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#424128 - 12/04/11 07:52 AM Into the Abyss – Black Hole Drop
Marty Offline
this is a great trip, I highly recommend it....


Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch

The turn off for Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Co. & Jungle Lodge is almost directly across from the entrance to the Blue Hole. Arriving at the lodge was a surprise. Ian Anderson’s web site works hard to make the operation seem bare bones, rustic, “not for everyone.” That may be true, but the place was WAY more polished than we expected with stylish design and architecture, Wi-Fi, lovely grounds and a very pretty pool.

Gregarious owner Ian Anderson may shun the words “luxury” and “resort” but his ever-expanding lodge now encompass everything from camping to charming and spotless US$34 bunk rooms to new split-level, 800 square foot Treehouse Suites with two showers (one outdoor), wrap-around views and a full living room (private hot tubs and morning coffee service are coming) that go for US$400 a night. (If you’re going to the Garufina town of Hopkins, check out their sister properties Jaguar Reef Resort, Almond Beach Resort and Villa Verano which is an amazing full beach house with gourmet kitchen and private pool).

Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge offers, by far, the broadest spectrum of accommodation choices we’ve ever seen. Truly something for everyone and every budget and that’s how Ian likes it. He’s into mingling travelers from all spheres which is why meals are served family style, often accompanied by Ian’s storytelling.

The view from the open-air shower in one of the Treehouse Suites at Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Adventure Co. & Jungle Lodge in Belize.

Adventure innovator

If Ian prefers to propagate his outdoorsy, rustic, rougin’ it reputation (despite increasing luxury at his lodge) at least it’s well-earned. He pioneered caving tourism two decades ago when a group of Peace Corp volunteers showed him some of the caves in the area. Ian fell in love with the terrain and saw opportunity in the fact that literally no one was offering cave tours in Belize at the time.

He also fell in love with one particular bend in the Caves Branch River–a bend that is now home to the lodge, his personal home and his adventure operation. In his spare time (chuckle) Ian also pioneered search and rescue training, procedures and operations in Belize, creating an infrastructure that’s still used country-wide.

We absolutely wanted to experience the caving (preferably without the search and rescue) so during our stay we signed up for three of Ian’s adventures. The first was ominously called Black Hole Drop (US$105 per person including transport, gear, guide and lunch).

This is why it’s called Black Hole Drop

We really did rappel way down into a black hole during the aptly named Black Hole Drop adventure in Belize. Note tiny human specs on giant sinkhole wall.

After a sweaty 30 minute hike through the jungle in the foothills of the Maya Mountains we arrived at the top of a giant cliff over the Actun Loch Tunich sinkhole. We’d arrived. Guides had gone ahead and checked ropes and rigging and they were waiting there to get us into our harnesses and helmets, ready to rappel

Karen has a fear of falling, so the longer she thinks about things like rappelling over the edge of a sheer cliff into a space where you can’t even see the bottom 300 feet (92 meters) below, the harder it gets. So we volunteered to go first.

Karen beginning a 300 foot (92 meter) rappel during the Black Hole Drop adventure in Belize.

First rule of rappelling: “Just lean back…”

If you’ve ever done any rappelling you know that the first step is a doozy. As the guide urges you to “just lean back” into the harness and over the abyss you struggle with the voice in your head that’s shouting DANGER at the top of its tiny little lungs. True, leaning back makes it easier to walk down the wall (which is, essentially, what rappelling is all about), counters the logical voice in your head. But it’s still easier said than done (for Karen, anyway).

Adrenaline pumping, we inched over the edge then started a leisurely descent, reaching the treetop canopy after about 200 feet (62 meters) and solid ground after about 300 feet (92 meters).

Karen mid-rappel during the 300 foot (92 meter) Black Hole Drop adventure in Belize. That's a nervous smile on her face since she hates heights. Note her death grip on the harness...

Karen mid-rappel during the 300 foot (92 meter) Black Hole Drop adventure in Belize.

Reaching the end of the rope (and solid ground) during the 300 foot (92 meter) Black Hole Drop rappelling adventure in Belize.

The Black Hole Drop on video.

All safely on the ground, we scarfed down a picnic, then hiked back out of the jungle–this time past a wide-mouthed cave which Ian uses as the site of his unique honeymoon suite which comes complete with a real bed set up inside the cave, candles, champagne, flowers and a discreet guide to do your cooking and carrying.

Hiking back out through the foothills of he Maya Mountains after our 300 foot (92 meter) Black Hole Drop rappel.


#490665 - 05/08/14 06:46 PM Re: Into the Abyss – Black Hole Drop [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Video: The Black Hole Drop with Ian Anderson's Caves Branch

Sinking your fears at the Black Hole Drop

My brain is screaming at my legs to move, yet my knees are locked up, my thighs are clenched tight and my feet refuse to lift.

“Just put your right foot over that root and make the arch rest right over it,” says a very patient Esperansa. She has guided our group of 11 adventurers 600 feet above sea level, through bushes and rocks, thorny trees and green canopied forest, all to land at this one spot, where an errant root stands between me and…well, it can only be describes as a gaping chasm. And now I’m immobile at its edge, tethered to a number of cables and ropes, yet I’m immobile.

