The drive to Chaa Creek from Belize City is a two hour trek through ever changing terrain from wetlands, through Savannah, and into the jungle. The brief glimpse of the Mennonite Community as we drove through the Cayo District toward San Ignacio was a mere whisper of the diversity of Belize. Joe, a Chaa Creek’s Naturalist Guide, described the history of the Maya to present day Belize-an life with an eloquence that left our minds swirling in the richness, and the intrigue of this tiny democratic country. In the center of a 365 acre Jungle Reserve, Chaa Creek is nestled along the Macal River in Northern Belize, Central America.
As Agnes and I were recounting our first day at Chas Creek, our waiter set down a fragrant organic beet salad, (from the Maya organic farm) with bits of orange throughout, along with a warm bouille of yeasty bread. The early bird walk may very well be my favorite so far Agnes said, as she jotted down the many different birds in her journal. Equipped with binoculars, the early morning bird walk began with the sighting of a Black headed Trogon, a male with a brilliant red breast, and contrasting white beak. Next we spotted a Keel billed Toucan in a Breadfruit tree moving from limb to limb. Red Lored Parrots with peachy cheeks, a Blue- crowned Mot Mot, Scarlet Tanagers, Collared Aracari, a brilliant Blue Bunting, and many more. There are 308 species of birds in the rain forest at Chaa Creek, and within 1 hour we had counted 35.As we passed our cottage, Howler monkeys made sure to let us know that they too were part of the tour.
Later that morning, we enjoyed fresh watermelon juice, and a Belizean breakfast of potatoes, eggs & fry jacks (fry jacks are lightly fried mounds of dough reminiscent of the fried dough you would get at the carnival, but billowy, more delicate). Up next, a trek down Rosita Arvigo’s Medicine Trail as cutter ants diligently worked. There were literally hundreds crossing the trail in front of us with bits of leaves, creating an illusion that the ground was moving. Couples, families, and solo travelers were stopped at various places along the trail, discussing the intriguing medicinal plants, pointing out birds, and simply enjoying the beauty that surrounded them. Greeted by the sight of Old Town canoes, we grabbed our paddles and set out on a 2 hour canoe trip down the Macal River to San Ignacio.
The anticipation of the Saturday Market with the handmade wares, lilting music, and vibrant colors had briefly led me astray, but I was quickly brought back to the heady smells of the river, the gentle rhythm as we paddled effortlessly downstream. Perhaps, this just might be my favorite part… And the town, the market, what a great day! It was the best day yet!
Our entree’s arrived just as I dabbed the last bit of orange vinaigrette from my plate. Agnes had ordered the vegetarian enchiladas, and I chose the conch fillet in lime butter. It was tender, flavorful, one of my favorite dishes if cooked properly, which it rarely is, beautiful work Chef Mario! The beans from the Maya Organic farm were especially sweet with a nice crunch. We finished our dessert and equipped with our headlamps went back to our cottage, slipped under the luxurious down comforters of our double beds and quickly fell asleep to the sounds of the jungle.
The next morning after coffee, fresh fruit, and coconut stuffed French toast (my favorite!), it was off to the Spa. A pleasant hike set above the resort, absolutely enthralling. I poured over the spa menu as if I was about to order the most sinful dessert, but the Therapeutic Massage won, and the kinks from the previous day of canoeing were kneaded with finesse until my muscles felt like butter. There was the view of the Maya Mountains as I blissfully melted into relaxation, not to mention tropical flowers that left me in Awe. Agnes and I walked to the Blue Morph Butterfly Farm, and were greeted by Alan a Naturalist Guide at Chaa Creek Natural History Centre, where we were led to the benches of an open air classroom. Alan explained in detail about the cycle of this brilliant blue beauty, we were shown each stage from the beginning of the cycle of the caterpillar’s life, how the cocoon was formed, to the metamorphosis into a butterfly. Could this be my favorite? Watching the Blue Morph Butterflies in flight in the enclosed greenhouse, too many to count.
Maybe… But, then off to the Maya Organic Farm with Mick Fleming, one of the owners. It was quite the rugged ride as we passed through a Palm Forest up and around and down, off in the distance horses played. The farm itself was an intriguing mix of exotic fruit and flowers, with fresh basil, giant cabbages, carrots, beans, cassava, and calaloo. Mick’s passion for his work was evident everywhere, from the tiny seedlings in recycled plastic bottles to his handmade boxes filled with earth worms. Did I mention the goats? Oh yes, we had a full tour of the New “Goat-el”, exquisitely built with hardwoods; each “room” had it’s own veranda with a view of the Maya Organic Garden. There was Zeus, Cus Cous, Ja Ja, and Chauve Souris. Mick even let us wrestle them up and bring them to their respective rooms!
Back at our cottage The Daily Jungle Journal was waiting to be perused, with information including the Evening Dinner Menu, the upcoming weather forecast, the Chef’s Corner, the on-site activities schedule, for that evening and the following day, and more.
8 pm this evening: Creatures of the Night Walk Hm mm… Tarantulas, Boa’s, Kinkajous, Foxes, Armadillos. Maybe, what on earth is a Kinkajou anyway? After a relaxing outdoor shower and dinner under the stars we were off to find out!