Cotton Tree Lodge: Just the Right Mix of Jungle & Service

Roughing It in Belize—But with Massages, Cocktails & Picnic Lunches

The Cotton Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda, Belize offers just the right mix of jungle and service. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The Cotton Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda, Belize offers just the right mix of jungle and service. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

I learn how to breathe at the Cotton Tree Lodge. Partway through my weeklong stay, while enjoying a massage by a somewhat mystical masseuse, I am told to breathe deeply. I try. I do. She tells me that Americans don’t know how to breathe; they have never had to breathe as if their life depended on it. Instead of being offended, I listen. I listen and I practice and I learn how to breathe deeply as if my life depends on it.

Travelers staying at the Cotton Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda, Belize can be both close to nature and soothingly clean. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Travelers staying at the Cotton Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda, Belize can be both close to nature and soothingly clean. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

That is what a vacation in the jungle can give you: the occasion and the willingness to listen, to hear. After some quality time spent in a hut, with a thatched roof, a visitor cannot help but notice the sound of life all around. Little is better than hearing the howler monkeys, those tiny creatures with big, booming voices, go off in the mornings. While I am here, I get to see bats, who I begin to appreciate both for their cuteness and their mosquito-eating prowess, and snakes and possums, who, it turns out, are sort of like big rats but with very cute faces. There are scorpions, too—little guys with big stings.

On the road in Belize: This traveler's preference for getting into nature? With a driver to guide my way. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

On the road in Belize: This traveler’s preference for getting into nature? With a driver to guide my way. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Staying at the Cotton Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda, I can choose a daily field trip or two. I might spelunk in a cave and reach an underground waterfall, visit nearby ruins and become appalled at what turn-of-the-last-century ‘explorers’ did to the real treasures they found (explode some in the search for gold), indulge in the harder-than-I-would-have-thought business of making chocolate (although the sweet reward for all my work makes the effort worthwhile), or explore the garden where the food I might be eating later in the week is still growing.

Guests at the Cotton Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda, Belize can sleep easily and wake up to the big voices of howler monkeys. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Guests at the Cotton Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda, Belize can sleep easily and wake up to the big voices of howler monkeys. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

I find the Cotton Tree Lodge soothing because it is far enough away from my real life and an adventure just in getting there, because in addition to offering the jungle, it also offers comfort: that massage, daily meals, everything that is organizationally required to orchestrate my daily jaunts. Also, there is Internet access and electricity and running water. It is authentic but also contemporary. This traveler has her needs. Showering just happens to be one of them.

Cotton Tree Lodge, Punta Gorda, Toledo District, Belize

—Lori Tripoli

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Making time for nature in Belize. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

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