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“A fun trip to Belize that could have been better.”

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Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed March 28, 2009

My wife and I took our two granddaughters, ages 10 and 13 to Belize during spring break the fourth week in March 2009. Knowing virtually nothing about Belize except for the glowing reviews of many who have been there during the past few years, we committed to 7 days in advance. We wanted some independence so we rented a car in Belize City and drove the easy 1.25 hours to Caves Branch Adventures. The accommodations were excellent for the jungle, but there was some false advertising. First all rooms are advertised as having hot water. That is not true. The water is tepid at best, and "warm" as described by Arnold, the concierge that introduces each guest to the facility and then indicates that you must sign away all of your legal rights to stay at the hotel. I could not find any mention of this on their internet site. All payments are required up front and there is very little chance, from our experience, that you could receive a credit if you decide not to sign the document giving precluding Caves Branch from all legal responsibility, or if you wanted to leave early.

The second negative was the absence of a single electrical outlet for charging cameras, IPods, or whatever, The lighting was two 20 watt bulbs, one on each side of the bed. We are not complaining about this, we knew that we were staying in the jungle. Clearly, the accommodations are for the adventurous, primarily short stay. We had no complaint about the facilities whatever. However, some truth in advertising would have been helpful during our decision making process (such as: no refunds, no electricity, no accommodation for extra meals). The location being in central Belize was convenient for trips to the west, e.g., San Ignacio and Xunantunitch, and even the shore at Hopkins and the Jaguar Reef Hotel (for great snorkeling), which is apparently run by the same business concern.

One strange aspect of the trip was that our reservations were made unintentionally through an organization called Adventures in Belize (AIB). I thought initially that I was sending an email for the reservation to Caves Branch, but instead it went to this organization (AIB) and I couldn't figure how to circumvent that. Unfortunately, that mistake resulted in our not being able to leave a day early to go to the beach because AIB would not give us a credit for the last night (of 5) that we had reserved. That might have been different if I had made the reservation directly through Caves Branch.
That failure to be able to leave a day early resulted in the worst day of our trip and a few nightmares that will last for a while.

The fourth day of our stay we returned to the Blue Hole National Park (5 minutes from Caves Branch) where our granddaughters enjoyed swimming a few days earlier. As they prepared to take a dip I wandered back up the hill to look for a trail. I picked the Humming Bird Loop, a mile long trail that meanders through dense jungle, mainly up, around a hill the entrance to which is situated not 500 yards from the road. I was well into the trail listening for birds and watching for anything that moved when I heard voices coming up the trail behind me. Two young locals, either Hispanic or Creole, well dressed and fluent in accented English started a friendly conversation about the locale, birding, and whether I was enjoying my trip. They were very friendly, well dressed, and in no way threatening. However, as the conversation turned to my new digital camera they wanted to take a picture of the "National Tree" for me and then began asking more detailed questions about its operation. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable I started walking ahead to put some separation between us when one of the boys grabbed me from behind placing a knife next to my throat and gruffly demanded my money. They took my camera, binoculars, and (fortunately) only $26. They were smart enough not to take my credit cards or other personal property. They simply turned away indicating that I was to return down the hill the way I had come.

The Park employees were of no help whatever. Caves Branch was more than helpful in calling the police so we could file a report (on a scrap piece of paper). They offered more security if we felt uncomfortable, and essentially made us feel more relaxed. Ian Anderson offered to obtain the report for me (but I have heard nothing yet). The police were not inspiring. Everyone in the Park, at Caves Branch, and the police insisted that the event was the first of its type in the Park. Hard to believe, but we have no reason to doubt their honesty.

In general, we enjoyed our trip to Belize tremendously, but the inflexibility due to advance commitments of cash and obtaining meals and food was stressful, especially in this area where restaurants are few. Meals were twice per day, good quality, but strictly limited to 8 a.m. breakfast and 7 p.m. dinner, with no chance for eating anything in between. They will fix a box lunch, for an expensive charge. The Belize trip was expensive and stressful especially when compared to our experience in Costa Rica, which by the way is much more lush and beautiful compared to the scrubby jungles found in Belize. Our hotel in Costa Rica, The Bougainvillea, just outside San Jose, was inexpensive and exceptional in quality and flexibility. For a trip to a country no visited previously flexibility is essential, unless you are willing to put yourself completely in the hands of tour guides. Costa Rica's tourism is much more oriented to ecological education and conservation while Belize is strictly oriented towards adventures, from mild to extreme. We found Fodor’s’ Belize 2008 helpful, but less than transparent about the negatives of travelling in Belize.

