"Time for lunch," my guide exclaimed as our boat entered the Gulf of Honduras just off the coast of Belize. I rose to fetch an ice-cold Belikin beer from the cooler, where I presumed I would find an assortment of foil-wrapped sandwiches.
Instead I found myself the only one left on the boat, as my guide, the chef and the captain were already in the water, outfitted with snorkels and homemade fishing spears and urging me to join them in foraging and catching our lunch.
I had booked the "Snorkel With the Chef" experience through the Copal Tree Lodge, a luxury ecoresort near Punta Gorda with an ethos of homegrown and ethically sourced products, and I was about to learn what the lodge meant by "locally sourced lunch with the chef."
We dove for conch, comparing each catch with the previous find and returning the smaller of the two to the seafloor to make sure we were only taking the most mature mollusk. After helping track down a lionfish, the chef and I returned aboard where he began firing up a grill and preparing a lavish spread of conch ceviche, grilled lionfish and a fresh tomato and watermelon salad.
That wouldn't be the only time I would get to see the ingredients before they arrived on my plate while staying at the Copal Tree Lodge. The resort is home to a 3,000-acre, sustainable farm in the rainforest of the Maya Mountains of southern Belize, and guests are encouraged to tour the premises and interact with the farm staff during working hours. It's there that they grow more than 70% of the food served at the resort.
Guests can participate in hands-on learning about the production of coffee, chocolate and more at the on-site Farm Center, but it's the farm-to-flask experience that has guests buzzing with excitement. The Copal Tree Distillery opened in early October 2018 with tours and rum tastings. Copalli Rum is the only rum in Belize made from pure cane sugar, and 100% of the sugar cane used in this organic rum is grown on the resort's property and processed in a zero-impact facility.
The distillery isn't the only sustainable structure at this regal rainforest respite: The 16 private suites and the single three-bedroom villa feature custom-made furniture and building materials made from the lodge's own sustainably harvested wood.
Copal Tree Lodge rates start at $169 for a King Jungle Suite. For more on Copalli Rum, visit copallirum.com.