Many years ago, a mother took her eight year-old son to the British Museum. The moment he saw the butterfly collection, his life was changed forever. His immediate fascination with these delicate, beautiful creations of nature eventually brought him to the rainforests of Belize, where Ray Harberd realized his dream of building a butterfly ranch. Along with his partner, they later built the lodge to accommodate visitors who came to see the butterflies, and also to make the ranch a more viable operation.
Although the lodge was built for a secondary purpose, it is a top-rated facility and main attraction for tourists in the Toledo District. It sits on a hill overlooking hundreds of square miles of uninterrupted, uninhabited rainforest of the Maya Mountains. Even though the rainy season brings over 160 inches of rain to this area, primarily from July through November, our October visit there saw not a drop of rain. The lodge is surrounded by lush, natural vegetation and an abundance of enormous heliconia which attract hundreds of hummingbirds.
The lodge consists of several thatched buildings, perched atop and down the side of the hill. The two main buildings house the bar/sitting room and the dining room and kitchen. There are three private cabañas, and two additional buildings with three rooms each, giving the lodge a total capacity of 22 people. All rooms are screened in, have a private bath with hot water, and 12 volt lighting is provided by solar power.
It was a glossy four-color brochure that attracted us to this facility, but Ray shies away from that image, thinking people will expect too much luxury from what is really a rather adventurous experience. This area is extremely remote and it is sometimes difficult to obtain everything that a resort needs. However, the cabañas are comfortable and functional and attractively designed in the Maya style, and built by locals with traditional materials. The employees come primarily from the nearby Maya village of San Pedro Columbia, itself an interesting sight. Young Maya ladies prepared our wholesome, delicious meals, made with fresh ingredients.
Many visitors come to Fallen Stones for bird-watching, “butterflying” and rock-kicking. A good portion of Belize’s 500+ species of birds can be found here, and the deck off the dining room is the perfect place to gather every morning with your binoculars to see toucans, trogons, hummingbirds, tanagers, parrots and more. There is a sizable group of individuals that come here primarily for the butterfly operation.
Ray is happy to give the full tour and speech on the life and times of these beauties, and their commercial value. The Maya ruins of Lubaantun are about a one mile hike from the lodge, along the road. (See “Sites & Excursions”) There are several other ruins in the vicinity, too. The lodge specializes in jungle tours; a favorite is a full day trip which includes a jungle walk in primary forest, a visit to the source of the Columbia branch of the Rio Grande and a trip downstream in a dory to Columbia Village. Half day jungle walks can be arranged, as well as a visit to the Blue Creek Cave and the Santa Cruz waterfall.
Fallen Stones is located about 25 miles northwest of Punta Gorda. By road, the trip from Belize City to the lodge is nearly six hours, and the Southern Highway is as yet unpaved (although highway construction has begun this year, completion will take three to four years). In the meantime, it is a bone-numbing ride from Dangriga south. The road can be very rough and a four-wheel drive vehicle rental will cost you close to US$80/day, plus insurance and fuel. We highly recommend that you fly into Punta Gorda. There are 3-4 flights per day, of 45 minutes duration and the fare is about US$125 r/t. You can request a ground transfer to the lodge when you book your room.
Regardless of what attracts you to the Toledo District and Fallen Stones, you will find it a unique and enjoyable trip that will give you the true rainforest experience.
IF YOU GO
Fallen Stones Butterfly Ranch & Jungle Lodge
PO Box 23
Punta Gorda, Toledo District
Belize, Central America
Rates: (All in US$)
(7% gov’t. tax incl.)
Breakfast: $ 7.50
–Full day jungle walk/dory trip to Columbia
$62.50 p/p (min 2, includes lunch)
–1/2 day jungle walks,
–Blue Creek Cave/Santa Cruz waterfall, $62.50 p/p (min.2)
Pick up in Punta Gorda $50
(1-3 persons, one-way)