I sincerely hope that this commentary will help first time visitors to Belize to make a fully informed decision about a trip tailored to your needs.

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled with family
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10  Thank oximeice
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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839 - 845 of 912 reviews

Reviewed February 15, 2009

i will preface that i went to caves branch for 2 nights 3 days in mid january. i was amongst two couples, who after going to thatch caye for 5 nights, went here before heading back home.

the trips are what make this hotel unique and one-of-its-kind. (everyone will tell you that.)
we took one trip: the overnight black hole drop tour. (warning: SPOILER)
this was taken as about a 45min-1.5hr hike with a sack that is about 20-30lbs uphill on a rough, jungly, slippery-when-wet (it was raining heavily when we went for the entire trip), but absolutely gorgeous! terrain. the guides go at your pace, and will take many, many breaks in the middle for you. i had red mud up above my cargos. if you plan on staying there overnight, make sure to bring an extra pair of pants to sleep in, and to wear the next day. there are also hiking boots supposeldy for rent if you don't want the mud all over your shoes (confirm this with reservations), but we all brought our own. after rappelling, which is fantastic, you end up underneath the giant tree canopy where it was quite dry, and fascinating. and this is where you eat lunch. the location to sleep or the other caves that you visit are a short walk away. if you don't like the camping scene of not being able to bathe, or use the jungle as your bathroom, don't do the overnight tour, and do it one day instead. but if camping is interesting for you - you get to sleep ontop of a cave with formations!, then you won't regret it. best camp site ever. after waking to a hot breakfast, you will do lots of exploring and too soon, you will be sent back home (which seems quicker than when you got there.) you will be exhausted and you might end up with a few bruises (again, we went when it was pouring and slippery), a whole bunch of beautiful photos (bring your camera), and memories worth a lifetime.

i also heard the waterfall/caves tour is fantastic. one of the guides said it was his favorite. you get to walk up a wet cave, and when you head back down, you can "jump" into the pools.

finally, food was good, hot, and there were many things to choose from. i could see how it could get old after a week (you can't make that many kind of eggs), but i don't know if i'd recommend staying there longer than that. (there are only so many tours!)

we rented two cabanas. they were clean, and there are no windows - only a screen - which we LOVED. it never got too hot, and the view outside was gorgeous. oil lamps were provided for sufficient mood lighting (flashlights are a MUST), and the jungle showers were rustic (no shower in the room), but warm and refreshing after being covered in mud two days in a row. (one of them works better than the rest, because the pvc pipe goes in through the top, and not the side). i heard the treehouses were fantastic, but we were charmed by the cabanas.

they also provide laundry services, but don't put anything delicate or anything with strings in there. it will get ruined.

people who should go: those with a sense of adventure, trying something new, and don't mind getting bruised once in a while.
people who should not go: those who are expecting luxury accomodations with nothing wrong.

good overall: trips, fun accomodations, locations, geology, guides, open bar
bad: the construction (but once the swim-up-bar-pool will be completed, it will be awesome!), weather-dependant (i.e. river level too high - which happens a lot), the trip gets cancelled or a part of it may be cancelled, expensive-ish.

  • Stayed: January 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank glointhedrksheep
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 11, 2009

My husband and I visited Caves Branch Lodge for 2 nights in January while travelling Belize by rental car. The lodge is owned
by a Canadian from B.C. which was our main motivation in booking it. It was like a tropical summer camp in a lot of ways.
Guests eat together at long tables where meals are served buffet
style, allowing you to trade travel stories with others, many of whom were Canadians. Food was plain, hearty fare.
We stayed in a private cabin which was very nice. There is minimal electricity - 2 bedside lamps and a light in the bathroom.
No receptacles anywhere.
Each night you book your activity for the next day. We went on a
cave tubing and exploration adventure which was awesome!!!
I wouldn't recommend spending more than 3-4 nights here unless you plan on doing every excursion they offer which would
get pretty repetitive I think.
They're currently building a pool and hot tub patio which looks like it will be beautiful when done, probably by April or May.
It was the busiest of all the resorts we stayed at.

