Friday, June 19, 2015

Environmental paradise in paradise at the Lodge at Chaa Creek in Belize

Thatched roof luxury amid the jungle surroundings of Belize at Chaa Creek Resort  (Taylor)
BELIZE Chaa Creek Resort in Belize bills itself as “wildly civilized.” And rightly so.  But it hasn’t always been that way. Wild? Yes. Civilized? Not so much.

The Fleming's river route to the market  (Taylor)
It began in 1977 when two young globetrotters arrived in Central America with little more than the clothes on their backs and an adventurous spirit. Soon after, Mick and Lucy Fleming met the owner of a dilapidated 140 acre farm located on the western edge of Belize about four miles from the border of Guatemala. In true entrepreneurial style, the Flemings figured a way to purchase the property and the rest is history.

Before long Mick and Lucy were living in a thatched roof house in the middle of the jungle. While the land was producing milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs, the Flemings were producing two children.
Belize is filled with natural beauty and Mayan ruins  (Taylor)

So thick was the forest surrounding the land, there was no access road to the property. To make a living Mick and Lucy paddled their produce to market by dugout canoe to San Ignacio just as the native Maya had done ten centuries earlier.

Living so close to the land had a profound affect on the Flemings. They became environmentally savvy and, as time passed, they began to develop a philosophy that contemporary luxury could also exist in harmony with nature.

Today Mick, with his tussled hair, khaki shorts and shirt and mud-covered boots, resembles a modern day version of “Jungle Jim.” His youthful exuberance is infectious. It takes just one encounter with the owner to understand how Chaa Creek Resort evolved into an elegant paradise in the middle of the Belizean jungle.

Serene serpentine walkway to thatched cottages at Chaa Creek in Belize  (Taylor)
Four years after buying the land, Mick and Lucy opened a thatched roof jungle lodge. It was the first of its kind in Belize. Today, the jungle has been replaced by lush landscaping and more accommodations.

By 1983, the British Army Corps of Engineers had built a road. In the same year, a dining room was added to cater to the six existing cottages. Six more cottages followed two years later, along with indoor plumbing and a 6,000 gallon water tower.

Preserving the environment is the Fleming's philosophy  (Taylor)
For more than three decades the Flemings have dedicated their lives to “stimulating interest in the environment and local culture.”

Though larger now, the original garden still provides most of the produce used in the resort restaurant. With more than 60 species of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees, the 30-acre Maya Organic Farm is a favorite tour for guests.

Even the swimming pool is environmentally designed with salt water that continuously circulates and re-cycles.
Chaa Creek's environmentally designed salt water swimming pool recirculates and filters the water  (Taylor)
Activities include a private 365 acre nature reserve, miles of well maintained nature trails, nature hikes, birding, horseback riding, mountain biking and canoeing on the Macal River which flows beside the property. There is even a rainforest medicine trail where naturalists showcase the importance of medicinal plants, their uses and the need for conservation.

A one car crank ferry takes visitors to Xunantunich (Taylor)
Thanks to Mick’s unlimited creativity and imagination, the Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm propagates one of the most beautiful butterfly species in the world. The butterfly farm and nature centre are complimentary for guests. Others pay $5 U.S. plus tax.

Popular off-property tours of Mayan archaeological sites include Xunantunich and Cahal Pech situated on a hill overlooking San Ignacio. Both are just a 30-minute drive from Chaa Creek.

Mayan ruins at Xunantanich in Belize  (Taylor)
For the more adventurous, try caving at Actun Tunichil Muknal, known as the “place of fright,” or Barton Creek Cave which is part of one of the longest archaeological sites in Belize. These activities require the ability to swim and the physical capability of being able to climb on rocks and boulders.
The caves at Actun Tunichil Muknal, known as "the caves of fright", have great appeal for adventure travelers  (Taylor)
Like all of Belize, Chaa Creek incorporates traditional thatched roof architecture. Since opening in 1981, the property has expanded to 23 cottages including two Treetop Jacuzzi Suites, two Garden Suites, an Orchard Villa and the Honeymoon Sky room.

Rates are seasonal. From December 16 to April 30, cottages are $235 per person for a single, $165 per person double or $125 per person in a triple. The rest of the year is priced at a per person price of $215 (single), $150 (double) and $115 (triple). Suites and villas are priced per room accommodating between 2 and 6 people depending upon the size of the space. High season prices range from $380 to $625 per suite. Low season goes for $350 to $575 per suite.
Belize beckons in many ways thanks to its rich history, culture and scenic beauty  (Taylor)
Within easy walking distance of the lodge, traveler’s on a budget may want to stay in one of ten Casitas located on the banks of the Macal River. The rustic accommodations are strategically nestled amid an undisturbed jungle habitat. Each Casita features two to four beds, oil lamps and fresh linens. Bathrooms and showers are shared but have no lack of hot water. Prices, including breakfast and dinner, are $55 U.S. per person per night plus tax and service.