The History and Evolution of Chaa Creek in Belize


The story of Chaa Creek began in 1977 when two young travelers stumbled upon what would later become their adopted home.  In those days most business was conducted around bar room tables in Belize City and it was there that Mick and Lucy Fleming ran into the owner of an overgrown 140 acre farm on the Macal River in the Cayo District.


They soon moved out to the jungle property and within a short while the land was producing home grown vegetables.  In those days the farm had no road access so the Flemings transported their produce by dugout canoe to the ready markets of  San Ignacio Town, much as the Maya had done 1,000 years before.


The little farm was soon producing milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs; as well as two baby Flemings.  When other travelers heard about the farm they would often trek out to visit, sometimes staying to lend a hand.  As more visitors came, the Fleming’s one room farmhouse became smaller and smaller and the idea was launched to build a guest cottage from materials found on the land.


Chaa Creek Cottages, the first jungle lodge in Belize, opened its doors in 1981 and over the next decade growth has kept pace with the ever increasing number of visitors.


The Chaa Creek road was built by the British Army Corps of Engineers in 1983 and was accompanied by the addition of a dining room to cater to the six existing cottage rooms.  Two years later indoor plumbing was installed and a further six cottage rooms, a 6,000 gallon water tower, staff quarters and a gift shop were built. 


The year 1987 brought the electrification of Chaa Creek which meant that washing machines replaced scrub boards, a deep freezer saw the end of salted block of ice and a submersible water pump retired the gasoline engine relay pumping system.  A batch of new canoes took guests on excursions down the Macal River.


The luxury of a hot water shower was introduced in 1988 while an ice machine helped make the perfect margarita for guests who relaxed on the deck of the bar.  The cottage rooms had grown by four to a total of 16.  To round off the year an office was built and outdoor lighting was installed in the gardens.


All of the cottages were upgraded in 1990 and a new business office was established in nearby San Ignacio Town.  In order to accommodate horseback riding and hiking, nature trails were cut through the forested property which had by now expanded to 330.  The property was officially designated a private nature reserve.


In 1991 the Flemings noticed that their original thatched house was falling down around them.  This prompted construction of a new house for themselves and their two children.  In addition, a manager’s house was built atop the hill.


By 1992 there were 26 members of staff in residence at Chaa Creek.  Infrastructure was upgraded and a new horse coral was built for the increasing number of horses.  Chaa Creek also played host to a team of archaeologist who were invited to investigate the ancient Maya sites that dotted the property.  Their reconnaissance mapped out over 70 ancient sites.


The Chaa Creek Natural History Centre was established in 1995 to become the first one of its kind in Belize.  The Centre houses interpretive displays of the local flora, fauna, ecosystems and geology of Belize.   Maya archaeology exhibits display ancient artifacts recovered from within the reserve and offer interpretive views of the life and culture of this early civilization.  There are also anthropology exhibits depicting the life and culture of the modern Maya.  Natural resource conservation and ecology exhibits offer educational information to the hundreds of local and international students that visit the facility.  The Centre also showcases the work of the numerous scientific research and environmental conservation projects that are sponsored by Chaa Creek.  An extensive research library has been established which houses an on-going collection of scientific reports, studies, books and other educational materials.  This library is utilized by our visitors as well as local and international students and scientific researchers.  The Chaa Creek Butterfly Farm where the iridescent Blue Morpho butterfly is propagated and exhibited is also located on the grounds of the Centre.  Most recently, Chaa Creek has acquired and reopened the adjoining Rainforest Medicine Trail which showcases the many medicinal plants of the surrounding forest.  The Chaa Creek Natural History Centre and Nature Reserve has evolved into a premier education and research field station that is utilized by hundreds of local and international students and conservation organizations each year.


In 1997 the Macal River Camp was constructed along the banks of the Macal River just downstream from the Lodge.  This facility is totally solar powered and consists of ten raised platform screened cabins with its own kitchen and dining area.  The camp was built to accommodate student groups and provide an option for the more budget conscious traveler.


Further building and renovations in 1997 resulted in a total of 21 cottages at Chaa Creek including a Luxury Suite and a Jacuzzi Suite.  1998 saw the addition of electric lighting to replace kerosene lamps and fans in each room for added guest comfort.


The Spa at Chaa Creek was constructed in 1999 and offers our guests a complete line of professional and refreshing spa services while enjoying a panoramic view of the majestic Macal River valley and the Maya Mountains beyond.  Next in 2000 came the opening of The Conference Centre at Chaa Creek.  This beautifully designed structure was put in place to provide a facility for both local and international conferences, meetings and social functions.


Two spectacular Tree Top Jacuzzi Suites overlooking the pristine Macal River were constructed in 2002 to replace two of the older cottages which were taken out of service.  2003 saw the addition of the expansive Orchard Villa and the Sky Room with its enchanting view of the river valley.  This expanded the accommodations inventory at Chaa Creek to a total of 23 outstanding cottages, suites and villas.


The construction of a fully equipped carpentry shop was completed in 2003.  This provided Chaa Creek with the ability to design and manufacture our own furniture and other items of wood construction that are found throughout the property.  Expansion and improvement of the trail system within the now 365 acre Chaa Creek Nature Reserve was completed in 2004.  With over 10 miles of well maintained trails, the Nature Reserve offers our guests exceptional opportunities for naturalist hiking and birding as well as horse and mountain bike riding.  Next to come was the Chaa Creek Stables.  Just recently opened in April of this year, this functionally designed structure houses our equestrian centre and provides our guests with an enhanced and professional riding experience.


What’s next?   Chaa Creek continually strives to offer our guests the highest quality services, facilities and accommodations while remaining true to our original mission statement and environmentally sound management and operational practices.  We are dedicated to these principals and will not waiver from this goal.


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