  • Stayed: January 2009, traveled with family
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Thank laurWaterloo_Ontario
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 5, 2009

What a great place! This would have been perfect if it hadn't been for all the construction that was going on while we were there. They were working on the future swimming pool, hot tub and visitors center from early morning (6:30) until late afternoon (4:30). Since our trips, and most of the others returned anywhere between 12:30 and 2:30, there was quite a bit of time when the jungle sounds were hidden by the jackhammer and hammers. We had many emails going back and forth between us and the lodge, and the construction was never mentioned.
The guides were fantastic. They all knew their stuff, and all the staff was very helpful and friendly. We stayed in a bungalow, and it was great - very comfortable and clean. Food was plentiful and good. Overall a great experience - just wish they had told us about the extra noise! Make sure to check with them.

  • Stayed: January 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank 2Giants
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 22, 2009

Great Jungle resort - couldn't say enough good things about the quality of the room (stayed in the Jungle tree house), food, service. The staff is super helpful, friendly, and you can't go wrong here. We did cave tubing, horseback riding and river kayaking. The trips are fine - but a bit pricy for what you get. If you have a car, you dont need to buy all the trips. Better cave option is ATM cave - drive to cave, and pay a guide a fraction of the price you pay Ian & Co. We went horseback riding but directly with stable and paid $40 per person rather than $100 at Ian's place(cut out middle man).
If money is no object, this is the place to go except next time we probably would have stayed someplace closer to Guatamala border rather than Belmopan, as the other locations are more centrally located. If you go to Cave branch you basically need to do the fully meal option. Also driving to Tikal is almost out of the question as it is nearly 4 hours each way.
Other disadvantage is the microclimate is wetter and more humid than most, so nothing dries out.
As of Dec 2008, they were building a pool and jacuzzi, so a lot of construction. It will be great when finished, but ask about state of construction before you book. We were not warned in advance by the rather pushing Cave branch sales person

Stayed: December 2008, traveled with family
2  Thank familyoffour50
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 13, 2008

AWESOME! That’s the only word to describe the place. We had search through TripAdvisor and settled on it because of several wonderful reviews. Caves Branch is paradise. We were warmly greeted by the staff and with my new favorite drink – Rum Punch. We had a 3-night all-inclusive package in a Tree House Suite; a must if you go as a couple. We were on our 20th Anniversary Celebration Trip and had an awesome time. Part of the all-inclusive package were two all day adventures. We chose to do the Black Hole Drop and the zip line (even though it wasn’t an all day adventure). We met some great people at Caves Branch. You quickly get to know the people when you hike 3 miles through the jungle and then drop over a 300 foot cliff together. Meals were awesome, especially the squeeze your own OJ, fresh fruit, and home made tortillas! We rented a car and drove to the two Mayan Pyramids, Cahal Pech and Xunantunich on our free day. We also drove out to Rio on Pools but the roads are TERRIBLE. If you dare go take the road closer to San Ignacio, it is a better than the road out of Georgeville, but not by much. Caves Branch even provided a lunch for us as we traveled that day. We heard plenty of great stories from other guests about their other adventures – Cave Tubing, Waterfall Hike and ATM as well as the trip to Tikal in Guatemala. The sounds of the jungle, the great suite and the outdoor shower allowed us to get away from our work-a-day world and reflect on our first 20 years together. Thanks to all the staff, especially Edgar for our safe Black Hole Drop, and the people we met in this Jungle Paradise. We’d love to bring our boys… stay tuned.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank 2travelers08
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 22, 2008

Where to begin is the question really. The place is awesome, beautiful, and so cool. We were after a unique experience and we got way more than we bargained for. The adventures they can arrange for you are unreal, the guides are more than competent, they are so informed and eager it makes the trips even better...it must be said, Pablo is the man!
It was more than an adrenaline rush being out there it was surreal and so different than anything I'd ever seen.
The lodge, the food, the animals, the surroundings...well suffice it to say I came home dying to go back and, and I will.
A special thanks to Ian and Larry for making our time there extra cool and for showing us some things that will be remembered forever.
the accomodations were far above average, the food was awesome and we were craving good food after the great days spent in the jungles.
Thanks to you all there, the trip was better than ever could have been expected.
David Nelson

  • Stayed: October 2008, traveled with friends
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1  Thank adventureguyLA
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 13 Specialty Lodging in Belmopan
Price Range: $133 - $371 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge 3.5*
Number of rooms: 23
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Nestled in the lush rainforest of central Belize, Caves Branch Jungle Lodge offers visitors the opportunity to immerse in a culture of mid-range to extreme adventures. From the guest rooms that are open to the sights and sounds of the jungle, some of which are thatched in the ancient style of the Maya to our luxurious Treehouse suites, your experience should be something that must be experienced to be believed and once experienced, truly-never forgotten! ... 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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