“So that our guests may fully disconnect and enjoy the beautiful nature there is no wi-fi and television in the guest rooms,” says our host moments after greeting us at the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge. I hear gasps from my children and sense some discontent from my husband. We will soon find that being surrounded by over a hundred thousand acres of untouched wilderness is more than enough for our senses. By the end of our stay Lucas will tell me that he enjoyed not having wi-fi. Without the distraction of video games he was able to get lost in the wonder of this place.
Our day started at 5:30 am EST. The kids woke easily as excitement set in. Twelve hours and two time zones later our driver pulls over on Hummingbird Highway and asks us if we know why our resort is called Sleeping Giant? He points to the mountain range ahead and challenges us to see something. After some assistance we make out the profile of a sleeping giant in the mountain range. We turn onto a dirt road. After climbing the bumpy hill our driver stops and tells us we have arrived. I look out the van window and see the beautiful flora and fauna but not much of anything else. The kids find the pathway first and we are greeted by a warm voice telling us we are in the right place. Before us is an unassuming Hacienda style open-air building. Gareth learns our names and gives high-fives while Swift begins making our rum punches. Over the next four days Gareth will serve us many meals; Oliver will become his “main man”, he will make the table for two in the romantic alcove become a table for five because Oliver, and I, want it, and on our last day the kids will give Gareth homemade cards as we say our goodbyes. Our host gives us a tour and points out the view of the sleeping giant, I can see it more clearly now. The kids still struggle to see it but our host reassures us that the view from our room is even better.
We make our way up the steep, newly constructed walkway to our room. We stop halfway to catch our breath. It will surprise me in the days going forward how easily and swiftly we make this steep climb and how none of my children ever complain. We are rewarded with this view and now we can all see the sleeping giant.
Nestled into the foothills of the Sibun National Forest Reserve in Central Belize, Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge gives us mountains, rainforests, tropical gardens, creeks and rivers. From the privilege of our balcony we see it all. I breathe in the green, hear the tropical birds, feel the lush and wonder why it has taken me so long to come to this place; grateful that it has found me and I it.
The day of travel is always a little bizarre; leaving the familiar and normalizing the foreign. I must awake to my new surroundings to fully feel arrived. My first morning and the next three will begin the same; the easy warmth of the early sun, my coffee, the chorus of birds, the silence, and the pristine view of the slumbering giant.
David Hayles, owner of Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge, visited Belize for the first time in 1989. The Canadian entrepreneur fell in love and started his first citrus farm in 1994. This citrus farm along with his first private residence was renovated and transformed into the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge in 2012. Today Hayles is one of the largest citrus producers in Belize. Hayles’ passion for architecture, sustainability and quality are evident at the Sleeping Giant.
Vacations take you places, sometimes near and sometimes farther. Sometimes the place takes you, forever changing how you see that color, taste that flavor and breathe that scent. Vacations repair what is worn and frayed, forgives fatigue and tantrums, celebrates the normal and the extraordinary.
The river was a mere 100 feet from the pool. It was late afternoon, the sun giving way to shade. We paddle boarded, we kayaked. We floated and giggled, enjoying our own private river as the sun settled behind the trees.
Lucas requested to go bird watching so on our last morning we met Abel at 6:30 am with binoculars in hand. We saw the silhouettes of birds take flight high in the forest and waited to see where they perched. To my surprise the dark figures were the colorful keel-billed Toucan, the National Bird of Belize. The simple chirp, discernible only to Abel’s ear, indicated which bird was nearby. Through Abel’s scope I saw all the beautiful and colorful birds that had woken me each morning with their sweet song.
A twenty minute hike under the canopy on a narrow, and at times steep, trail leads us to the Gazebo. We pretend we are adventurers, searching for treasure, swinging from vines. We climb to the top of the Gazebo and see the Sibun River flowing past the orange and grapefruit orchards and fully appreciate the expanse of the Sleeping Giant.
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
– Henry David Thoreau