Hannah is both a blogger and avid traveler, who wishes to travel the whole world and be able to share her experiences with everyone. This year she decided to visit us at Ian Anderson's Caves Branch and wrote a blog featuring her awesome adventure here.
In our extensive Google search for a tropical location in Central America, Belize continually came to the forefront of our interests. Neither of us really being “beach people”, we decided that exploring the jungles of Belize was how we wanted to spend our week. We reached out to a few resorts to ask for additional information above what we were able to find on their sites, but Caves Branch really set themselves apart, even in these preliminary stages.
We spoke with Cathy Gibas, who was more than helpful and always took time to answer our lengthy emails filled with questions. Finally, we decided to book with Caves Branch. For ease sake, we also decided to book the transportation option as well, despite what we read online about it being slightly more expensive than other local options.
We were dropped off at the front entrance and had a few minute walk down a beautiful path to the lodge. Palm Trees stood tall above us and dense jungle was on both sides of us. The path was lined with various colorful plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies- we were already more than pleased with our accommodations.
When we reached the open air lodge, we were greeted by Carmen and Daniel who immediately handed us our complimentary rum punch drinks. We were shown around the common areas and finally to our room (a River View Tree House).
It was phenomenal. The tree house not only had an outdoor shower, but also a small private deck.
The room itself was an open plan layout with the living room sunken a few steps below the bedroom. All sides of the living room were screened open to all the sights and sounds of the jungle around us.
Dinner that night, and each meal after, happened to be extremely convenient. At 6:00pm, we walked down to the lodge to enjoy dinner buffet style, just as every meal was to be served. Six in the evening marked the soup and salad course, 6:30 dinner was brought out, and dessert was served at 7:00 (don’t be worried about showing up just after a swim or a hike- this is not a classy affair!).
All seating is community style, so you will find yourself sharing a table with all sorts of people. Normally, I am quite shy, but this was a helpful way to find out what tours were worth it, the best sites to see in the area, and all around interesting conversations were shared over a meal. The setting of the dining / bar area cannot be beat. You feel like you are inside, but all sides are completely open to sights and sounds of the jungle and river around you. Over every meal, we continued to enjoy the views of the wildlife (including click beetles who light up like fireflies after dark), beautiful flowers, and Caves Branch River.
On our first full day, we decided to stay close to the lodge and see what there was to see… Which was quite a bit.
We first set out on about a half hour walk to Blue Hole National Park (we were told the entry fee was $4 US per person but it was actually $8 US per person) to see the beautiful cenote which we had read about. It was so quiet and peaceful. We were actually the only people in the area- which I don’t know if that because it was early in the day or the area is just that remote. You’re able to swim here so don’t forget your suit! For us, it was well worth the visit.
When we returned to the grounds of the lodge, we decided to take a walk around the gorgeous Botanic Gardens. As it turns out, we ran into the “resident botanist” (as she called herself – but she was also a co-owner of Caves Branch) who works hard to maintain the beautiful setting. Caves Branch has the largest collection of orchids in all of Belize (over 90 species). You’ll also see hibiscus, cocoa, various palms and spice plants which all seem to thrive under the delicate care they receive.
As 3:00 rolled around, we decided to do the Cheese Tasting Carmen had offered us upon our arrival. Caves Branch works closely with a charity encouraging youth to participate in a chess program keeping them out of trouble and engaging their brain outside of school. The program is partially funded by the profits made from both the cheese and soap made on site at Caves Branch. You can do a cheese tasting on site free of charge (about a 30 minute tasting but must reserve a day in advance)
And all soaps in the rooms are those made on site (they’re also available for purchase in the gift shop and make wonderful souvenirs.
To round out our day, we sat poolside and enjoyed the sun. Again, we were the only people in sight and reminded of how remote of a location this truly is. Here we saw an entire troop of howler monkeys making their way from tree to tree above us. It was absolutely amazing to see them in the wild (you can often hear them around sun up, letting out the loud howl from which they were named).
We watched in awe at how the older monkeys helped the younger ones gain confidence with every step taken further out on the limb. Later that evening, we briefly saw a toucan in these same trees. Caves Branch states that they are not sanitized from nature but a part of it, which is exactly why all these animals felt comfortable enough to live so close to the lodge.
Caves Branch itself was a truly incredible experience and I would not hesitate in recommending any one to stay there and experience it for themselves. There was plenty to do on site, but there are also so many amazing adventure expeditions you can do to see even more of the Belizean jungle (we had two included in our package and another couple had four or so). In addition to the wonderful accommodations and natural surroundings, the staff was phenomenal. They were all so incredibly kind and genuinely excited to share about their country and culture. You will not regret staying at Caves Branch- in fact, I wish we had booked a longer stay!
You can also visit Hannah’s blog on her site Endless Travels to see more fabulous pictures and description on her adventure at Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch. She also writes about the Botanical Garden and her experience on the Waterfall Tour.
Thanks you for such a wonderful story, Hannah – Hope to see you again soon!