According to Greek mythology, the primordial goddess Gaia is the personification of Earth, often referred to as Mother Earth or Mother Nature.
So it’s not all that surprising that a resort like Five Sisters, which has always strived to remain as environmentally friendly and ecologically conscious as possible, would be renamed as Gaia River Lodge when it came under new ownership.
Daniel Lighter, owner of Matachica Resort & Spa on Ambergris Caye, acquired Five Sisters Lodge & Tours in early 2012, and along with the change in ownership came a change of name as well.
Located in the heart of Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge, surrounded by jungle, mountains and pine forests on the banks of the white-water Privassion River, Gaia River Lodge offers a peaceful sanctuary from everyday life.
Imposing mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to Mayan ruins, dense rainforest, stalactite caverns and some of the most diverse wildlife on earth… not to mention the series of spectacular waterfalls known collectively as the Five Sisters, from which the resort derived its original name when it first opened in 1991.
The falls can be readily accessed via Belize’s only hydro-powered rain forest tram, which affords a unique view of the valley as you descend further down into the rainforest. At the falls, you will also see a spectacular display of flowers growing in the wild, including over 450 species of orchids, palmettos, bromeliads and other exotic plants, not to mention all the different species of birds and butterflies that flit along the rainforest trails.
And speaking of trails, Gaia River offers specially guided tours of its very own medicinal nature trail, where guests can view and learn about over 76 different species of medicinal plants and trees. This is a particularly informative tour for those interested in alternative medicine.
Guests at Gaia River Lodge can also enjoy a wide range of off-site activities, including archaeological tours of ancient Mayan sites such as Caracol, Xunantunich and Tikal, horseback jungle treks, or exploring the wonders of the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave, which National Geographic Magazinehas described as the most spectacular cave to be seen in this part of the world.
Mountain biking, ziplining, tubing through the cave formations of the Caves Branch River, birdwatching, hiking and rock climbing are also activities that are just steps away from your door at Gaia River.
An extensive redesign of the property is currently underway, with plans to transform Gaia River Lodge into an intimate rainforest retreat that reflects the unparalleled standards of quality and service at its sister property, Matachica Resort & Spa.
Currently, however, the mountain lodge in Belize’s Cayo District continues to offer comfortable accommodations ranging from standard and family-sized cabanas to riverside villas and junior suites (as well as full restaurant and bar services, natural swimming pools, and even its own wedding chapel, located on a beautiful river island nicknamed “The Garden of Eden.”
And of course, the highest standards of service and hospitality will continue to be a mainstay of the resort under its new management team, which includes Nigel Richards, the on-site manager, and Gricel Graniel, now the managing director at both Gaia River and Matachica.
At Matachica Resort & Spa, guests are treated to the ultimate rejuvenating experience. Whether it’s the sound of the ocean waves at your feet or the tropical birds in the coconut palms overhead, the music of Belize’s natural surroundings is more soothing
than any pre-recorded relaxation tape… making it an ideal setting for a spa vacation.
The Jade Spa at Matachica was named one of the top five resort and hotel spas in Central and South America by Spa Magazine in January 2011… and this was before the resort underwent a multi-million dollar redesign and expansion project that was completed in June of that same year.
The upgrades resulted in a similar recommendation from Condé Nast Johansen’s in 2012. Also this past year, TripAdvisor named Matachica as one of the Top 25 Hotels in Central America, as well as a Top 25 Relaxation Spa/Hotel, in its 2012 Traveler’s Choice Awards.
“The property is lovely for couples wanting a private, romantic and low key resort,” said one satisfied July 2012 guest.
“From the individual, brightly colored accommodations to the delightfully mismatched décor in the dining palapa, this place doesn’t miss,” said another, who stayed at the resort in June 2012. “The resort has lots of nice and private places to relax, from chairs on the dock to the beach and the pool. Our favorite was out on the dock, where the breezes tended to keep us cooler.
The resort is immaculate and the staff is exceptionally friendly and helpful… the spa is also very nice. We received a 90-minute couples massage that was great.”
The property’s overall décor draws upon the owner’s passion for both the native heritage of Ambergris Caye, and his own extensive global travel. “When I first arrived on the island, I was instantly hooked by the effortless, laid-back way of life,” explains proprietor Daniel Lighter. “This resort could not exist anywhere else in the world, because every aspect of your experience is drawn from, and a reflection of, the unique character of this beachfront paradise.”
Included in the expansion and redesign was the addition of 8 brand new and even larger casitas, as well as full upgrades to all existing rooms. In all, Matachica now features 22 casitas including 21 single villas and 1 two-bedroom villa. Each of the vibrantly painted thatch roof villas features private patios, fully updated bathrooms and original art.
At the luxurious Jade Spa, massages and treatments use only locally produced, natural products, from banana and papaya facials, coffee scrubs and chocolate body wraps to traditional deep-tissue massages.
After pampering yourself at the spa, you can jump into Matachica’s spectacular new fresh water infinity pool for a relaxing swim or a soothing soak in the Jacuzzi, then slip into one of the comfortable poolside lounge chairs and order a tropical drink (or two) from the resort’s full-service bar.
The resort has also added a gymnasium with state-of-the-art Life Fitness equipment, a fleet of all-new kayaks and pedal boats, as well as new equipment for day trips and local adventures.
When you get hungry, step inside the resort’s award-winning Mambo Restaurant and soak up the romantic atmosphere that combines exotic, handcrafted Belizean art and ceramic treasures with candelabras, contemporary paintings and mahogany furniture produced in Central America.
Listen to Matachica's signature music while you indulge in dishes designed to excite even the most jaded gourmand’s palate. Fresh fruit smoothies, French toast, pancakes, waffles and omelets for breakfast; salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, burritos and pizzas for lunch; pasta, fresh-grilled seafood, ribs and steaks for dinner; and of course, sumptuous soufflés, key lime and pecan pies, or Matachica’s own special take on Bananas Foster for dessert: It’s all on the menu at Mambo.
Because it is located on the white sand beaches of Ambergris Caye’s north shore, Matachica also offers a full range of water activities, from sea kayaking to fishing expeditions, that can be accessed right from its own dock. The Belize Barrier Reef, with its plethora of snorkeling and diving opportunities, is just a short distance offshore… and there are a host of mainland activities that are a short water taxi ride away.
If you’re looking for a romantic wedding or honeymoon getaway, Matachica can make it happen. Honeymooners wanting to get away from it all can choose from a variety of accommodations including suites, villas and casitas. The resort also employs the services of a wedding planner to help couples looking to make Matachica the destination for their Caribbean nuptials.
To top it all off, the resort’s expertly trained staff provides impeccable service, unique local knowledge and unparalleled attention to detail. In short, this exquisite, secluded beach retreat, located just five miles north of San Pedro (a 15-minute trip by water taxi), offers the ultimate in luxury, romance and relaxation. No matter your reason for journeying to Belize, Matachica can provide the perfect, personalized escape from everyday life.