Caves Branch is a once-in-a-lifetime typa thing that should be experienced again and again. What is it, you ask? Give me two minutes…
Let me start by saying that the website of Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge heeds the following warning, “Please Remember, Caves Branch is NOT a resort-we are a unique Jungle Adventure Lodge…” There’s an entire page (note the URL) on the website dedicated to the question of whether the lodge is right for you. After scouring the web of Belizian jungle hotels, the crew and I decided that despite this peculiar warning, CB was the one for us.
As the days drew nearer and nearer, we realized we still weren’t quite sure what we were about to get into. Things we knew for sure:
- It’s a lodge
- Owned by Ian Anderson
- In the jungle
- “Activities and adventures” are encouraged
The beauty of travel is that not every answer needs to be known. You are free to explore, make last-minute calls, feel relief and regret, and change your mind at the last minute. This was an unknown we were thrilled to uncover.
The drive into CB is through a lush thicket of hanging vines and palm leaves. It feels both beautifully manicured yet wildly untamed – like if you decided to move one of those palms aside, you might be swallowed up by forest and taken in by a family of wolves (okay so fine, that’s the plot of the Jungle Book but you get the idea).
We were greeted at the front entrance with ice cold water and freshly baked cookies. Yup. COOKIES. We dropped our bags and walked over to the receptionist area which also happens to be in the dining hall just beyond the pool. After being handed a welcome drink (WHY DOESN’T EVERY HOTEL DO THIS?!) we looked around and couldn’t help but wonder where all the people were. “Off having adventures,” we were told. “You’ll be able to sign up for tomorrow’s activity this evening at dinner. Dinner’s at 6pm but snacks and beverages can be ordered at any time from the bar.” Communal dinner? The plot thickened.
Our curiosities were resolved at the arrival of our two travel buddies, Alex and Summer. The two had arrived the night before and had chosen a horse back ride through the jungle complete with picnic lunch and a light rain fall. They looked deliriously happy. We were informed that the hotel offered dozens of activities ranging in price that guests select at dinner time. You eat at long dining tables that fit 2-3 rooms of people and share your adventures with other guests. Alex was already high-fiving half the hotel’s patrons and chest bumping the bartenders.
Luke and I signed up for two adventures during our stay: cave tubing and the Black Hole drop. We spent our first adventure cruising through turquoise colored waters until we reached the mouth of the cave. Once inside, we ungracefully fell out of our tubes and clamored up slick cave walls to get a closer look inside the cave. We hopped in and out of our floats as we would cruise for a bit, hike for a bit, and then cruise some more. We marveled at bats, cave spiders, remnants of Mayan cultures past, and the most spectacular natural glitter I have ever seen. After having lunch deep inside the belly of the cave, we floated back out to end the trip with a bit of cliff jumping.
Now for the Black Hole drop. It’s exactly what you think it is. We hiked up through the most magical bit of jungle for about an hour or so until we reached the tippy top that overlooked a massive hole in the earth. Your heart drops, then beats out of it’s chest and before you know it, you’re strapped in. Luke and I repelled together over the side of a cliff and into the mouth of a cave. Cheeks flush with pink, I was doubling over in nervous laughter and pure joy. This was a vacation. Luke and I don’t normally do things that are planned for us. We spend time researching online, driving for hours and hoping we find the place we so desperately hope to see, always prepared for our hopes to be dashed. This was a break from that uncertainty (that we love, don’t get me wrong) that rejuvenated and didn’t leave us feeling the stagnancy of a beach vacation.
Here’s the craziest part: MOST ACTIVITIES TAKE PLACE ON IAN ANDERSON’S CAVE BRANCH LAND. The majority of the adventures are unique to the lodge and cannot be experienced through outside tours.
(Another favorite part: the banana rum milkshake. So maybe that’s not the actual name but it was delicious and I had at least three…)
The lodge is filled with families of all ages and origins and caters seamlessly to both young and old alike. We truly can’t wait to return (specifically for this).
Check ’em out at their website, here!