Belize Vacation Sweepstakes Essay#17

In a dream I am walking the Mayan Rainforest Trail through the vast nature reserve of Chaa Creek. My feet make no sound in the soft leaf litter. All my senses are alive. Strange, gloriously colorful birds flit through the green canopy, and animals I have seen only in pictures peer out at me from the thick foliage of the forest floor. The plants are not familiar to me, yet I sense their powerful beneficence.

Then in a terrible moment all this loveliness is gone, replaced by rows of tree stumps, stretching to the horizon under a burning sun. I cry out, but a voice full of laughter speaks: “Traveler, be calm. The people of Belize care for their plants and animals. All is well at Chaa Creek.”

And with this I wake, turn in my North American bed and see on the bedside table a green folder with a saucy parrot on the front and inside my tickets to Belize and reservations at Chaa Creek. Dream melts into reality. I had read so much about this beautiful Belize resort in its 365 acres of nature reserve and about the commitment of its people to caring for their environment that in my dream I was already there.

Because I am passionate about animals and have lived to visit the wild places of the world, a trip to Belize has long been my dearest wish. Still I knew I wouldn’t be happy at just any resort. I needed to find a place that was wholly committed to preservation of the wilderness, a place where the staff members cared as deeply as I do for the green world in their care. When I heard about Chaa Creek I felt that I had found what I was looking for.

I know that Chaa Creek is not the only example of sustainable tourism in the world, but I am convinced that it belongs among a handful of the best. Reading the brochures again, I am reassured by their sincerity and, of course, seduced by their promise of the wonders I will see.

At this point it only remained to decide what to do on my first day in this magical place. I thought perhaps I could live my dream and walk the Rainforest Medicine Trail. I could go with one of the resort’s very knowledgeable naturalist guides to tell me about the plants, some of which were used in healing by the Maya and are still in use today among the descendants of this ancient people. My guide will also know the names and songs of the birds we see (there are 308 species at Chaa Creek alone!) as well as the names and habits of the other animals.

Besotted by now with wildlife, perhaps I will take a bird walk the following morning and then the Creatures of the Night walk after dinner that evening. I am promised the sight of nocturnal animals only glimpsed in North American zoos here going about their lives in the soft darkness of a great rainforest.

One day, perhaps just before I must leave this wonderful place, I will take a canoe as far up the Macal River as I can, then turn and drift lazily back through the forest to Chaa Creek. With recently acquired knowledge I will greet what now seem to be old friends and look with longing at others entirely new—birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fish—the happy creatures of Belize, preyed upon only by one another.

Days full of wonder seem too short for all there is to see and do. At the same time I look forward to dinner in Chaa Creek’s beautiful al fresco dining room and to trading stories with other travelers in the veranda bar. Then I will end the day on the deck of my own thatched cottage gazing at the stars through a lacework of jungle leaves, drowsing to the sound of the river running by and the cries of night birds in the dark, surrounding trees.

As I look forward to my green vacation at Chaa Creek, I think that in addition to the excitement of discovery there will be a constant feeling of joy as at every turn I realize that these animals and plants—these wonders of nature—are protected by the people of Belize. I think that if for some hard-to-imagine reason I cannot return for many years, they will still be here in even greater profusion—still loved, still protected, still a living lesson to the rest of the world.

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