Not only did we feel welcome by Caves Branch and their staff, we felt welcome by our environment. Everywhere we turned we saw something unique and interesting. Sometimes it was hard to see the same thing twice because we had a multitude of choice before us and so many different lush jungle pathways to explore.
Aside from eating and lounging, Aimee and I had already decided to do some tours while there. and we were both very happy that 3 of them were onsite. The others (including our flight) were all closer than many peoples workday commute.
While it is not a deal breaker for me, nearby tours is a big draw on vacation, especially if I am not going to be somewhere for long. In this case 3 days went fairly fast. When our tour consultant was signing us up, he was all smiles at my indecision between which tours to take and wanting to just relax and enjoy the jungle without going any further than the walk to the dining hall, then back to our room. Every-time we did that walk however, we took our own tour time and studied the gorgeous botanical and wildlife around us.That few minute distance could take an hour if you wanted. There is so much to see and so many cool pathways to get distracted by along the way.
We ended up doing 4 official tours; cheese tasting, soap making, night time jungle walk and river cave. Of the for official ones, three were onsite and the last was about a 15 min drive, if that. Our 2 unofficial tours were the flight and the famous Farmhouse Deli. I included them as they rated equally as exciting and adventurous in a different way.
Now onto the good stuff and all our fun, educational and tasty adventures 🙂
Cheese Making Tour
Long before we arrived anywhere near Caves Branch Jungle Lodge I was excited for this tour, although I had already been getting my fill at the dinner and breakfast buffets I wanted more tasters 😀
The cheese making tour was also as big a deal as the cheese. The crux of the biscuit (heart of the matter) as to why we were really there and more specifically curds. Three small groups of us had been asking and patiently waiting for curds and Poutine parties. We also wanted to learn more about the process and the people that go into making their delicious cheeses.
Gloria, Clarabel and Ms. Odelia are the lovely cheese ladies. They make 13 cheeses on site including: ricotta, quark, mozzarella, with plain milk or Guyanese with cream, soft ripened, cottage cheese (made to order as it only lasts a week), 8 aged Trappist European style cheeses, old grey bender Belgian style, spressa (similar to Parmesan), northern Italy style, provolone, feta, triple cream, aged in 2 ways; outside for harder or in clear containers for softer and their famous Mr. Stinky blue cheese.
As far as ageing time goes, 8 oz. is aged 4 months, 13 oz. 6 months and 10 pounds is aged for 2 years. The milk and cream used to make the cheese comes from the Amish Mennonites about 15 – 20 min away.
Raise your hand if you can say that about the ingredients for the last cheese you ate?
I raised mine while enjoying my own version of a farmhouse deluxe grilled cheese sandwich made with – molasses brown bread, avocado, curds and Mr. Stinky cheese that my friend Debbie Klauber gifted me. Yumilicious all toasty and gooey – I love my panini press.
After our Cheese tour we moved onto the soap factory. I am a liquid soap girl but I was interested to see the process and check out all the scents they offer. Nice smelling bar soap is great way to keep your dresser drawers smelling fresh. They have a variety of fresh and delicious scents produced onsite – green apple, jasmine, lemon eucalyptus, lavender, bergamot, musk, lemongrass, tea tree lemon and vanilla.
Caves Branch soaps are handmade in a modest upstairs room at the lodge by the same ladies who make the cheese. During our visit to the production line, we learned that the soaps are made on Saturday’s and the cheese are made the remainder of the week.
The soaps are all made with simple ingredients and the procedure basically goes as follows: They melt glycerin, add fragrance and pour into a PVC mold they custom made. It then gets frozen overnight before being cut with a custom tool before being packaged for distribution.
In addition to being used and sold in house and at the Farmhouse Deli, they have a total of 10 resorts in Belize who offer their soap line. The best part, the proceeds go towards the youth project Belize National Youth Chess Foundation (BNYCF) and other community endeavors.
Night Time Jungle Walk
My travel companion Aimee and I both agreed the night tour was a must. After laying in bed loving listening to it, we both wanted to get up close with what the jungle darkness had to offer.
Thelma was our fearless and knowledgeable leader and Hector was the end wrangler and made sure those of us taking pictures did not fall behind in the dark.
It was a guarantee that we would see some sort of creepy crawlies if we looked close and of course we all hoped to see more. While we did not see any big animals, we did see some very cool small ones and learned some interesting facts along the way.
Among the things we saw were centipedes, a red rump tarantula, wolf spider, cicada, lightning bugs and lots of leaf cutter ants.
Two interesting jungle facts we learned:
- Cicadas live underground feed on roots of trees and have a 17 year lifespan. On our way in, Thelma pointed out one that was hanging from a branch and starting to emerge from its cocoon. She made sure to tell us that by the time we got back, there would be a noticeable color change. She was right. – it is hard to tell from my picture though.
- It is the female leaf-cutter ant that carries the leaf. Small ants ride on the leaf and their job is to inspect for fungus.
What a cool experience it was watching nature doing it’s thing unfazed by a bunch of quietly nosy tourists, taking pictures and learning how night time in the jungle worked from our wonderful Belizean guides.
River Cave Expedition
We both wanted to do an off site tour, but at the same time we were not up for a marathon, so cave tubing was the perfect solution. Our guide Pablo was fantastic and the group we took the tour with were a lot of fun too. Pablo made the experience a incredible and educational adventure. While in the cave he made sure to point out various wildlife, bats, silk worms, catfish and of course a few creepy crawlies.
We got to do some climbing as well and see 2 different Maya artifacts in the cave. It was very cool.
Those are not the only tours close by, go the Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch adventure tours page to see what other fun things you can do, and to learn more about the place.
Farmhouse Deli Tour
Our last Belmopan land tour was a definite highlight of the trip – meat and Cheese 😀
In fact as I think about our time there, I want their grilled cheese something fierce right now. I love it when foods set off the craving factor for me and I was totally glad I saved half for when I got home. It was just as yummy after a fast warm-up in my sandwich press.
If the following menu description does not make your mouth water along with the top right picture below I do not know what will.
Grilled Three Cheese Sandwich – Artisan provolone, Roquefort blue (Mr. Stinky) and mozzarella melted over their fresh baked multi-grain bread and served with homemade mustard, pickled egg, sauerkraut, pickled sweet red cabbage, coleslaw and a half sour pickle.
I know many of you love the journey just as much as the destination. We were momentarily considering flying to Belize City and going by land to Belmopan. We both agreed a full aerial adventure was better and decided to fly direct on Tropic Air from San Pedro Airport to Belmopan.
This was a tour we were glad to take twice and both enjoy seeing the divercity of the countryside from above. From farms and fields to jungle and sea, it is an amazing trip where ever you are flying in Belize.
We Had an Amazing Time
I would like to thank Rhoda for inviting us to Caves Branch and Ian Anderson for the invitation to come back when we saw him at the last Truck Stop Farmers Market.
I know some of you may be thinking along with an invitation, the review is always glowing. This is not always the case. To read my one unmentionable (at the bottom of post) and see more of what the 50,000 acres of Caves Branch looks like visit my Jungle Love write up. It is filled with lots of great pics and good information.
If you are interested in a jungle Adventure and want a bit more input from other people, read Caves Branch Traveler Reviews on Trip Advisor. They are currently rated 4 1/2 Stars and have earned them by far.