This is a review of the overnight cave tour. I'll do a separate review of the lodge itself. We signed up for this tour on line before we arrived. It was just my husband and me with two guides, Alex and Chico. We had our own packs, but Caves Branch would have provided them if we didn't. Caves Branch provided sleeping bag, hammock, helmet, harness and headlamp which we carried ourselves along with 5 liters of water and our personal items. The guides carried all the food which made it nice. We drove out with the day trippers to the Black Hole Drop. There were about 20 the day we went, so we all rode in a big hay wagon towed behind a pickup. Since we had heavier packs, we stayed behind the other group and took lots of breaks on the ~1 hour trek. We caught up with the other group at the edge of the sink hole and waited while their guides rigged the rappel on the other side. Then we waited some more while the other group hiked around to the other side. While we were waiting, Alex found a tarantula that we got to see up close. The rappel into the sink hole was cool. I've rappelled before so it wasn't the real adrenaline pumping experience that it was for most of the group. Still, it's a 300 foot free air rappel and you don't get to that every day! After the rappel they took us on a short walk to a cleared area at the mouth of the cave. We had a marvelous lunch of tortillas filled with meat, cheese and vegetables. The other group finished their lunch and headed out while our adventure was just starting. Alex led us on a tour of the cave that lasted about an hour and a half. We're in pretty good shape and are comfortable rock scrambling so we were able to go pretty far into the cave and see some really gorgeous formations. Afterward, we got to sit back and enjoy our campsite while Alex and Chico cooked us dinner over an open fire. Dinner was spiced beef and coconut rice washed down with tea made from the ti plant vine, chopped down by Chico with his machete. They put up our hammocks for us and we slept comfortably under our mosquito nets surrounded by candlelight and listening to the jungle sounds. Although we had bug repellent, I really didn't notice may bugs.
In the morning, we had breakfast of refried beans, tortillas, bacon and fried Spam. We then went back into the cave, going a completely different route. This time, we waded through the underground river and saw numerous Mayan artifacts, both pottery and bones from human sacrifices. Again, the terrain was challenging. Not everyone will be able to see what we saw, since it took some doing to get there. We got completely covered in mud; at one point we slid down on our keesters to get down what we had climbed up. We washed a lot of the mud off in the river, but we were still plenty dirty. After another 90 minutes or so of cave tour, we packed up the camp and headed out. Climbing out of the sinkhole was by ladder and switchbacks and the hike was back the same trail we had come. We were back at the lodge before lunch. I highly recommend this tour. Bring sturdy boots with good treads-- it's quite slippery. Bring old clothes that you don't mind getting muddy. Be prepared to carry about 25 pounds on your back, but it's only for about an hour each way and they go nice and slow. I love backpacking and have done plenty of it so this was a very cushy trip -- the guides did everything for us. This is real camping -- peeing on the ground and all that -- but if you're used to that sort of thing it's very comfortable.
If you're not interested in any of their other tours, I would recommend checking into the lodge at mid day the day before. Enjoy the grounds and the pool the rest of that day, then go on the tour and you'll have plenty of time left the next day to get to wherever you're going next.
- 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