The sleeping giant rock formation in the Maya Mountains in Belize looms over the valley of the Sibun River and its here that Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge sits at the foothills of the mountains. The giant is an ancient, constant and commanding presence ordering rest and serenity and the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge rises to the challenge, creating an unparalleled experience deep in the Belizean rainforest.
Opened in 2012, the lodge’s priority is to get you up close and personal with nature whilst disconnecting you from the stresses of everyday life. As I arrive, the green landscape unravels around me and it feels as though I’m being greeted by Mother Nature herself as a delicately flavoured welcome cocktail is placed in my willing hands. The opulent and established gardens that surround the property are rich with colour, and obviously the pride and joy of the team who tend to them. Pathways wind through bright blooms and fishponds, over bridges and creeks, down to the river and hummingbirds flit about above me, attracted by all the sweet nectar. It feels like I’m walking through a dream.
The hundreds of cayes that speckle the Caribbean and Belize Barrier Reef are a marvel, but those in the know head to mainland Belize. This small nation in Central America is a paradise that guarantees an irresistible escape back to nature. Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge sits on the banks of the Sibun River near Belmopan in Belize’s Cayo district and offers guests a luxurious getaway immersed in the lush surroundings of the forest. Just over an hour from Belize City down the Hummingbird Highway, the drive alone shows you some of the most stunning scenery imaginable. Sleeping Giant is nestled amongst the greenery with Mayan ruins, mountains and jungle waterfalls right on your doorstep, and a lucky few might spot the elusive jaguar sloping between the trees.
The buildings of dark wood and soft sand colours blend seamlessly with their surroundings and the sounds of the river create an idyllic soundtrack designed to relax you. The design mixes the vibrant and earthy colours and textures of the jungle with contemporary sophistication, enveloping guests in exquisite sensory paradise. The rooms, suites and creekside cottages have a river or mountain view, both as spectacular as each other.
My river view suite
Steppingstones lead me over a reflecting pool to the front door of my suite on the banks of the Sibun River, and the first thing I see is a wall of jungle on the other side through the floor to ceiling windows. I walk through the sliding doors onto my large balcony and lounging area with private infinity plunge pool that gives me a front row seat to admire the river running past below.
Inside, there’s 1,030 sq. ft. of air-conditioned space, a soaring 10ft ceiling and handcrafted hardwood furnishings draped in local textiles. I’m delighted to discover a second private outdoor area as I explore the airy bathroom; a secluded walled garden that is attached to the front of the suite. It feels like a secret tropical oasis just for me filled with plants and an outdoor shower as well as a daybed to luxuriate on.
I unpack and acclimate to the feeling of being cut off. Sleeping Giant purposefully has no WIFI or TVs in rooms, to almost force guests to disconnect and instead absorb the content that’s all around them. I’m sceptical at first, but very soon it becomes a novelty and the knowledge that my suite is somewhere I can be completely unreachable becomes addictive. The open air lobby is minutes away for times you need to be reachable, but mostly I relish in gleeful solitude. The only sound that can find me is the river babbling past as I relax in my plunge pool gazing out into the black. All my devices stay silent and dark, forgotten for now.
Things to do
This is when the jungle really shows off. Wake up and take your pick from an extensive list of activities both on and off site, for both adventure junkies and those who like a slower pace. Sleeping Giant borders a 10,000-acre nature reserve and guests can hike up through the jungle to take in a breathtakingly beautiful view over the Maya mountain range and ‘giant’ rock formation which gives the lodge its name.
At sunrise or sunset, climb up into the treehouse and wait to see if you’re blessed with a sighting of the scarlet long tailed macaws who like to swoop by and cause a thrill with their bright plumage. Borrow a kayak or paddleboard and drift lazily down the river, head to the spa or simply idle by the pool with a hibiscus mojito.
Nearby, ancient history buffs can gaze over the forest canopy from the top of the Sky Palace at the ancient Mayan city of Xunantunich and listen to Howler Monkeys scream in the trees. Hack through the jungle on horseback, jump into a waterfall or explore an underground cave system which may or may not contain sacrificial Mayan skeletons that are thousands of years old.
The food experience
There are two restaurants, Grove House and Don Tonito’s plus the Bamboo Room Tapas and Cocktail Lounge. The award-winning Grove House restaurant serves authentic Central American cuisine with a farm to table twist, sourcing its ingredients from the lodge’s 600-acre farm, neighbouring villages and markets.
Haute cuisine blends with time-honoured local food and highlights included locally made Mennonite cheese smothered over brisket nachos, Papusas made by the traditional Mestizo chef and pizza cooked fresh on the fogón under the stars. Special mention goes to the soursop cheesecake, a dessert made from a rather aggressive looking fruit that makes for a delicious ingredient for both cocktails and desserts. Be sure to order a mojito, a house special with an impressive list of creative variations flavoured with herbs picked fresh from the local gardens.
What makes Sleeping Giant so special
Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge takes you deep into the tropical wilderness and gives you the ultimate gift of peace and distance from the noise of the world. Sleeping Giant prides itself on gifting you a space to be cut off and relish in your surroundings, an experience so rare these days when we are so accustomed to being connected all the time. The setting could not be more beautiful, the staff more attentive and the experience more addictive. I’ll be back.
To discover more, visit: sleepinggiantbelize.com
All imagery courtesy of Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge.
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