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Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
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829 - 834 of 926 reviews
Reviewed January 5, 2010

We stayed here instead of Jungle Paw because of the Trip Advisor reviews. Thank you so much!! We were not disappointed and it was worth the splurge. The bungalows were just right except I wish the lighting in the bedroom was a little stronger so we could read at night. Luckily we were told to bring a flashlight. Since we were there off season, there were only about 20 people and they all left after dinner and there wasn't much to do after 9pm. Anyway, it was cool going to sleep listening to the night noises. We were surprised to meet Ian and his wife and thought that was really nice of him to introduce himself and have dinner at our table. We also loved the cave tubing and our guides who were very patient and professional. They really made it so real for us, even thought they had guided the tour so many times. We really appreciated that! The food was also very good and it was nice that they set it out in different courses so it stayed warm and bug free :) We would definitely recommend this place for our friends that are into adventures. It is also great that they have a pool even though it was a little too cool out to use it. Nice big bathrooms and fun that the bungalows had optional outside showers. Like the flower garden too, unusual flowers. The only thing that we did not like is that you couldn't leave your valuables in the room. I would recommend they add a room safe as that was inconvenient and seemed a little silly that we couldn't lock the doors somehow....

  • Stayed: November 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank just1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 2, 2010

Our family with two teenagers (16 & 12) visited Belize for the first time during the kids' Christmas break from school. We had planned on spending a few active days in the jungle first and then some easy-going days at the beach for the last part of the vacation. We arrived at Caves Branch on 12/19 before many vacationers had arrived so the Lodge was pretty empty. We stayed for 3 nights which ended up being too short. We stayed in the 2 bedroom treehouse suite which was rustic but beautifully situated and beautifully executed (I have built several condo developments and I have never seen such consistent attention to detail, particularly considering that this is in the jungle in a very underdeveloped country). The family-style meals were good (not great) and provided a great opportunity for meeting and mingling with fellow guests. The tours and the tour guides in particular were terrific-knowledgeable, friendly, accessible, helpful, etc. They were also a great way to get to know others. My daughter made several friends during our short stay, which enhanced her appreciation of the place (and made our lives easier too since we weren't the only ones available to entertain her). The weather during our stay was the worst they had had in awhile, being cool with a lot of rain, but it didn't get in the way of our enjoying the vacation and the experience. I would highly recommend this experience for families who want an active adventure in a beautiful but rustic environment. My only complaint is that I didn't plan to stay there long enough.

  • Stayed: December 2009, traveled with family
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1  Thank scottafithian
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 27, 2009

WE STAYED HERE IN JULY 2003 and checked it out again in AUGUST 2009.

The staff bent over backwards to accommodate our family, even putting us up in a nice cabin at the camping rate when the camp ground we'd planned to use was flooded. The food was good (though EXPENSIVE) and we enjoyed talking with Ian Anderson, the guides, and the other guests over dinner. The Black Hole Drop was amazing - hard work but worth the effort. We spent our 2nd full day there lounging around and swimming in the beautiful river instead of another adventure since a few of us were a bit under the weather - a relaxing, rejuvenating day. All of us loved the jungle showers and the guides were top notch - friendly, helpful, and safety conscious.

We stopped by and checked it out in August 2009 when my brother-in-law's family stayed there. I was a bit disappointed by how resortish it looked - glitzy pool, paved walkways. When we were there in 2003 it was the wildness we loved the most. It's an expensive place to stay and I guess folks who can afford it tend to want more amenities than we prefer in a jungle lodge. The brother-in-law's family (parents + 3 teenaged boys) esp. loved the Waterfall Cave tour and got a kick out of being awakened by black howler monkeys outside their "treehouse" windows.

  • Stayed: July 2006, traveled with family
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Thank hopefulist
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 25, 2009

