Belize, that little country south of Mexico off the Caribbean Sea, formerly called British Honduras, is a beautifully rustic, yet luxurious vacation retreat. When I had the opportunity to visit the Casa del Caballo Blanco eco lodge, I jumped at the chance. A brief chat with American owners and managers, Jodi and Vance Bente, and you too will be infected with their passion to help the environment. Upon more investigation I found Belize had a number of appealing locales, attractions and is a focal point of Western Hemisphere history.
Casa del Caballo Blanco (www.casacaballoblanco.com), sits on a hilltop on the outskirts of the interior town of St Ignacio, Belize. The lodge is home to the Casa Avian Support Alliance, which is a chance to give back to world wildlife through the lodge’s support and rehabilitation of endangered birds. Here it’s possible to pay off any vacation guilt by hands on contributions to CASA’s bird hospital and habitat. Depending upon your length of stay you can be as much involved with benefits towards bird habitation as you wish. You might observe and participate in aviary rehabilitation, when perhaps a spotted owl with injured wing is released back into the wild after a 2 month stay. A one eyed parrot named Captain Jack, is a permanent resident, who gregariously greets each visitor.
Native birds are frequent visitors to the hill top lodge, with its comfortable thatched roof casitas. Even a neighbor’s noisy rooster is a reminder that wild life rules, while you slumber beneath a comforting mosquito netted bed. Along with comfortable accommodations comes local comfort food, accented by large pitchers of fresh cold juice of watermelon, orange, grapefruit or papaya. Miss Gracie is queen of the kitchen and her fresh simple meals accentuate the easygoing nature of Casa. Housekeeper, Miss Terri, is a stunning Mayan beauty who is a reminder that you are in the heart of Mayan culture.
Tours to two local Mayan ruins, Cahol Pech and Xanantunich, can be arranged by the lodge and is a must, especially when you have “Junior” as your private guide. A couple of hours across the Belizean border into Guatemala is the ancient Mayan center of Tikal. If interested in history and its physical evidence through ruins, Tikal is a must. Despite the strenuous safari required to see most of the expansive site in just one day, it is an effort worthy of a once in a lifetime trip.
One clear January evening, as the full moon was rising between giant palm trees, we stepped out of our casita and headed toward the dining hall. We were pleasantly greeted by a sky filled with stars and the hill side and grounds covered with millions of twinkling fire flies. It was as if the twinkling stars were reflected across the earth. The feeling of a natural wonder, like this, is an indescribable bonus for visiting an exotic locale. That sense of place and wonder is an all time unforgettable travel memory.
Belize, is less than a 3 hours flight from Dallas, but worlds away from our urban American lifestyle.