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Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
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Reviewed 27 April 2012

We visited for five nights in June 2011 and are still talking about this trip! We loved every aspect of our stay at Caves Branch. Our only regret was not staying longer! The lodge was in a beautiful jungle setting. The pool was a nice retreat after the adventures. Our tree house was so luxurious! We loved falling asleep to sounds of the jungle. The staff was friendly and attentive. The family style meals were fun. My twelve-year old twin boys had a blast. The adventures were awesome!

The Waterfall Cave Expedition- Wow, this expedition was right out of an Indiana Jones movie! Climbing up the waterfalls and jumping off of them was the highlight of the trip for my boys. It was a short hike to the cave. Once there, we hiked deep into the cave along a river. There were points where we swam or waded through it. We also climbed over, crawled under, and squeezed through rocks. We saw tagged Mayan artifacts. The guides did a great job relaying to us the significance of the caves to the Mayans.

The Black Hole Drop- Adrenalin pumping! The hike there was mostly up hill. It was challenging, but definitely doable. The guides were great about moving at a comfortable pace and taking lots of breaks. When it came time to go over the side, we were all shaking like leaves, LOL! Just do it! The guides know what they are doing; and you are tied to a second safety rope. We always felt safe.

Tikal- Absolutely amazing! Our guide was knowledgeable and shared a lot of history. The grounds and the surrounding jungle were beautiful. We saw lots of wildlife too. Bring lots of water and wear cool comfortable clothes. It was hot in early June. We stopped twice on the way there for breakfast and lunch, and once on the way back for souvenirs.

Zip-line and zoo- We had never zip-lined before, so it was a must do for us. If we had zip-lined before, we would not want to spend a whole day doing this. It was good, but not as exciting as the other adventures. The zoo was small but good. My boys got to feed a jaguar from inside a smaller cage within the jaguar cage. So cool! I'll attach a picture.

Tips:
Arrange for Caves Branch transportation to and from the airport. Not having to worry about logistics was really nice!

Get an all-inclusive package. The adventures is what Caves Branch is all about; and you are a good hour from anything else.

Our canopy tree house had an outlet and a safe.

Stayed: June 2011, travelled with family
1  Thank sharinola
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 April 2012

I didn't really know what to expect - I picked this place solely on the strength of its website and positive Trip Advisor reviews. None of that did it justice. Gorgeous setting, great food, top rate accommodations (at least in the treehouses - I didn't check out the other rooms) and incredible activity offerings. They set everything up, so you just decide what you want to do the next day (explore Mayan ruins, rappel waterfalls, tube down a river through caves etc.) and there is a guide and van waiting for you at 8:30 am ready to go with everything you need. We were there with 3 kids for 7 days and loved every minute of it - never ran out of things to do. The lodge is an attraction unto itself - gorgeous jungle plants everywhere, a two-level pool with waterfalls and bridge, a botanical garden, all set on a river in the rainforest. I HIGHLY recommend.

Room Tip: The treehouses cost more but are lovely and luxurious. The Canopy treehouse, in particular, is unbelievable - two storeys with mountain views and a deck with hot tub.
  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled with family
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1  Thank Ilana R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 April 2012

We really enjoyed our stay in March . . . so many fun and exciting things to do, we want to go back when we have more time to do more!

Loved the accommodations, food and pool. Bring bug spray, a flashlight, long pants and some good gripping sneakers for all excursions as they will not allow you to go without them for safety purposes :)

Room Tip: Treehouse Suites are unique and luxurious!
  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled with family
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Thank Nicholas P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 April 2012

My husband and I spent 3 nights in a canopy veiw treehouse with all the amentites from home. We had electricty as well as an outlet to charge cameras and a safe. There was also an outdoor shower and tub on our private balcony. It was 75 steps which didn't seem like much until we got back from our excursions. Needless to say if we forgot something on our room it stayed there. Anyway the staff and tour guides were excellent going above and beyond to make you feel comfortable in every way. The food was excellent with enough choices for even pickiest eaters. And we met lots of wonderful people. Iwas a fantastic trip, one we will not soon forget.

  • Stayed: April 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank vanessa7978
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 April 2012

Let me begin by saying that this is not the place for you if you are a professional rock-climber, explorer, speleologist or naturalist in search of never-before-seen frontiers. While Ian Anderson's Caves Branch bills itself as an adventure company and does offer adventure tours, do not expect to come back with photos of where you planted your flag for the first time, nor anything that is more challenging that a day's hard hike or rappel. Second, if you don't like the idea of tramping through snake-infested jungle or wading through underground rivers, but just want to relax and see the jungle and Mayan ruins from deluxe comfort, you might consider going to Francis Ford Coppola's place instead.

