I have just returned from my 4th trip to Belize and my 3rd stay at Caves Branch. I have to say that Caves Branch is better than ever! Every time I return, I am surprised how much more that Ian has done to move his jungle lodge into the realm of a true jungle / adventure experience while providing the little amenities of true jungle luxury.
Most recently since my last visit is the new jungle lodge, 6000. sq feet of open air, mahogany, tropical cedar and natural cane with 12 foot ceilings. All the 12 foot suport posts were hand carved by craftsmen, not a machine touched them and the floor is tiled in hand made terra cotta clay tiles. The entire appearance fits right into its surroundings.
The meals were even better than I remembered them to be and that was a hard show to follow.
During my most recent visit, all the guides were undergoing their annual recertification of their medical and rescue training. From a distance I observed what could be considered to be no less than premium first world training being given to the guides who all had to do two days of hands on scenarios to prove their recertifiacton. I was impressed!
I'm writing in specific after reading Marys posting on the Disaster and Rescue Response Teams busy week. See:
I was at Caves Branch during that week. I saw it all:
. the rescue team arriving back from Mexico, totally exhausted from their 9 days of work at the epicentre of Hurricane Wilma
. The flurry of activity between 8:30 and 9: am when 12 guides loaded their trucks and raced out the driveway to rescue 6 tourists and their 3 guides from flooding rivers and returning just 5 hours later with smiles on their faces after a successful rescue of guests that were not even theirs.
. they allowed me to volenteer the day of the Belmopan disaster scenario, I was covered with blood and tried my best to be a "good" victim. The scene was chaotic, as it was meant to be, the whole while being supervised by Ian Anderson, the Caves Branch and DARRT teams.
. and the following day when a number of the Caves Branch staff, along with Ian set off to pick up the kids in Belmopan for a days outing.
I can't say, after returning home and giving the week some thought, just how impressed I was with the selfless volenteerism of Ian Anderson and his Caves Branch oganization.
Of course while this was all going on, the lodge itself provided top notch services as usual.
I know it costs me a bit more to stay at Caves Branch than some other jungle lodges. It works out to costing me about 3 beers a day more .. something I can certainly handle. But for the cost of 3 beers a day, I know that I am in the hands of people who would be called upon on rescueing me from the less professional hands of other tour operations if an incident occured .. for the cost of about 3 beers a day, I know I am in the hands of some of the most highly trainied adventure guides in not only Belize, but from what I have personally seen, perhaps the world .. for the cost of about 3 beers a day, I will continue opting for the Caves Branch experience with Ian Anderson and his team.
After all, look what the cost of those 3 beers are supporting: a disaster rescue and response team that might save your life someday even if you are not staying at Caves Branch, a team that responds to national and international disasters and an oganization that is working with "Youth at risk" within the country .. Not to mention the finest adventure jungle lodge in Belize.
All for the cost of a few beers .. Ian Anderson and Caves Branch has my vote!