Chaa Creek Lodge in San Ignacio, Belize
Global Yodel recently had the opportunity to stay at The Lodge at Chaa Creek in Belize. The Lodge is nestled in 365 acres of private nature reserve in Belize’s Cayo District. Composed solely of thatched cottages and winding walkways, the grounds’ mature foliage and 308 species of wild birds creates an accommodation experience like no other. While the incredible food, rooms, and service give The Lodge all of the benefits of a luxury resort, it is their philosophy and location that set them above the rest. From the 10% of revenue given to community and environmental programs to their 33 acre organic Mayan farm that provides produce for their restaurant, they have created a responsible and sustainable ecolodge that benefits both guest and employee.
We caught up with marketing director of Chaa Creek Larry Waight and asked him a few questions about the lodge and life in Belize.
Name: Larry Waight
Place you live? San Ignacio, Belize
Can you sum up Belize? The most beautiful and eclectic country in the world!
Occupation? Internet Marketer, Blogger, Entrepreneur
What is the property at the Chaa Creek like? The Lodge at Chaa Creek is an eco-resort and 365 acre private nature reserve located in the Cayo District of Belize, Central America. Established as a small family farm in 1981, it has grown to be one of Belize’s most recognized resorts in the world. It has also received international recognition as a model for sustainable tourism and responsible travel by Conde Nast, National Geographic Adventure, Travel and Leisure magazines, and other publications and organizations. Chaa Creek runs educational and natural history programs with a focus on Belize Maya Culture and civilization.
The Lodge consists of 23 thatched cottage rooms, a conference centre, restaurant, bar and spa, as well as a Natural History Centre, Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm, Maya Medicinal Plant Trail and traditional Maya Organic Farm. Over 70 Maya archaeological and temple sites have been identified within the reserve, which is crisscrossed by miles of maintained trails.
What is unique about the Chaa Creek? The fact that we are not only a resort but also a destination within a destination. Within the 365 acres of private nature reserve, we have a luxury swimming pool, a rainforest spa, restaurant and bar, maya organic farm, internationally recognized Natural History Museum, fleet of canoes, a maya rainforest medicine trail, and numerous trails for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking and much much more.
Can you tell us a little about the history of the Chaa Creek? In the late 1970s Mick and Lucy Fleming decided to make Belize their home and purchased a disused, overgrown citrus farm on the banks of the Macal River in the Cayo District of Western Belize. As there was no road access into the property at that time, travel to and from San Ignacio, the closest town, was by river, utilizing a dugout canoe as their neighbors had for centuries. The Flemings supported themselves by taking produce such as vegetables, milk, eggs, cheese and yoghurt into the Saturday markets in San Ignacio Town.
In 1981 they opened Chaa Creek Cottages, the first jungle lodge in Belize, with two thatched roofed cottages built from local materials. In 1983 the British Army Corps of Engineers built a road into Chaa Creek, which facilitated the construction of a dining room for the now six cottages. Within two years another six cottages, gift shop, water tower and staff quarters were built. By 1988 there were 16 cottage rooms, and electrical generation allowed for luxuries such as ice and hot water. A landing for a growing fleet of canoes and other improvements were added. All of the cottages were upgraded in 1990 and a new office was established in nearby San Ignacio Town. As the property expanded, trails were established throughout the growing nature reserve as horseback riding tours, mountain biking and trekking were introduced.
By 1992 there were 26 members of staff in residence at Chaa Creek. Infrastructure was continually upgraded with new stables for the growing herd of horses. Chaa Creek also hosted teams of archaeologists conducting research on the property and nearby sites.
The Chaa Creek Natural History Centre and Blue Morpho Butterfly Breeding Centre were established at Chaa Creek in 1993. Both centers continue to raise awareness of the local environment and encourage scientific research while recording and displaying, for the public and students, the results of scientific investigation and artifacts found on the property.
By 1997 there were a total of 21 cottages including several luxury suites, and the next year electric lighting and fans were added to the rooms In 1999, the Macal River Camp at Chaa Creek with ten bungalow style casitas, and a central dining/social area was renovated. In 2003 Chaa Creek acquired the adjacent Ixchel Medicine Trail (now known as the Maya Medicinal Plant Trail), which was established to investigate and perpetuate traditional Maya healing practices and medicinal plants. The Maya Organic Farm, which showcases traditional Maya agricultural practices and also supplies fresh vegetables for the resort, was also established. Along with the many Maya archaeological sites and temple on Chaa Creek, and with the Natural History Centre, they contribute to visitors’ understanding and appreciation of the Maya habitation of Belize. Chaa Creek currently consists of 23 cottages and employs 135 staff.
What would be surprising about Belize to someone who has never visited before? The fact that you can be climbing an ancient Maya city in the morning and sipping a frozen margarita on the beach in the afternoon.
What is the best thing about the place you live? The rich and diverse flora and fauna that exist in the country.
And the worst? The least populated country in Central America.
Can you describe your perfect day in Belize? Swimming in the emerald Mopan River at 5am, eat a delicious Belizean breakfast that consist of fry jacks and refried beans at 7am, work on marketing Belize to the world on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and our Travel Blog from 8am to 12 noon, eat Belizean Rice and Beans for lunch, continue marketing and promoting Belize to the world from 1pm to 10pm.
Photography by Cramer Peterson