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“Overnight Cave tour was topnotch”

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Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
44 reviews
34 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
“Overnight Cave tour was topnotch”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 9, 2011

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.

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4 Thank PDXRambler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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843 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
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Date | Rating
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English first
Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
112 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 9, 2011

In a rented pick up truck and one back pack each, my husband and I spent a whole seven days in Belize with the goal of seeing the entire country. Well, we did see it and it was wholly unremarkable with the exception of Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Resort and the Mayan Pyramids. We happened upon it while cruising on the lone Hummingbird Highway and I said, "Hey! Stop! What's that place?" We went back and fell in love. Ian and his lovely wife have run this place for 12 years and it is a cave and jungle exploration paradise. The facility sits way off the road but once inside, it is shocklingly beautiful and well put together. We stayed in one of the cabanas and it couldn't have been more perfect. The hospitality was lovely, food was great and we'd go back to Belize just to stay at this place and hang out with Ian and his wife Ella and nothing else.

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Millicent S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 27, 2011

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with this lodge. Having stayed at a few jungle lodges in Belize during our stay, this was, by far, the best.

An excellent location with a mix of beautiful gardens and jungle and a great choice of accommodation. We opted for the cabana but were upgraded to the bungalow at no extra cost, which was a great treat! The rooms were very clean with added extras.

There was also a pool which again, was an added bonus!

Some excursions were slightly over priced but were very well organised and the guides were well informed.

All staff at the lodge were helpful and friendly.

Food was good and plentiful, although slightly lacking in Belizean influence.

A must stay destination in Belize.

Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
Thank betlou
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
40 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 53 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 25, 2011

I will start by saying that Caves Branch Jungle Lodge is not for everyone. If you are looking to stay at a Hilton hotel with cable TV, room service, Michelin starred dining then you have come to the wrong place! However if you want to fall asleep to the sound of the jungle in a room over-looking the canopy, under beautifully clear star filled skies while anticipating your next great adventure trip, then this place is perfect.
Caves Branch jungle lodge really is a unique experience. I would recommend splashing out for the Treehouse suites if you can afford it. IT IS ESSENTIAL TO BOOK THEIR ALL-INCLUSIVE OPTION - as you will struggle to find many restaurants or bars in the jungle.
You have to sign a disclaimer when you first arrive which some find strange but they do put safety paramount on their excursions. At the end of the day this is not a resort which they make very clear. The treehouse suite we stayed in was stupendous. Beautiful outdoor shower, large living area, four poster bed and a great roof balcony.
The adventure trips are what this is all about. There is a real feeling of exclusitivity in that some of the trips can only be taken from Caves Branch. The highlight for me was the Waterfall Cave which is a must-do if you are able, it is quite hard work. You will be rewarded with a trip into a beautiful cave littered with Mayan artefacts and a challenging climb up waterfalls (inside the cave!) before jumping down them on return.
The staff are very friendly, helpful and approachable. There is also a beautiful botanical garden on-site which is a must see. The food is generally good. We enjoyed having dinner in groups as it gave us the opportunity to meet other travellers. There are those who may winge about the limited internet access, the need to carry torches everywhere you go, occasional power-cuts and the fact the bar closes at 9, but this is an authentic jungle lodge and not an all-inclusive hotel in Cancun.
Taken in the right spirit, this is the most unique, fun, friendly and luxurious place imaginable.

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Leong_Lee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Level Contributor
6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 17, 2011

We were at Caves Branch Lodge for only 2 nights, but enjoyed our stay there very much! We were in one of the treehouses, overlooking the river and main lodge, and our accommodations were spacious and comfortable. The one drawback we were disappointed in was that the "hot" water was really only tepid, and after a day of cave tubing and being wet, a hot shower would have been wonderful. Our cave tubing guide, Ching, was wonderful, and we learned SO much about the Mayans and their rituals. Carlos was our guide for our visit to Xunantunich and the zip line and he, too, took good care of us.

The food at Caves Branch Lodge is ok, but not outstanding. But they are the first to admit that the food is not their focus. If you are looking for gourmet meals, you should go elsewhere. The buffet style service works well, and it is fun to get to know the other guests over casual dinners at their long family-style tables. Unfortunately, while we were there one of the families had a young son along who shrieked constantly at meals and they did nothing to discipline him, nor did they remove him from the dining area. Having raised two kids of our own, we know that they sometimes misbehave......BUT, we would never have allowed them to subject others to this kind of behavior and it would have been nice if management had tried to address the issue with them.

We would definitely consider going back for more of their adventures......my husband and son would like to try their jungle survival tour. I would like to try the Black Hole Drop.....other guests raved about it, but we didn't have time.