We arrived at the Caves Branch parking lot (having been driven there by another resort) and were completely underwhelmed by our reception. The parking lot is quite a walk from the main lodge building, and when you arrive, there is no sign telling you were to go, and no one there to greet you. Our driver hiked into the main lodge, asked at the front desk for someone to come get our luggage and check us in, and we then proceeded to wait twenty full minutes in the parking lot before finally our driver gave up and started to unpack and carry our luggage himself to the lodge. As soon as he began loading up, mysteriously someone appeared to take our luggage – a Caves Branch employee who did not speak to us or even look at us as she reluctantly took our bags to the main reception area. This, by the way, was a several hundred yard walk from the parking lot upon a path that, strangely, the lodge’s own vehicles rumble up and down frequently, and yet guests are made to hike back and forth for every tour. Upon check in, we were not offered a warm greeting or drink; instead, we were told about “how things work around here” (a phrase that was used several times). We were then made to sign our lives away on numerous consent forms, and led to our rooms, in which the bed configuration was the reverse of what I’d asked for (being my mother and I required two separate beds, and our traveling companions required one). When we offered to switch rooms, we were told this wasn’t possible, and that a bed would be disassembled from one room and reassembled in the other. This didn’t happen for several hours, only when I complained about still not having a bed, and when the bed was finally moved, two employees barged into two rooms without knocking or apologizing for intruding (even though my mum was sleeping in one room and our traveling companions were getting dressed in the other). Upon first checking in, we had asked if we might go cave tubing (the entire reason for our visit to Caves Branch Lodge), and we were told that all tours leave at 9am, so we were too late (as it was noon). So be aware, if you arrive after 9am, no activities will be offered to you. Also, don’t expect to get a proper lunch, either. We asked for lunch, and we were given a plate of carrots, onions, cucumbers and cabbage along with some tortillas and a jar of Miracle Whip. There was a group of children having lunch, and even though they were being served chicken with rice and beans, we were told we couldn’t have this lunch although we were paying extra for the meal. All the staff at Caves Branch seemed to act like anything we asked for was a huge inconvenience to them, and because I complained about our initial welcome (or lack thereof) in the parking lot, I suspect that word got around amongst the staff that we were not to be treated nicely. There was one glowing exception to this: Arnold, who kept the bar and waited the tables. He was friendly, helpful, thoughtful and fun to talk to. It was he who arranged for my bed to be moved, for a second set of towels to be brought, and it was Arnold who greeted me unfailingly with a sunny disposition, and who remembered my name and where I’d been that day. Arnold was a treat! I cannot say the same for Albert, who appeared to manage the place, or Ruben, who was our driver to Tikal. This gentleman was supposed to give us a wakeup knock before our tour (he didn’t), and when we got up anyway and went looking for our tour at 5:30am, we found an unlocked van in the parking lot but no driver. Eventually at 6am he materialized at the dining area, and he drove us to San Ignacio with very little explanation of what we were going to do that day. When he picked up a second guide (Edgar), they fell to talking in Spanish amongst themselves for the rest of the trip, and sat together in the back of the van talking when a third fellow joined us, Guatemalan driver Anastacio (who was an excellent driver, by the way). We were then driven to a Guatemalan café for breakfast (several hours after we’d left Caves Branch) and given a scant meal, the worst meal of our vacation. Another thing we didn’t like: on the way to Tikal we were made to stop at a shopping center, and were told this would be our only opportunity to shop. When I asked about the shops at Tikal itself (as I’d been there before), I was flat-out lied to and told that no shops existed at Tikal. When I said this wasn’t true, I was told the shops at Tikal were more expensive (also not true). Likewise, on the trip home, we were again forced into another shopping center. One can only imagine the guides are receiving kickbacks for bringing in business to these shops, or that these shops are owned by their friends. Either way, I didn’t appreciate being told where I could or couldn’t shop. At Tikal, Edgar’s knowledge seemed limited, and our tour consisted of some memorized speech (not all of which was accurate) on the way to the main plaza and then toTemple IV, where, at both places, he sat down and proceeded to talk in Spanish to other guides and people he knew while he sent us off to “look around.” He also took almost no care of my elderly mother, and wore her out pretty quickly, so that she ended up having to be driven back to the restaurant area of Tikal where she was abandoned by Anastacio and Ruben for hours by herself. We found out later that it would’ve been best to drive her out to Temple IV and let her walk back, as it was all downhill…but nobody suggested that. We also had quite an experience with cave tubing at Caves Branch. We had written ahead via email, explaining that my mother had done cave tubing via Jaguar Paw and had no problems, so we wanted to do a cave tubing trip that was no more difficult or strenuous than this. Upon speaking to the guide about what would be fitting for a 70-year-old, we were told she’d have no problems with the 7-mile cave tubing trip. How far from the truth! I still cannot believe that my mother didn’t crack her head open during that tour. To be fair, they assigned a guide solely to my mother, and somehow this man, Edgar (a different Edgar from our Tikal trip), got her safe through seven miles of caves, over slippery rocks, through muddy trails, over logs, through crevices, and walked her through rapids in knee-deep rushing water. Edgar and Elmer did an amazing job of assisting her, as well as our (not spring chicken) traveling companions and also myself (being a larger gal and not particularly fit). They made sure we didn’t break any bones, but they also seemed to be in a tremendous hurry, which upped the stress level of the tour, not to mention wore my arms out from paddling in trying desperately to keep up. The cave tubing was amazing, a million times better than what you see on the short Jaguar Paw trip – too bad I was hurrying so much I couldn’t enjoy it! Edgar and Elmer also didn’t seem to have much personality, and weren’t very friendly; a minor thing compared to safety, but still, there’s much room for improvement with the staff at Caves Branch. A little friendly conversation with the guests and less talking in Spanish between themselves would go a long way toward making guests feel welcome. Regarding the cabanas: The jungleness of Caves Branch was quite disappointing. It felt like the area had been previously cleared, and ornamental plants had been added around the cabanas – not the authentic jungle experience I was hoping for. We did, however, hear howler monkeys twice during our stay, so that was a big bonus. We stayed in the bungalow rooms, which were very nice, but very dirty and in need of some renovation; for instance, the bathroom counter in our room was marred by gouges and scrapes, the shower had a layer of filth all around the moldings, and the surface of the floor in our bathroom was worn off. Also, the roof of the building was covered in debris so that there were trees and plants growing in the filth. One big problem we had at Caves Branch was the lack of power. Apparently the power goes off sometime during the night, so that if you are getting up early to meet your Tikal tour guide at 5am, it’s very difficult to get ready via flashlight (provided you remembered to bring one). Also, when the fan dies in the middle of the night, the room can get quite stuffy. And our room had not a single outlet from which to charge our camera or phone. Another minus: no room keys. We were told that we should leave nothing of value in our rooms, and to have the staff lock our valuables in the safe at the front desk. But I soon learned that the “safe” was a bar cabinet, and once my purse was locked inside, I saw the barman lay the keys on the bar counter and walk away. So much for security! In addition, my traveling companion’s daypack was gone through after we’d left it on the bus (which we were instructed to do) and a pack of cigarettes was stolen. Not a big deal, but slightly irksome. What we did like at Caves Branch: Arnold and his smile; the fact that all-you-can-drink sodas are included in the package rate; the pool (although we hated the fact you had to continually climb over it, not easy for the elderly); the sound of howler monkeys; the toads all around the pool at night; the outdoor showers with warm water; and the cave tubing trip which, if you can manage it, is beyond fantastic. Caves Branch Jungle Lodge is an all-right place if you have nothing in Belize to compare it to, but after being treated like family at other resorts and lodges, I cannot imagine spending this kind of money again to be treated so poorly. If you are not young and athletic, or if you’ve been to other resorts in Belize, Caves Branch will probably not be for you.

