Virtually every article printed about Belize, mentions the fine Cayo resort of The Lodge at Chaa Creek, which was the first “jungle lodge” in the country. The property started as a 140-acre, overgrown farm, when owners Mick and Lucy Fleming first came to Belize in 1977. They soon moved onto the site, and began producing vegetables, and dairy products, which were transported to San Ignacio by dugout canoe. They have also raised two children here. Due to a steady flow of inquisitive visitors, some of whom stayed for several days, the Flemings explored the idea of building a guest cottage. “Chaa Creek Cottages” officially opened in 1981 with only six cottage rooms, but the facility has grown considerably, and is continuously upgraded to meet current demands of the tourism industry in Belize.
What Chaa Creek presents travellers today is: 19 cottages (of duplex and standalone units), two Garden Suites (a duplex that can be reserved as one large unit for 6), a new conference centre, a Natural History and Research center, a Blue Morpho Butterfly breeding center, bar & restaurant, the Macal River Camp (featuring screened ‘casita’ accommodations), a large stable of horses, an extensive trail network, and four significant groups of Maya ruins; all situated on a 330 acre private nature reserve. The property is easily accessed by driving down a three mile (still bumpy) dirt road, off the Western Highway; just 5 miles west of San Ignacio. Visitors can book rooms only, with tours and activities a la carte (or on their own), or choose from several “expedition” packages that include transfers, meals and activities.
The Conference Centre at Chaa Creek can seat as many as 100 for special presentations and meetings, and is a lovely venue for large weddings, and other parties.
Chaa Creek visitors enjoy thatch-roofed cottages situated in gardens at the edge of the rainforest, with the Macal River flowing in the deep valley below; and staying here is a true jungle experience. All rooms have verandas and private bath, and are decorated with regional textiles and objets d’art. Kerosene lamps are still present everywhere, but electric lights and ceiling fans were added in 1998, however, there are no phones, TV, or air conditioning. Only the suites are fully screened, but curiously enough, this area of Belize is relatively pest-free.
Through Chaa Creek’s Inland Expeditions company, the full range of tours to the regional sites can be arranged for you, including the ruins of Xunantunich and Caracol, cave expeditions at Caves Branch, Mountain Pine Ridge, and Tikal.
Overnight guests at Chaa Creek enjoy the following free activities on site: Natural History Centre, Butterfly Farm, Swimming in the Macal River; and hiking the trails of their “Rainforest Reserve,” and Ruta Maya Trail System, on your own (a map is provided), in search of exotic birds and wildlife, and exploring the ruins within the reserve. Additional activities include canoeing, horseback riding, mountain biking and guided bird/nature walks. The cost of these activities and tours are posted in the IF YOU GO box below.
At the end of the day, guests gather on the bar deck for a refreshing cocktail, before enjoying a well-prepared four-course meal in the open air dining room. A typical evening menu: Grilled vegetable crostini; arugula salad; fish fillet with cilantro pesto; and fresh fruit “phyllo cup,” for dessert. Due to the sheer magnitude of their present-day operation, it’s no longer likely that you will see Mick and Lucy in the dining room every evening; but rest assured they are there, working hard behind the scenes, and entrusting your care to their diligent managers and staff.
The Spa at Chaa Creek
An excellent new addition to the organization is The Spa at Chaa Creek. The spa was conceived by the Fleming’s daughter, Bryony, a licensed esthetician.
Within this stylish structure, Bryony has created a wonderful retreat, combining the natural beauty of the surrounding rainforest, elegant furnishings, and local artwork, with her menu of thereapeutic treatments, for a complete mind and body rejuvenation experience. The spa is appointed with state-of-the-art Pevonia equipment, and their wide variety of botanically based skin- and body-care products. Between treatments, clients relax on the veranda, enjoying a cup of herbal tea, and the panoramic view.
A “Day at the Spa” package includes: Massage, facial, manicure & pedicure or body polish, and lunch. Packages cost from US$195 – $279. Individual treatments are also available, featuring a variety of facials, massages and hydrotherapy.