Return From Punta Gorda
Red Bank and Caves Branch Jungle Resort
Red Bank - Stann Creek District
Following our disappointing stay in Punta Gorda, we headed in the general direction of home. There is no way to return to Consejo without following the very same highways on which we traveled south. When we came upon the sign for Red Bank we remembered that the Scarlet Macaws visited Red Bank annually, in fairly large numbers. We didn't know during which season they made this migration. So we took the little dirt road into the settlement of Red Bank.
A flight of Scarlet Macaws is exactly what we did not see. It seems these magnificent birds travel to the Red Bank area in December to feed on the sweet fruit of the 'annato' and 'pole wood' trees. They remain in the Red Bank area generally through March, when they head back to their nesting grounds in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve in the Cayo District of Belize.
What we did find was a quaint village of about 700 living in widely spaced, mostly thatched roof homes. It was fairly early on a Sunday morning, so we didn't have much hope of seeing anyone. There was a tienda open, however, so we stopped in and asked who we should see for information about the Macaws. We were instructed to call on Mr. Florentino Sub.
Mr. Sub met us at the front door of his Maya style home and immediately insisted we call him Florentino. He told us that unfortunately the Scarlet Macaws were not around. What he could show us was his Cacao orchard. A tour of a working Cacao orchard was one of the things we wanted to do while in Punta Gorda, but were unable to, so this was a real treat.
So we drove down an ever more primitive dirt road, about 10 miles into the jungle. On his land he has a couple hundred young Cacao trees. It takes 3 years before a newly planted tree produces fruit, so these were older than that as every one was loaded with Cacao pods. Florentino explained that the trees produce year around and that these trees had been harvested just a couple of weeks ago. He then showed us that most of the fruit on the trees weren't quite rip and how you can tell. He proceeded to crack open a ripe pod so we could see and taste the raw beans in their natural state. The fruit tasted good, but not nearly as good as the chocolate produced from it!
You can contact Mr. Florentino Sub by phone at 011 (501)660-6320 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hummingbird Highway - Stann Creek & Cayo Districts
Next we headed back up the Hummingbird Highway. The air over the Cayo District had noticeably less smoke, so the landscape looked a lot better then on the trip down.
Just before reaching Caves Branch, we stopped at the Blue Hole National Park. The Park is located about 12 miles SE of Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway and consists of 575 acres, full of forest with an abundance of flora and fauna. The collapsed karst sinkhole is about 25’ and roughly 300’ in diameter with stunning turquoise water.
The Caves Branch Jungle Lodge is centered on the 58,000 acre Caves Branch Estate in the heart of the Belizean jungle yet only 20 minutes from the capitol city of Belmopan. The lodge overlooks The Caves Branch River and nestled below a 100 foot rain forest canopy. Like their brochure boasts, they are not sanitized from the jungle ... they are a part of it. The accommodations consist of several styles of cabanas, most are thatched in the traditional manner of the Maya. They are fully screened offering a comfortable and bug free environment.
The pool is beautifully arranged, with an arched bridge, towering waterfall, three pools and a real hot tub!
The jungle canopy nurtures a vast array of flowers. There are flowers everywhere. They have a botanical garden with scores of verities of orchids.
Caves Branch Jungle Lodge offers an almost overwhelming number of tours and excursions, most on the resort property. You should visit their website for details. Listening to the other guests and students talk about their adventures convinced us that we were not in good enough physical condition to attempt most of them. Jungle trekking requires a lot of walking and climbing. Walking 2 miles on the flat, cool coast is nothing like walking 5 miles uphill in the heat of the jungle!
We opted for the morning Bird Watching walk, which was just over a mile total, all on flat land. On this hour and a half walk we saw and identified 26 varieties of birds!
Tuesday morning it was time to head for home. We reluctantly loaded up the truck and headed to Belmopan for a quick stop at the USA Embassy, and found out tht they only deal with Social Security issues on Mondays and Thursdays. We will just have to make an other trip.
For anyone wanting to experience the Belize Jungle, we can recommend a few days at Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge without hesitation. If you are visiting Belize December - March, take the time to travel to Red Bank and see the magnificent Scarlet Macaws. Give Florentino Sub a call 011 (501)660-6320 or email him at email@example.com to confirm the birds are in the area.
Photos by: J. McMaster
(except the bird photos which were gleaned from the internet)