I was recently invited by Ian Andersonâ€™s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge to come out and experience their adventure hideaway. I knew it would be fun, but had no idea just how much fun! My plus one, Aimee, and I immediately started planning the dates along with a flight from San Pedro to Belmopan. Caves Branch does offer a transfer service at a cost of $65 USD from anywhere in Belize City or the international airport, but as a benefit to living here, Aimee had a Belmopan connection and so we used Charles Galvez (669-9864) to make the 20 min trip from the Belmopan airport to the lodge.
The property is 50,000 acres and simply stunning. Everywhere you turn there is something cool to look at or hear. They offer extensive plant life throughout, in addition to their Botanical Garden. The lodge also does some amazing conservation work, cataloging species, finding new ones and preserving the endangered ones.
In addition to the daily buffets, one of the things I really enjoyed about Caves Branch was the people we met. The staff as well as the guests were friendly and down to earth. The Caves Branch crew consists of 104 employees with the longest hired approximately 22 years ago. They honor him with a placard above their buffet as the Employee of the Decade. While we were there, they also celebrated the employees who had their birthdays that month by allowing them to have dinner with us. I can totally see why the resort has so many long time dedicated staff. It is very apparent that the owners truly care.
It shows that they take their guests seriously as well. Between outstanding customer service to training procedures, all of them help to ensure that the majority of their staff have some basic knowledge as to what the resort does and who they are. That may sound like common sense but Caves Branch takes that to a new level.
During their slow season they invite all the staff and several family members to stay at the lodge for a couple of days and experience their job as a guest would, free of charge. This ensures that the families understand just how important the job is and how it affects the overall running of the lodge. The best way to teach good customer service is to show your employees exactly what that looks like.
The facility is environmentally friendly as well. Caves Branch separates their garbage and has a compost pile. The soil made then gets spread throughout the property and onto the lush gardens. It is also used for replanting and re-soiling projects. The entire property is also off grid, not that you would ever notice.
As for the community, the lodge is also very involved in this. They support the Belmopan Senior Steppers group, work with Pack for Purpose (which encourages guest to bring school and medical supplies) donating to the local schools, both Armenia Government and St Margaret’s schools being nearby. Caves Branch also supports The Belize Chess Foundation which is involved in encouraging young people to finish school and further their education. In addition, every year, Caves Branch holds a Feed the Hungry program in Belize City where the homeless are invited to an evening of good food and entertainment. They do all this and so much more.
I know you will like these pictures of the pool and the amazing grounds.
We ended up in room number 10, one of the ground floor cabanaâ€™s just past the Botanical Garden. A gorgeous flower and plant filled walkway lead us to our room. The path through the grounds to our front door was very lush and private which added to the jungle ambience and intrigue. It was not a long walk, but of course it was never a fast one because there were so many cool things to stop and look at along the way. And so much of it that we noticed something different every time.
There are no curtains on the large screened windows on all 4 sides, so we had an amazing view. Various flowers, fruit trees, jungle vines, and the wildlife that inhabits them. Our room has a good size living room area that has ample seating as well as a bunk bed. The bathroom was long and narrow and at the end by the shower there is a door that leads to a private tropical courtyard with a fabulous outdoor shower.
One unexpected highlights of our stay was a daily surprise. Every time we came back to the room after housekeeping had been there, we found 2 or 3 different animal towel arrangements. It got to be an anticipated treat and both Aimee and I were super glad we came back early one day and caught housekeeping still working. It gave the woman cleaning our room (sorry I never got your name) an opportunity to hear us gush all over her artistic talents in the form of a big long croc on my bed – absolutely loved it.
I had been waiting for a towel crocodile ever since my visit to Orange Walk, home of the Submerged Crocodile (Lamanai Ruins). It became a running joke but my friend and I never tapped Google on how to. Of course that one made it into my photo collage and got Facebook messaged at the time as a found piece of art 🙂
Sleeping in the jungle and listening to all the many sounds was just stunning. I woke up often during the night to listen and marvel. I managed to separate the call of one animal, no idea what it was and by listening carefully I was able to distinguish about 5 very similar but different sound patterns. How cool is that? It was a beyond amazing experience for me.
Celebrating the Art of Dining
Those of you who know me well, know I am at my happiest when someone puts a plate of food in front of me and says here, try this. Caves Branch went one better with their daily buffet style meals, and no shortage of choices, instantly had me in foodie heaven (I knew I would be right from the start with a welcome cookie container and fruit punch when we checked in).
Just when I thought we were done the first night, I found out the pasta was only part of the appetizer round and our actual dinner was still to come, not to mention dessert and birthday cake on top of it! I am not kidding about foodie heaven.
It was a great experience coming together and breaking bread with interesting people from around the world and marveling over the beauty of where we were. We also enjoyed a 24 hour visit from our friends Debbie who flew from San Pedro to Dangriga and Marsha who drove in from Toledo to get her. Towards the end of our stay, a bunch of us were chatting after breakfast and we were even graced by the presence of monkeys swinging from the trees. It does not get any better than that for a happy meal experience.
More About the Food
Poultry, vegetables and eggs all come from Ian’s Barton Creek organic farm. His farm produces some amazing products and is able to sustain itself in a low environmental impact way. For example the oranges from the orchard are sliced daily and guests are invited to use their cool juice squeezer for “make your own OJ.” It does not get any fresher than that and there is no packaging waste. The peels of your fresh morning juice even go into the compost pile, so technically with every glass you are doing your part to help preserve our country’s most precious asset – Nature.
Learn More about Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge
Click through to Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Website to see what other super cool things you can do and learn more about the place. If you are interested in a jungle Adventure and want a bit more input, read Caves Branch Jungle Lodge reviews on Trip Advisor.
I will leave you with a short silent video to wet your appetite.
I would like to thank Rhoda for inviting us to Caves Branch, we had an amazing time. Click to read part two of our adventures – Jungle Play – 4 Amazing Tours Plus 2 Unofficial Ones.
I know some of you may be thinking along with an invitation, the review is always glowing. This is not always the case. My one unmentionable would be the pile of leaves on our walk way.
Since I am one of those people that finds it hard not to have a “stuff pile” somewhere, it did not bother me. I rather grew to appreciate the pile as an extra land marker guiding my way home. (Due to my invisible disability, dyslexia and the way my brain processes information, things that should be familiar are often strange.)
I also came to appreciate as part of the jungle that had placed itself on our path. Not only did it make me practice mindfulness to go around, it reminded me of the leaf piles we spent hours playing with as kids. My friends and I used to make forts and have a shoe box with cookies hidden inside.
If you are not a pile person, you can always politely ask for it to be moved.