Every November, in preparation for the coming season, Cully and crew haul boat loads of materials and equipment out to the island for the annual build-a-thon. This is when they perform annual maintenance, repair storm damage to buildings, and expand on or add to the ever-growing menagerie of structures that comprise the Adventure Island eco resort.

This year’s renovations included a major overhaul and expansion of the kitchen palapa. Below are the before and after pictures:

Before:

After:

Mick and Lucy Fleming bought the farm that became Chaa Creek the same year that my partner Cully started Slickrock Adventures: 1977. Their original 140 acre farm eventually grew to 365 acres and into Belize’s first and foremost environmentally active eco-resort. It’s hard to figure out how to describe this amazing place and what to include: their absolutely stunning Belize lodging options with original Belizean artwork in every room, the expansive grounds, the huge organic farm that supplies many raw materials to nourish up to 200 guests and staff, the extensive spa, their butterfly farm and on-site museum and natural history center, their safari-style jungle camp unequaled anywhere in Belize, or their program for Belize kids and teachers which they fund to benefit all of Belize. Each and every part of this huge operation reveals the careful attention to detail that I recall from the early 90s when we based out of the jungle camp during the inland part of our Belize Adventure Week trip.

It was way cool to see them again. Despite spending 1-3 months/year here I have just never run into them. They hosted our breakfast Sunday morning, and it was obvious that they haven’t let up since 1977. They build and renovate constantly. Chaa Creek is an evolving labor of love for these two very gifted and dedicated individuals.

We have already visited at least 15 excellent lodges, but still Chaa Creek stands out. Here you really can get to know Belize. Sure you can book your vacation at Chaa Creek and just luxuriate in your room and get an open-air massage or tour a ruin or cave. But you can also learn about the endangered creatures in the surrounding jungle and what you can do to help. This week you could witness their Eco-Kids program in action, as we did. You can admire a huge collection of artwork by Belizean artists. You can become familiar with Belize ecology at the museum and natural history center. Although it is very much a luxury resort, they have taken profits from this huge operation and put it back into the country. Way to go, Mick and Lucy!

(You can click each image to view the full picture.)

Crystal Paradise Belize
My room at Crystal Paradise

Yesterday I flew to Belize for my Belize Tourism Board tour of hotels in Belize. I arrived one day early to visit Crystal Paradise Resort, our new Cayo eco-lodge. We will be staying there for two of our Belize packages next season… our Belize Adventure Week trip and our Mayan Odyssey tour.

Crystal Paradise was built by the Tut family. They own 21 acres outside of a small village called Cristo Rey, which is about 4 miles from San Ignacio, the largest city in western Belize, and the center of inland tourism in Belize. All around the countryside here there are numerous eco-lodges, from a couple of small cabanas in someone’s backyard to very high-end boutique spa resorts, nestled along river banks and beneath the tall jungle canopy.

Belize bird platform
Their bird platform

Jeronie Tut gave Mary Avila and I the ten dollar tour, what a fantastic place! I saw every room, hiked down to the Macal River, climbed their bird platform, ate two fabulous meals there, listened to the birds early this morning, and even got to tour his private home that he built with local woods using the timber frame technique.

San Ignacio hotel
Crystal Paradise cabana porch

I can’t say enough good things about Crystal Paradise. It’s a medium-priced lodge, in a very quiet part of the country, but only 20 minutes from downtown San Ignacio. They offer horseback riding, birding, and caving. Every staff member is part of this large Belizean family. They built the whole thing themselves, using material from the jungle right on their own property. They have the really good kind of thatch (bay leaf palm) instead of the kind our staff knows how to build with that we use on the island (cahune palm). Their place is very nicely done.

Crystal Paradise is going to be the perfect home-base for our Mayan tours in Belize. We prefer a spot that is isolated, quiet, and small so that our guests feel like it really is their home. The rooms are spacious and private, and on good days, he even has internet access! And the location in Belize is close to all of our inland adventures: right on the Macal River where we teach kayaking, near Che Chem Ha Mayan cave which we explore, and near the road to Tikal, which we also visit on one day of this Belize adventure. On the way to the island we run the Caves Branch River, arguably the best one day activity in Belize, an underground river run by kayak or raft.

Now I am sitting in the bar at Ka’ana Boutique Resort outside of San Ignacio, waiting for the rest of the travel agent group to arrive. Tomorrow we tour something like six hotels, visit Cahal Pech ruin, and drive to Mountain Pine Ridge! Oh boy, it’s going to be fun!

Cayo eco resort
Crystal Paradise open air, self service bar

Our belize vacation packages are only powered by the sun and wind. Slickrock has built an alternative energy system for use on Long Caye as part of our ecologically sensitive policy in developing our facilities. Our ‘rustic’ approach to building our cabins and creating our water and disposal systems are designed to have the least amount of impact to the island’s pristine nature, and our energy systems also conform to this approach.

Our power systems are needed for lighting, communications, recharging small batteries (camera, etc) and for pumping water. The electric system is entirely 12 volt, employing solar panels and wind generators. When we need power for building tools or to recharge our 12 volt system if there is a problem, we do have several small gas powered generators, but these are seldom needed. Since 12 volt electricity cannot be efficiently delivered over long distances, we have set up five different systems on the island to cover our various needs; each system has its own solar panels, batteries, and charge controller, and provide for 3 different water pumping stations, power for our office communications, and lights to all our buildings. Two of these systems also have wind generators to assist the solar panels during stormy periods when there is not enough sun to keep the batteries sufficiently charged.

The 12 volt systems work surprisingly well, and manage to keep up with our energy demands even during our larger trips. And, the benefits of not having to deal with noisy generators, fuel costs and transport, are immeasurable.