With David Attenborough’s BBC special Planet Earth II attracting huge audiences worldwide, and the recent “Jungles” episode introducing millions of viewers to the beauty of the earth’s tropical forests, The Lodge at Chaa Creek is reminding travellers that Belize, home to some of the world’s most pristine wild jungles, is a short flight from many major North American airports.
Brion Young, of Chaa Creek’s Belize Natural History Centre, said the popular Belizean eco-resort has introduced thousands of visitors to the wonders of Belize’s rainforests and the birds, plants and wildlife that inhabit them. With the success of Planet Earth II, he’s expecting even greater interest in jungle exploration.
“There’s something about the jungle that captivates people. Time and time again we see visitors who come here just to enjoy a great Belize vacation suddenly become fascinated with the surrounding rainforest and the wildlife it contains. It’s as if they’ve discovered a whole new world.
“And now, after the success of the “Jungles” episode on the new “Planet Earth II”, we’re expecting to see even more interest,” Mr Young said.
Lucy Fleming, who with her husband Mick grew their small family farm into one of the country’s most recognised and highly awarded eco-resorts, agreed.
“The word ‘enchant’ comes to mind when I think of the jungle’s effect on people,” she said.
“For over thirty-five years we’ve been fortunate to welcome a wide variety of visitors from all over the world to Chaa Creek, from tourists to researchers, students, avid birders, archaeologists, Mayanists, seasoned travellers, photographers – you name it. And something they almost all share is a keen sense of excitement when they discover how vibrant and full of life our jungles are,” Ms Fleming said.
“Many of our guests say they came to relax and enjoy the pool, spa, farm-to-table dining and the many tours and activities we offer, and then they become fascinated with the natural beauty that surrounds them. It may begin with a canoe ride down the Macal River, a horseback ride along the jungle trail network, or during a guided nature walk, but sooner or later an interest takes hold that turns into real appreciation for the jungle and the amazing variety of life it nurtures.
“We have visitors who tell us one of the main reasons they come back year after year is the desire to reconnect with the natural world they discovered here,” she said.
Half of Belize is covered by jungle, with some eighty percent under government protection, and much of it still unexplored. With over 500 species of birds and 4,000 species of tropical flowers, Belize’s jungles are home to a wide range of wildlife that includes jaguars, ocelots, pumas, tapirs, peccaries, agoutis, armadillos, iguanas and the impressive howler monkey, whose roars echo in the forests surrounding Chaa Creek.
Hummingbirds are a common sight, and Belize’s national bird, the keel-billed toucan, as well as toucanets, parrots, macaws, Blue Crowned mot-mots, snowy egrets, herons, the huge Jabiru stork and the rare, magnificent harpy eagle are all found in Belize.
To familiarise visitors with Belize’s natural and cultural heritage, Chaa Creek features an onsite Belize Natural History Centre that acts as a museum and educational resource for guests as well as local and international students. A Maya Medicinal Plant Trail showcases the “jungle pharmacy” that has provided traditional remedies for thousands of years, and a traditional Maya Organic Farm that supplies the eco-resort’s restaurant and award winning Guava Limb Café in San Ignacio Town are available for guests to tour. A team of licensed naturalist guides is always on hand to conduct nature walks, river excursions and to answer questions, Ms Fleming said.
Chaa Creek has also sponsored or hosted research from leading universities, acted as a base for the projects such as “Birds Without Borders” in conjunction with The Foundation for Wildlife Conservation and Zoological Society of Milwaukee, and numerous other research projects with partners such as the New York Botanic Gardens.
Ms Fleming said that in addition to a selection of nature walks and tours that include early morning bird identification and an evening “Creatures of the Night” nocturnal jungle walk as well as jungle safaris on an ATV, river expeditions on the “Miss Macal” traditional john boat, guided horseback jungle tours and other activities, Chaa Creek’s naturalists are happy to work with guests to help pursue any interest.
“Living in the midst of such a stunningly beautiful jungle has had such a profound effect on our family over the years that we take a special joy in sharing it with others. You see that same enthusiasm with our naturalist guides and the rest of our staff.
“There is something life affirming and centering about nature that deeply affects people. Experiencing the interaction of so many living things, and just taking in the sheer beauty of the flowers, orchids, colourful birds and animals is both relaxing and invigorating. Watching the hummingbirds poking around flowers while enjoying a cup of coffee is a wonderful way to start the morning,” she said.
Ms Fleming said she encourages people to visit Chaa Creek’s website to learn more about Belize’s rainforests and Chaa Creek’s environmental and conservation efforts, which see ten percent of all room revenue going directly into environmental and community projects.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi award winning eco resort set within a 400-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize.