With only two full days of camp remaining, our theme today emphasized Chaa Creek’s goals, actions, and vision for the future – responsible tourism and sustainability.  Before heading to the conference center for a presentation from Chaa Creek Owner and Founder, Lucy Fleming, our Eco Camp Director, Jacqueline Britt, gave the campers a talk about Mennonite sustainable living.

Living in Barton Creek, Jacqueline is neighbors with many of whom we would consider to be “old world” Mennonites, and brought in some of their clothing, handiwork, and food to show us.  Not only did this provide a fascinating look at one of many cultural groups living in Belize, it also gave the children a chance to revisit some of the important concepts they have learned with regards to the 3 R’s.  The Mennonites are quite possibly the most eco-friendly group in the whole country, and the kids saw how they reduced, reused, and recycled things like clothes and jars.  To top it off, the eco-campers got to try some of their delicious (or extremely sour for the some of the group) preserved fruit and vegetables Jacqueline brought in!

Today’s other main activity was a visit to our unofficial classroom up at the resort to learn more about how we can be more responsible in our tourism practices.  Lucy explained to us that tourism already accounts for 25% of Belize’s Gross Domestic Product and directly employs one quarter of the population.  As the fastest growing industry in Belize, we have an obligation to ensure that we are practicing the most eco-friendly techniques and mentality in this field.  Ecotourism revolves around many important aspects and Chaa Creek ensures that strict guidelines are met in their award winning tourism model.

One of the most noticeable of these is that there has been a very minimal impact on the natural surroundings during the construction of both the Macal River Camp and Chaa Creek Resort.  The accommodations and buildings almost seem as if they could have always been there.  Another great thing that is offered by Chaa Creek is educational programs for both employees and tourists to help give a better understanding of the surrounding natural and cultural environment.  As many followers of the blog will know, there is Maya site on the grounds, the Natural History Museum, and Butterfly and Organic Farm, as well as a Medicine Trail and many other programs that guests can get involved with to better promote healthy and educated tourism.  Perhaps the most important guideline that Lucy discussed with the eco-campers was the absolutely essential concept that Chaa Creek endeavors to work together with the local communities.  There are over 100 employees at Chaa Creek, most of who come from the local villages of Cristo Rey and San Antonio.  Business and marketing decisions come about only with the consent of the cultures and people they will involve and impact.  The entrepreneurial wheels in the eco-campers brains must have been spinning as they sat rapt with attention and had many questions during this informative presentation.

The afternoon saw what many of the campers said was the “best river day of the camp.”  I can honestly say I had to jump back in to drag some of them out as they were having too much fun to want to leave!  It wasn’t long after returning to camp that the groups had gotten together to do some last minute rehearsals for what was to be an incredible display of eco talent during our Song Competition.  In fact, the teams were all so good that the judges had to postpone their final decision as to who will get to sing for the parents in our closing ceremonies on Sunday!

The last day of camp will focus on Traditional Medicine.

Jacqueline Britt demonstrating Mennonite sustainability

Lucy Fleming took time out of her busy schedule to talk about Chaa Creek’s ecotourism model

Chef Mario Mendez might have gotten the biggest applause when introduced to the eco campers

The eco-campers look on with anticipation for the Treasure Hunt results

Howler Monkey teammates look on as Tyler busts out a rap at the song competition

The Blue Morphos performing their eco friendly song

I’m a Jaguar and I know it!

Jacqueline and Counselor Shahira have a shaving cream war during the nightly skit

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