How did I get in this position?
Two days before, I had gotten an email from Julie at Tropic Air, inviting one of The San Pedro Sun/My Beautiful Belize staff to go on a familiarization (FAM) trip to Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch, and experience the thrilling Black Hole Drop (real name: Actun Loch Tunich). Bucket List item Alert! I may have begged and squirreled my way into being assigned to it (ha) but I certainly wasn’t laughing now.

Black-Hole-Drop-37At the time of the email, the one-hour hike through rugged terrain up into a mountain was my biggest fear. I bragged that I wasn’t worried about the drop. Oh no, I was only concerned about the hike, seeing as the last time I hiked UP somewhere longer than five minutes, I just about passed out from exhaustion. Well, it seemed that the hike was a cakewalk compared to getting my feet to move away from the ledge. They were not moving, and every time I tried to look behind and below, all I could see was the dark, unknown territory below.


Black Hole Drop-22

I had heard the squeals and “oh my god…ahhhhh!!!!” coming from my companions before me as they descended, but now I was alone at the top. I was supposed to rappel 200 feet below where lunch (and everyone else) waited for me. Poor Esperansa – she was such a patient and kind guide. Carlos, another guide who held one of the ropes for me, watched me as I shook my head “no” over and over again. I closed my eyes, and gave myself a good talking to. Somehow, by some miracle, my right foot moved, and even though my body tried to sway forward, I forced myself to lean back like I had been told and in the least graceful way possible, managed to totter over the edge, fully trusting every rope tied to me to prevent my fall.

One tiny step at a time, I rappelled the sheer face of the cliff I was on, until there was no rock to step on, and I was simply hanging in the air. I screamed for a quick stop, and without even looking through the screen, snapped a few pictures (I was on assignment!) and prayed one would be good (they were all blurry). Far below I could hear everyone else shouting my name, encouraging me to hurry down (they were probably really hungry), and so I did. My hands were so thankful for the gloves that protected me from the rope as I slid down through tree branches and into a cool cavern. When I landed, it was all I could do to not bend over and kiss solid ground.


Was it scary? Let’s put it this way, when I processed the photos, there was one shot taken from the spot where I froze, and my stomach flip-flopped. Would I do it again? Yes. I really would, and this time, I’d enjoy the views as I go down, instead of closing my eyes half of the way (I really did that). I also would try and go first or somewhere in between, but not last. Sitting there and watching everyone just disappear from the ledge, then hearing their squeals and shouts for five agonizing minutes really can mess with your head. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, heck, it wouldn’t matter what order you went in.

But for those who want to conquer that teeny bit of fear, and who do enjoy pushing their boundaries, this drop is fantastic. Even standing at the edge and looking outwards – what incredible views await you!

Even the hike back up is fun, as tired as your legs may be, scrambling like goats over big rocks and chattering away in between breaths to your companions in a place of isolation makes the return to civilization fun. Not easy, but certainly fun!

 About the Black Hole Drop

Black Hole Drop-2Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Company offers ‘intense’ inside the Maya Mountains to what it calls the “mother of all caves” with Actun Loch Tunich (a 300 foot deep sinkhole). A steep, vigorous hike uphill leads to the upper edge of the sinkhole which stands 200 feet above the rainforest canopy growing within.
Knowledgeable guides set you up with a system of rappelling ropes and then it’s adventure time down the basin, where a delicious picnic style lunch awaits you! Don’t overdo the lunch, because you have to climb right back up out of the basin. Just, you know, not the way you came in!! Prepare to climb a ladder, scale rocks and much hiking uphill again until you exit the foot of the mountain and get back on your tour bus to go to the lodge where a pool awaits (and possibly many cold beverages).
This tour is recommended for anyone 10 and up, and it is quite intense. Wear comfortable lightweight clothing that you don’t mind getting wet, and for your feet: proper hiking boots or well-treaded sneakers. Most of all, bring your spirit of adventure!

Click here to read the rest of the article and see LOTS more AWESOME photos in the San Pedro Sun

Black Hole Drop Rappelling Adventure, Caves Branch, Belize

The Black Hole Drop adventure tour of Belize has you hiking, rappelling down the mouth of a sink hole, climbing boulders, ladders and more hiking in one of the most thrilling tours in the country.

#494463 - 08/11/14 06:15 AM Re: Into the Abyss – Black Hole Drop [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

VIDEO: Belize Black Hole Drop 08 09 14

Rappelling at the Black Hole Drop, Belize

Belize Black Hole Drop 300 ft. Rapell

Belize’s Black Hole Drop: Leave The Chicken at The Top
Belize’s Maya Mountains (that cover much of the lower left quadrant of the country) sit atop caves and hidden rivers…places discovered and undiscovered. Yesterday, starting in Ambergris Caye (and returning there in the same day), I hiked deep into the jungle, dropped 300 feet into a limestone sink hole and lived to tell the tale.

I wasn’t even thinking about a hike…I was only focused on the drop. We were given back-packs – 3 liters of water to carry – THREE! and told it was two miles in with 3 “significant” hills.

At least an hour later, we got to our spot. The Black Hole. A limestone sinkhole formed so long ago that there is a jungle growing at the bottom.


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