Okay, This is my first review on Trip Advisor and probably only one of a handful as I never take the time or am moved enough to sit down and thoughtfully share my thoughts. I expect good to be good, great to be great and wow to be wow, so why write a review when my expectations are met? I also think if one is doing a good service to fellow travelers, a review should be lengthy enough to answer all the questions I would have when deciding on a place.
I travel a lot for work and for pleasure. Little overwhelms me when planning or engaging. Belize is a difficult trip to plan. While small enough to wrap your arms around it is varied enough and just enough of a challenge to make sure a vistor gets the Belize experience. So many options and packages and recommendations. I labored trying to choose. This is not a place for frequent user points or resorts with white gloved servers. To experience Belize you need the right accomodations, the honesty or goods and not so goods and the care during your stay.
I was going back and forth trying to choose the right jungle/beach experience. Some seemed to have the better on one side and not the other and vice versa. I was selecting which side do I go first. How many days? I was deciding on caye or mainland beach. I was deciding on car or no car. Fly from one side to to the other or not. After two weeks of research, questions and reviews I had it down to a few.
The tie-breaker was Nadege. Her attentiveness, her honesty and communication and her willingness to customize and make everything work was beyond expectation even after you left the jungle side. This woman had one goal: make your Belize experience what you expect it to be and why you looked at Belize as a place to go to in the first place.
Nadege not only answered every question but listend to all the concerns and confusions. Each time she was ready and flexible and never felt put out. As a side note, when I got there, three other people I spoke to said the same thing, "Nadege" was the tie breaker. But before you get there is one thing. Experiencing it was another.
I was traveling with my two adult daughters. I am a vegetarian. So, accomodations and food were of course a concern. My two daughters also have different likes and dislikes of experiencing the outdoors.
At the airport after a tiring journey, a smiling man with a sign hand painted with designs had our names held up. We went from baggage to van without ever having to look around. For 90 minutes our tour of the jungle side began. After a few minutes this driver was our personal guide.
Arriving at Mystic River was met by a energetic and smiling Nadege followed by hugs. As if this was my annual visit to a favorite relative.
Our accomodations were supurb. An extended bedroom off a large room with two queen beds. The overwhelming sound of 500 species of birds was symphonic. Screens, cleanliness, and the right touches made this jungle cabin storybook. We spent four nights.
The meals were incredible. As a vegetarian, the offerings were numerous. The chef and staff were as attentive as if I was in the new spot in an urban city. But often it was just us or 2-3 other couples. All served on an open air deck. Leo, Steven and the other kitchen folks smiled with every question and knew us by name as soon as we arrived. After the first meal they could tell what we would like or not.
The activities and planning. Look, lets be honest, you come to the jungle side to explore and engage with this amazing country. If you want to sit around a large star shaped pool and have maritnis and $50. chips and salsa brought to you in between pedicures and facials go to some overdone Cariibean Island. You come here to blend into nature and use all her beauty She gives you the opportunity you give her the energy. Each day we began by choice at 6-7 with a walk through the sounds of birds nesting and feeding, This followed by amazing breakfast and the activity or activities of the day. Day 1. Horseback riding in the morning where you travers the jungle side and look far out to the mountains of neighboring countries. Look closely at the baby owls and if Eber is your guide he won't let you miss a thing (including the camouflouge grasshoppers). We returned for lunch and then our trip to the waterfalls, I think Sopadello. 260M years old with crystal water. Getting there took us in an ATV and dense jungle roads. But Ben and Arnie were like family as they took every care and attentiveness. Day 2 was the ATM tour which ranks right up there with one of the best experiences ever. Ben, again, simply no other guide could come close. He is sherpa, guide, teacher, coach, driver and big brother. The next day a six mile canoe trip down the macal river to market day in san ignacio and then to xuanthac (sp) mayan sites and a second one. When I told Nadege I was concerned about the canoe as my daughter had not boated much she made sure that the best canoe guide, Arnie who grew up on the river was her personal guide. it almost looked like he was a gondolier navigating some challenging water. When we left on sunday, our last minute decision to take the water taxi to ambergris caye instead of flying was met with more help and assistance rather than being high maintenance tourists. If Nadege could not find what we were looking for she found someone who could. All I had to do was say "Do you know? or can you recommend? and it was done.
A staff speaks best about the place they work. The staff at Mystic River walks around with passion for what they do. Their hands are held out for a pat on the back or a handshake not an extra tip. They want you to experience their people and country.
I have read reviews everywhere of heat and humidity and bugs etc. at places. C'mon this is the jungle! This is not because of carelessness.
Downsides? Okay, you're not in walking distance to town and nights end early. For the first time in months of day job stressI slept 7-8 hours a night. This is not a negative. This is a positive. One night we needed a deck or cards and couldn't find one. So, we made one. One night the internet was fussy so we took a walk and sang songs. This is a negative???
A note to Nadege: so many have seen my photos and said it is amazing that a dad and two adults daughters want to spend a vacation together. Children may get bored and and a parent may get short tempered. I must say that this was an experience far beyond just vacation. Our time together was incredible. We experienced together, learned, challenged, canoed, caved, swam, horseback road, ate, laughed, drank and played with a homemade deck of cards.
Belize is a symphony of nature and sounds but with Nadege as a conductor and Tom, Ben, Eber, Leo, Karen, Steve, Arnie and everyone else, the parrots, the goats, the horses etc. all in the band,this place is a masterpiece that I want to see and hear over and over again.
Thank you Nadege. Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, San Pedro were a great encore to our stay on your side but there was always a longing for Mystic River from the moment we left.
I think you just might be Mother Nature of Belize.
Take the extra bedroom if you travel with children. Let everyone have their own bed. Bring lightwei...
See more room tips
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.