • Liked — The operated tours are amazing! They take care of everything and you get the experience of a lifetime
  • Disliked — How expensive it was for such basic, rustic accomodations
  • Stayed July 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 9, 2008

This destination is not for everyone -- and that's just the way we liked it! The daytime adventures were exciting and educational. The staff and guides were friendly, knowledgeable and fun. This is best for those who like to be active (days are spent rafting, caving, hiking, rappelling, etc), like nature (because you'll be sleeping and sometimes showering in it), friendly (you go on adventures and take your meals with other guests) and can live without TV, hairdryers and long hot showers.

I loved it and so did my teenaged daughters (13 and 15) -- we'll remember this trip forever.

  • Liked — activities
  • Disliked — cold showers
  • Stayed June 2008, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Minneapolis
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 26, 2008

Ian Anderson's Caves Branch was our Favorite family vacation! We have three boys ages 15, 10 and 7 and one girl, 18. We all Loved Caves Branch. The guides were Excellent, never once were we afraid yet we experienced the thrill of our adventures! We did the black hole drop, cave tubing/exploration, horseback riding and ruins tour. The food was great! The treehouse was amazing! We didn't have any large spiders or bugs in our room. Everything was very clean. We have been to Canada, Bahamas, Alaska, Costa Rica, Oregon, and many other places and Belize is our all time favorite. If you want to truly experience an amazing vacation go to Belize. Hang out in the jungle at Caves Branch for 5 nights then go to Ambergris Caye for a few nights, you will have the vacation of a lifetime!! Don't even hesitate booking at Cave's Branch....you'll love it!!!!

  • Liked — Amazing Jungle Experience
  • Stayed March 2008, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, CA
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 30, 2008

We stayed here for three nights during our honeymoon and wish we had stayed twice as long! From the lodging to the food, to the amazing adventures and wonderfull staff- We loved every second of our stay.

We were in one of the jungle treehouse suites which was gorgeous and roomy. The jungle shower was one of my favorite features. Nice way to cool off in the afternoon.. when you're not busy with a dip at the Blue Hole. I thought the decor was beautiful. The screens really let in the sounds of the jungle howler monkey's were a favorite! A few little critters found their way in, but the hubby shoo'd them back outside and we were fine.

The food was delicious and filling and we loved the family style dining. We made friends and had tons of fun swapping stories of our adventures, drinking Belikins and playing Uno into the wee hours.

The adventures were incredible and the guides were tremendous. We couldn't thank them enough.

We definitely plan to come back. It's a great place run by wonderful people.

  • Liked — Everything!
  • Stayed May 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Chicago, IL
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed May 7, 2008

Caves Branch is a great place if you are looking for somewhere in Belize where you can actually find an all-inclusive option, and the adventures they offer are wonderful.

It is not, however, a place to stay if you are backpacking. Everywhere else in Belize you pay about $3-5 US for a large meal - here you pay $17 US, and there are no towns substantially close to eat your meals at instead. They do offer a bunkhouse for $15/night, but that is pretty much outweighed by the $34+ you have to pay for your food. The staff also didn't seem quite as nice if you weren't going to pay that much for food (we ate granola bars and peanut butter most of the time we were there).

We had a wonderful time on the adventures, however, and definitely thought that Caves Branch offered a lot. The Cave Drop was great! The lodging was great and the common lodge was beautiful. The outdoor jungle showers were also fun. We saw and met a lot of families there, which might be because they will definitely take care of everything for you if you don't want to try to handle figuring out things for your family to do.

  • Stayed March 2008, traveled with friends
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bellingham, Washington
Top Contributor
56 reviews 56 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 26 cities Reviews in 26 cities
37 helpful votes 37 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 30, 2008

My boyfriend and I spent our first night in Belize at the Caves Branch Lodge. When we arrived, the staff greeted us warmly and gave us each a complimentary drink (rum punch, which we drank plenty of while in Belize). Because it was the slow season, they upgraded us to an absolutely beautiful treehouse suite.

We had dinner there that night, which was very good, and met other tourists. Bring bug spray!

The only, well, interesting thing was that we had a HUGE cockroach (6 inches, no exaggeration) crawling around our ceiling before we went to bed that night. It finally fell to the floor and we scooted it outside (after several girlish screams from my boy:) It rained very hard that night, which sounded cool on the metal roof , and was sunny and beautiful the next morning.

We didn't sign up for any of the tours as we were antsy to travel the rest of the country, but they came highly recommended from the other tourists; Tikal especially.

All in all, the food was very good, the staff was very friendly, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It was more expensive than most of the places we stayed later on in our trip, but it was worth it.

A travel tip: if you want to see as much of Belize as you can, rent a car. It's more expensive than going by bus or shuttle but we saw so much more than we would have, if we would have depended on other modes of transportation. We rented through Jabiru rentals as it was the most cost-effective. Towards the end of our trip, when we were ready to go to Caye Caulker, we left our car at the Water Taxi and they came and picked it up for us.

  • Liked — The beautiful setting
  • Stayed October 2007, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge

Address: Mile 41.5 Hummingbird Highway | P.O. Box 356, Belmopan, Belize
Phone Number:
Location: Belize > Cayo > Belmopan
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 9 Specialty Lodging in Belmopan
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 24
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Adventure Travel is what Caves Branch was built on and Adventure Travel is still what Caves Branch is all about. But over the years, the Caves Branch jungle lodge has evolved from extremely rustic Jungle River Camp with outhouses and bathing in the river to our most recent 5 Star Luxury Tree Houses with roof top decks and hot tubs to relax under the stars above. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Ian Anderson`s Caves Branch Jungle Hotel Belmopan
Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge Belize/Belmopan

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