SAN IGNACIO, Belize--Ecotourism was, in the 1970s, an unfamiliar
Yet ecotourism was the basic concept for the development of Chaa
Creek Cottages, recently named the Green Hotel of the Year by the
Caribbean Hotel Association, the Caribbean Action for Sustainable
Tourism and American Express.
British-born Mick Fleming and his American wife, Lucy, opened
Chaa Creek in 1981 in western Belize, above the Macal River and
seven miles upstream from San Ignacio.
It was an immediate hit with natural history buffs, as well as
with those who fancy pampering in the jungle and the comforts of
Maya-style cottages with thatched palapa roofs, Mexican tiled
floors, large mahogany beds and private bathrooms with hot water
showers. In 1990, Chaa Creek Cottages was declared a private
preserve by Conservation International.
Chaa Creek has no electricity in keeping with the natural
ambience of the property. Included are tents (with cots, linens and
towels) set on platforms in the Macal River Jungle Camp. The Tower,
a focal point on the property, is a 12-sided cabana set high in the
Before dinner, guests gather on the bird-watching deck, near the
wood bar, to discuss events of the day before adjourning to the
The resort offers a full menu of on-site activities that range
from kayaking, canoeing and white-water rafting to hiking, mountain
biking and riding. Guests can explore Mayan caves and nearby ruins
such as Xunantunich and Caracol or go farther afield to Tikal in
Guatemala. Birding is top grade at Chaa Creek; more than 190
species have been sighted at the property.
According to Fleming, "We hope to demonstrate the long-term
benefits of ecotourism by stimulating interest in the environment,
natural history and local culture."
The Flemings have succeeded in all that through projects such as
the following:Chaa Creek Natural History Centre, located on a hilltop behind
the guest cottages, provides information on Belize's history and
geography. The center houses display archaeological artifacts,
butterflies, insects and amphibians.Linked to the center is the Chaa Creek Butterfly Breeding Farm,
built and funded by the Flemings to demonstrate that breeding and
exporting the blue morpho butterfly can be one of many alternatives
for rain forest sustainability.
Chaa Creek Cottages, Phone: (011)-501-92-2037, Fax:
E-mail: [email protected]