Like most travelers to Belize, we planned a surf and turf itinerary, splitting our time between the mainland and the cayes. Our base for five nights would be The Lodge at Chaa Creek, an absolutely amazing resort on a 365 acre nature reserve near the Guatemalan border. We had to drive across the country to get there, but that only took a few hours.
Just beyond the town of San Ignacio, we turned onto a long dirt road that passed through a few farms before gradually entering the jungle and the Chaa Creek property. We would travel back and forth along this road more than a dozen times. At night, we stopped and turned off the headlights to watch the trees sparkle with hundreds of fireflies.
Upon finally arriving at the gates of Chaa Creek, we were greeted with rum punch and refreshingly cool and minty face towels to relieve us from the heat. As our bags were taken to our cottage, our guide took us on a tour of the immaculate grounds, lush with a variety of tropical plants and dotted with charming, thatched roof structures constructed with indigenous materials. When we were taken through the bar and restaurant, we were introduced to several of the staff, all very courteous, attentive and professional.
We were then allowed to enter our cottage, wrapped with a large deck overlooking the Macal River. There are no locks and no windows in Chaa Creek. Only screens to keep out the bugs, which we hardly noticed during our stay. There are also no phones, no clocks, and definitely no TV. The staff woke us every morning for our tours with a wake-up knock.
Despite the lack of these usual “amenities,” we felt incredibly spoiled in our beautiful and spacious cottage. The high thatch ceiling was simple, but striking. It even contained a few geckos that screeched and clicked at us occasionally (and left a few tiny, brown gifts on the floor now and then). We loved the little touches, like the fresh flowers and towel sculptures that were placed throughout our room every day.
After settling into our room, we walked up to the bar where I had my first of many Belikins, Belize’s own and only beer. It’s actually not bad, which is good, because it’s hard to find anything else. With drinks in hand, we met the concierge, who spoke about all the activities onsite, including horseback riding, bird watching, butterfly exhibit, history museum, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, spa treatments – really, too many to list. We also arranged our first tour for the next day – a tour through Tikal, the Manhattan of the Mayan Empire.
After planning our tours and inquiring about other local attractions, we entered the restaurant for an elegant and delicious four-course Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, even though we were in Belize, a perfectly prepared wild turkey was on the menu! Accompaniments included salads with fresh produce grown on the resort’s Mayan farm, a wonderful tortilla soup, a sweet and savory mango stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, and either a panna cotta, key lime pie, or some other delectable treat for dessert. It’s all a blur of great flavors in my memory right now. Every breakfast and dinner we enjoyed there was something special. For Kristie’s vegetarian palate, the chef prepared sides and salads per request. The maître d’, chef, and again, the entire staff were very friendly and accommodating.
When we walked back to our cottage, we marvelled at the immediate view of the Milky Way above us. There’s very little light pollution in Central America, particularly in Belize. After skyping our families back home to wish them a happy Thanksgiving, we settled into bed, and were at first alarmed by the loud jungle noises. Visit the Chaa Creek website and turn up your speakers. It really sounded like this every night! Very quickly, however, we got used to the otherworldly sound. The cacophony became our lullaby. And every morning, the chorus of squawking and chirping birds accompanied our wake-up knock, reminding us that yes, we had awaken in Paradise yet another day.
Click here to view pictures of John’s trip http://www.johnandkristie.com/archives/2008/11/the_lodge_at_chaa_creek.html
John Burton Brown
January 30, 2009