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

I don't think that I'll have enough space here to express how wonderful our stay at Cave's Branch was. This was our first time traveling out of the country and the wonderful staff there made us feel at home the second we stepped off of our plane.

Upon our arrival the incredible Albert met us at the bar with our welcome drinks. After a brief orientation we were shown to the most beautiful rooms I have ever had the pleasure of stepping into. Our Treehouse suite was what honeymoon dreams are made of, it was so beautiful. Don't worry I'm going to upload pictures! Never once was it dirty. Our only complaint (only because we are technology junkies) is that they didn't have any outlets in the rooms, but after you got past it it wasn't so bad.

Every night we got to eat dinner with the other guests and we met some wonderful people. The food was always wonderful and I'm a foodie and pretty picky. While we would eat Albert would come around and ask us what we planned to do the next day, and sure enough once we woke and had breakfast with everyone there would be our trusty guides, ready to show us what Belize had to offer.

Having been tour guides ourselves we know how tedious it can be sometimes and how repititious it all gets. If that was the case with Neko and Abel when they took our group to the Waterfall Caves it never showed. They were able to point out butterflies 10 feet away, call to birds who surprisingly answered, and they were incredibly patient with us. Having some cave experience I will say that this was more strenious than expected but if you are up to the challenge do take it! It was breathtakingly beautiful and jumping from a waterfall IN a cave is pretty incredible.

Arnold took us to the Mayan Ruins which were an awesome site. However, if you do any of your caving adventures the day before ask Albert to have them dry your shoes that night otherwise you will be climing in flip flops. Although it added a heightened degree of danger and excitement to the ascent I would not recommend it. I insisted on scooching down on my behind which everyone found hilarious but it was a little nerve racking. Arnold was just as good as Abel and Neko, while we were walking through the site he stopped aburptly and broke off a piece of grass. He proceeded to poke said grass in a tiny hole, and much to my surprise out crawled a gigantic tarantula. He also had us taste a leaf that ended up to be Allspice.

Our trip to the Belize zoo/ziplining with Darrel and friend just as cool as everything else. We got to feed a tapir and a jaguar people. A freakin jaguar. Their zoo is like nothing you will come across in the states, it is better :) More interaction! The zip lining was so much fun, I just wish it had lasted longer.

I'm sure you can imagine after all of these adventure we would be exhausted, and we were. Coming back to drinks and the pool were a welcome site.

I hope you enjoy your time as much as we did. We will certainly be returning to Cave's Branch and probably with family and friends. We've gushed about our trip so much they all want to go too!

PS- they had an awesome orchid garden.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank VannaRae
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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