Belize me, honeymooning in the jungle is fun!
Warning! This post is not directly connected to design, but more photography and travel. With our upcoming honeymoon, Mikey decided to get me an amazing Christmas present this year: a Canon Rebel T31! YAY!!!!! I couldn’t have been happier, or more excited to take this camera with me to Belize and play. I have no real training in photography and really have no clue how to use the camera, but I thought experimenting for a couple weeks in a foreign country would be a good way to learn. If anyone has suggestions for an intro to digital photography class or even an intro to a DSLR camera class, please let me know!
The first part of our 11 day honeymoon took place in San Ignacio, Belize at The Lodge at Chaa Creek. We landed in Belize City in the late morning on a Friday, the hotel shuttle picked us up and took us on the 2 hour journey into the jungle. It was quite the ride with some bumpy roads, but Alexxi (the driver) bestowed a wealth of information about Belize on us. Some things I noticed right away: There are a LOT of dogs in this country, there are apparently no driving laws, Belize City is not very pretty. We sat, with our eyeballs glued to the windows, taking everything in while listening to our Belizan history teacher. Once entering the Cayo District, the landscape became much more pleasing to the eye. Vegetation was plentiful and the excitement of being in the jungle really started to kick in. After pulling into a long dirt road, we had finally arrived at the “lodge”. We essentially walked into a jungle paradise, were handed 2 welcome drinks and were shown our room.
Our room, I would like to mention (especially since the staff constantly reminded us), was once the room that Prince Harry himself stayed in last March. Of course Mikey didn’t understand why that was kind of cool and why every time we told a staff member we were staying in “Room 10″ they always had to say “Prince Harry’s Room”. I liked to remind him further by saying things like “Can you believe we are using THE SAME toilet that Prince Harry used??” I think he really enjoyed that.
I just want to mention how incredibly nice the staff were. All they wanted was for us to have everything we needed at all times. They were so sweet and even put us in the daily newsletter along with giving us a hand made picture frame made out of local wood.
That room #10 really was a fabulous spot, up in the trees and right on the river, with a deck that wrapped around most of it and a hot tub, perfect for relaxing in and looking up at the stars. (I wonder if Prince Harry used it?)
The bathroom situation was a new one for us. Let’s just say NOTHING makes you closer as a couple (and I didn’t really think we could get any closer) than to share an open air bathroom. The whole “suite” shared the same thatched ceiling and none of the walls actually reached this ceiling. The bathroom was all open, the toilet area had 3 walls and the shower area had 3 walls, so there were really no barriers. Needless to say, this led to some funny conversations and situations.
The deck was a magical spot and relaxing on the hammocks was one of my favorite jungle activities!
Our first full day in the jungle we decided to do a cave tour called “ATM” or Actun Tunichil Muknal. This was highly recommended by our travel agent Katie Valk and after doing some research I agreed it would be something really cool and different to try. Boy, that was an understatement!! You can read about the tour here, if you are interested, but essentially it’s an all day excursion where you have to hike to get to the cave, then you spend hours swimming, climbing, squeezing, and navigating through a cave that the Mayans used to visit to bring offerings, perform rituals and attend ceremonies. The cave is rich with artifacts as it has been kept fairly untouched, in fact, only a small amount of tour guides have been trained to take people on this tour, to keep it as unaffected as they can.
This was an extraordinary tour and I am so happy we did it. Unfortunately, they stopped allowing camera’s on these tours because of “camera damage” from careless tourists. These few cave photos are not mine, photo credit goes to The Lodge at Chaa Creek and portofinobelize.com.
Exploring the ATM cave was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a major highlight of our entire trip to Belize. The evening we came back from the cave tour, we were tired and ready to relax with some delicious drinks at the bar. Duane was our bartender and he was great, introduced us to “bitters” and he and Mike took a shot together! We were given all sorts of Duane’s special recipes that night. The Lodge at Chaa Creek has their own organic farm so their food is JUST as delicious as their drinks.
I became slightly obsessed with photographing the night sky because the stars in Belize are INSANE, but I pretty much failed and vowed to learn how to properly shoot them and come back to try again. The Lodge at Chaa Creek also had a lot of art made from local wood (they have their own workshop) that I grew fondly of photographing.
Sleeping in the jungle is definitely a new experience for me, there are howler monkeys in the trees that make their presence be known! Luckily Mike and I both love camping, so we got used to it rather quickly. Being surrounded by nature is something I am realizing I love more and more lately.
The next day we decided to hang back on the property and see what it had to offer. You could use their canoes for free (score!) so we decided to take a little canoe trip up the Macal River to a botanical garden at DuPlooys. To get to the canoes at Chaa Creek, we had to take one of the many trails they have, that led down to the river. It was a beautiful little walk.
We passed a huge ant farm, similar to one we saw while hiking to the cave, and I stopped to take some pics (of course). We learned from the cave guide that the female ants collect food, so they form long ant lines and crawl up trees to get tiny pieces of the leaves; while the male ants build their ant farms by digging holes and bringing little speckles of dirt up to create the mounds. For some reason I found this fascinating.
We canoed about an hour up the river, which proved to be a little harder than it looked, but we finally made it and it was absolutely worth the trip. We saw so much wildlife along the way, tons of birds, lizards, horses, and even an animal we had never seen before. I wish I remembered the name of it, but it looked like a huge mouse. So cute!
The botanical garden was really pretty with a lot of bright flowers and cool plants, we learned what each plant was used for, which was really interesting, and made me want to learn more about natural remedies.
I LOVED all the pretty flowers and so wished I could bring them home with me!
We found a a fire tower and climbed it to check out the view.
And continued to explore the gorgeous rainforest before heading back to the river.
The ride back was stunning, with the crystal clear reflections in the river, birds sunning themselves on the banks and even some cows that were on their way to cool off in the water.
We were pretty hot from our excursion up the river so we decided to order lunch and drinks by the infinity pool and cool off for the afternoon. That pool was amazingly refreshing!
Late that afternoon I had a massage at the spa which was a little walk up hill to the top of the property. What an amazing view that was! I wish we had explored up there before. The massage was done outside amid the serenity of the rainforest and was 100% the best massage I have ever received. I have never been so relaxed in my life and I actually fell asleep. I want to come back to this place just so I can get another massage!
Duane was back on bar that night so we hung out with him and had some dinner. There weren’t many people at Chaa Creek during the time we were there. We met 3 other couples during the course of our stay, but aside from them we felt like we were the only ones there! We were extremely sad that this was our last night in the jungle and talked about how we wish we had one more night so we could see more. I probably would have tacked on 2 extra days if I knew how much there was to do.
The next morning we had another delicious breakfast and decided to head to the butterfly farm before having to pack up and leave. They breed the Blue Morpho butterfly which has a life span of 2 weeks (or something like that). The color of these butterflies is magnificent, I only wish they lived longer!
After visiting the butterfly we went back to our rooms and packed our things to head to our next destination. Sad to leave, but excited to see more of Belize. Look for a post about South Water Caye coming soon!