If you fall in between those extremes, as we did, then Caves Branch is a delightful little treat in the heart of the jungle. Since it is all-inclusive, with accommodation, food and tours all part of the bill I will deal with each in turn.


Accommodation:

We were visiting Belize for our honeymoon and opted for the River View Treehouse. As accommodation, it was stunning. Fantastic views, privacy, incredible view of the sunset, sumptuous furnishings and the delightful novelty of the outdoor jungle shower. From that perspective, it couldn't have been better for us.

The staff are very friendly and accommodating, on the whole. Overall, we got on best with Carlos, who was very attentive all the time, as well as Pablo and Edgar who gave us fun (and informative) tours of the jungle and caves. Ian himself was away, so we didn't get to meet him, and talking to other guests it seemed they had been shown more attention by other guides and staff, so it seemed that responsibility for the guests was shared out, not that those we didn't get to know were standoffish. Otherwise, the bedroom was always immaculate, there were always fresh towels by the pool, the bar staff were always eager to serve us drinks (local rum punch and beer were included with the room).


Food:

We checked out the reviews beforehand, and after initial doubts, decided we would come in spite of what others had said of the food (and, to a certain extent, the tours). Actually, we are very happy to contradict what has been said before us, as we found the food very tasty on the whole. As we are a vegetarian and a pescatarian, we can't speak for the meat dishes, but so far as dinner and breakfast were concerned (the two meals served in the lodge) everything else was delicious. It is buffet and canteen style, i.e. everyone shares fairly large tables of 8, but we enjoyed that aspect as we met some lovely people while we were there, which contrasted with the slightly more isolated time we had in our hotel on Caye Caulker.

As for lunch, this is admittedly a little more basic - do-it-yourself burritos with a selection of fillings from boiled eggs, fresh vegetables, salads, tomatoes, ham, etc. Perfect for those on long adventures, but maybe slightly boring for those who expected to come to the jungle and be served by Gordon Ramsay.


Tours:

Apart from the accommodation, the real highlight of Caves Branch is the tours. They have a vast property (50,000 acres, we were told) which covers a lot of jungle, cave systems and sinkholes, most of which they keep as conservation land (a small part is leased to citrus farmers). A whole range of tours are offered from the pedestrian (horse riding, Belize zoo, Mayan ruins) to adrenaline-pumping ziplining, waterfall jumping and the ubiquitous "black hole drop". Frankly, it may not be worth coming here if all you wish to do is see the zoo and ride a horse, unless your childhood desire was to stay in a huge treehouse, but the rest of the tour menu is second to none.

On our first day, we opted for the waterfall caves expedition. I don't want to give too much away, other than that you should expect to get wet, to crawl on your hands and knees (and belly!), and that you can see the fairly impressive remains of state archaeological excavations of a Mayan ceremonial cave. The waterfall part must be experienced in its own right, but it is huge fun and a massive buzz. Not for the faint of heart (and probably not suitable for children under 12 - there was a 12-year-old with us on our trip and he managed beautifully but parts of the expedition are strenuous and challenging). However, what a way to begin our stay - we loved it!

After the highs of caving, we took the sedate route and went to see the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. These were stunning, and our guide seemed reasonably knowledgeable about the history of the Maya and the cities themselves. An excellent day out.

Our third, and last, day was spent cave tubing. While the cave system itself is spectacular, and while our guide took very good care of us, we decided we would rather have opted for kayaks rather than tubes, which is also an option available - slightly more fun, slightly less sedate, and still offering the opportunity of seeing the same stunning vistas.

Two more brief mentions - we went on an after-dark jungle safari hike, which was also fun, although again may not be for the faint-of-heart (on this occasion it was just the two of us and our guide, and several times we switched off our torches to encourage the wildlife to come closer). Second, we were planning at one point to do the 2-day jungle exploration, which when it was explained to us sounds particularly fun and challenging. It is subject to availability, since if the lodge is too busy they may not have enough guides available, but you leave the lodge with just a machete and bag with water, and you must then catch you own food and build a shelter for the night. It sounded fantastic, and may go some way to mitigating my initial statement that this is not for the very hardy adventurer. Worth booking in advance if you plan on doing this (they also offer a 3-day version).


Overall:

All-in-all, we had an excellent time at Caves Branch. A wonderful way to get out into nature and leave the world of iPhones and facebook behind for a while, We found the isolation refreshing, the tours exhilarating, the company excellent and the accommodation second to none. Well done, Caves Branch! (Now work on not scaring people with your disclaimer, or warn them in advance).

Room Tip: For maximum privacy, take a treehouse. The Cabanas are very much more public, and no rooms have glass, only screens to keep out insects.
  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank BenSW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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