Neil Rogers' mission at Chaa Creek Cottages, Belize, is to establish a model of low impact, sustainable development
Winner of the 1998 CHA/ AMEX (Caribbean Hotel Association/ American Express) Green Hotelier of the Year Award, Neil believes that by stimulating interest in the environment, natural history and local culture, he can demonstrate the long term benefits of eco-tourism over other options for development.
Chaa Creek is a 330-acre private nature reserve set in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. It offers a quality recreational experience while educating guests and the local community about Belize's unique culture and ecology.
All the buildings at Chaa Creek were designed and built so as to pose the least disruption 10 the natural environment.
The accommodation includes simple yet elegantly appointed palm-thatched cottages with private baths and a restaurant and bar set on a bluff above the unspoiled Macal River.
Nearby, the Macal River Safari Camp consists of comfortable tent houses set on wooden platforms under the forest canopy. Local village cooks prepare traditional meals which are served in the dining facility. Activities cater to a wide range of interests, and include bird and wildlife watching, mountain biking, riding, trekking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, caving and camping.
Guests can see animals such as gibnut, agouti, tyra, coatimundi and honey bear (kinkajou), along with more than 200 documented species of birds. There are also organised archaeological, natural history and cultural tours to give guests extensive insight into ancient and contemporary Mayan life.
Chaa Creek is active locally to preserve and enhance Belize's environment. Efforts so far have included the setting up of a natural history centre and butterfly farm and a programme to restock the Howler Monkey population which was devasted by yellow fever some 40 years ago.
Cultural and local sensitivity
The resort employs 47 local Belizeans of various ethnic back-grounds including Mestizo, Creole, Maya and Ketchi Indians, Lebanese and European.
All speak English and Spanish as well as their local languages and dialects. Contact with guests is encouraged to facilitate cultural exchange and a deeper understanding of Belize's unique ethnicity. Chaa Creek initiated a successful staff exchange programme between Belizean resorts which further enhanced the skills base.
The resort is active in a number of community activities. For example, hundreds of Belizean students have a better awareness of their country's natural history, cultural and bio-diversity, anthropology and archaeology thanks to sponsored school visits to Chaa Creek.
Chaa Creek also sponsors Cayo's highly competitive football team. Local tailors and weavers supply all staff uniforms. It is Chaa Creek's policy to use local suppliers and craftspeople whenever possible.
An ambitious five-year programme, in conjunction with the University of Minnesota, is recording the habits and habitats of migratory, tropical and neo tropical birds. Called 'Birds without Borders', it is providing vital information to researchers while forging closer links between Belizean and North American biologists.
The resort has created overseas study opportunities for its employees. For example, a Chaa Creek nature guide recently attended the Second World Conference of Butterfly Exhibitors and Breeders. He returned with an important body of information to share with other individuals and groups involved in this area.
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Chaa Creek Cottages