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank StephanieCinMN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Rockford, IL
Level Contributor
78 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 15, 2011

A large variety of adventurous activities in the heart of the jungle in Belize. Most activities were day trips. Some were physically demanding like repelling from a 300 foot cliff, other activities were related to the ancient Mayan culture, such as visiting Mayan ruins.... All the activities were planned well and had very competent guides leading the trips. The logistics were handled very well. Living accommodations were very good, All meals were provided, most served in the lodge... The food was very good and plentiful. Activities were planned daily for each person... This was an outstanding trip with exciting activities which aren't available in many, if any, other places... Highly recommend for individuals and families

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1 Thank trails44
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cleveland Ohio USA
Level Contributor
126 reviews
72 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 127 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 14, 2011

Caves Branch absolutely deserves its 5 Star rating.

A property that has communal bunkhouses for $15 per night ranging to $165 bungalows to 2 bedroom stunning, souped-up treehouses for $285 will invariably be challenged trying to be all things to all people. Most companies don't even bother trying to co-mingle the backpacker, family and luxury demographics, which is what is so fascinating about Caves Branch....you truly end up meeting a broad spectrum of people. Kudos to Ian Anderson for making the effort to attract such a wonderful mileau of guests.

So, as I read the reviews, it doesn't surprise me that some of the backpackers might find some of the activities a bit tame or that some of the high end folks might find the food not up to gourmet standards. Outliers will always have outlying opinions. During our 5 night stay, every other guest we met (college girls, 60+ couples, newlyweds, families with kids, and their seeming core demo of 30-50 year old couples) seemed to share the same sense of awe about how such a gorgeous facility could be up and running in the middle of the jungle.

SERVICE/STAFF
Our activity staff were upbeat, informative and safety-conscious without being uptight or iron fisted. Their instructions were meant to inspire confidence and understanding, not fear or trepidation. Daily activities were explained, not pitched or upsold, so there was very relaxed sense of decisionmaking for us. The on-site staff helped us get spare pants, use the office outlet to charge our phone, inquired about our satisfaction.

FOOD
Most importantly, the food was fresh and tasty with good variety at breakfast and dinner. Though served buffet style, the food was literally put out and then tables were called up to serve themselves within a 15 minute window, so nothing was soggy or cold or crusty like most buffet are at risk of. Preparations are straightforward, no sous chefs or pastry chefs are in the kitchen. For me, I would grade food on a curve because they are in the middle of the jungle with minimal access to expert cooks and they must appeal to a broad range of budgets and tastes. Highlights- homemade breads and soups, squeeze your own fresh OJ at breakfast. Lunch during activities focuses on fresh tortillas, veggies and coldcuts which some feedback has been negative about. The reality is that a light lunch makes sense- easy for guides to carry, guests don't get weighed down with heavy food that could hinder their afternoon activity.

ACTIVITIES
As one who done adventurous stuff in places like Nepal and Indonesia, I can vouch that for the non-bungee jumping/extreme sport crowd, the activities offered by Caves Branch achieve the delicate balance of adrenaline and accessible. The waterfalls are a non-replicatable trip highlight. The Black Hole rappelling is a terrific experience for first time rappellers. The Cave Tubing does not require the same fitness level, but it provided a far different perspective of being immersed in the cave system. The Tikal Mayan Ruins is supposedly worth the 6 hr. roundtrip drive, but if you want the appetizer version of far less time-consuming Mayan ruins, we were satisfied with the San Ignacio-based ruins.

The trip costs were easily justified by the quality staff, the easy logistics as Caves Branch is close to everything and some of the tours are EXCLUSIVE to the resort, so of course they can command a reasonable premium. Good lunches, commitment to safety, proven track record all have value that most guests are thrilled to pay for.

LODGING
We were grateful to be upgraded to a treehouse, which is absolutely worth every penny.
We were happy with the original bungalow with huge 180 degree screens that immersed you in the jungle atmosphere. The outdoor showers were a nice touch on the surface, but once you actually used it, you realized what an original and outright fun amenity it is. Nice touches with towel sculptures by housekeeping. The pool was a terrific addition.
The hot tub regrettably was on the fritz during our stay, but hey you can't always bat 1.000!!

I wasn't sure how this trip was going to work out, so I booked my wife a nice room in Ambergris Caye as insurance at the end of our trip to Belize. Suffice to say, Caves Branch absolutely far exceeded our expectations and we are poised to share with our travel hungry friends and family in Cleveland.

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank beaubo
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

Property: 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 12 Specialty Lodging in Belmopan
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
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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