Did you know? Caligo Ventures offers custom birding tours to Belize and other Central American countries.
Caligo Ventures is best known as the exclusive North American booking agent for the world-famous Asa Wright Nature Centre on Trinidad. But did you know that Caligo also arranges custom birding tours — we call them Independent Birding Ventures — to not only Trinidad and Tobago, but also to many other Central American countries like Belize.
One of our favorite locations in Belize is Chan Chich Lodge. We think the world of this lodge! It is a place to immerse yourself in nature at whatever pace you wish. Birds are plentiful, easily accessible, and provide endless delight. It’s calming to bird from the porch as you finish meals — warblers, orioles, tanagers, and even trogons are lured into the water feature near the porch. It’s also intriguing to follow the trails and see what you encounter; no walk is ever the same.
Chan Chich Lodge is located on a 130,000-acre private reserve adjacent to the 400,000 acre Rio Bravo Conservation area. The lodge carries on the legacy of Sir Barry Bowen, one of Belize’s wealthiest and most influential citizens who was knighted by Queen Elisabeth II in 2007. Sir Barry and Lady Dixie Bowen purchased the Belize Estates Company in 1980. The estate had built its fortune on exporting mahogany and chicle in the first half of that century and at one time held over 1 million acres. At the time of sale, business ventures crossed with conservation goals as the estate was subdivided, and through International pressure by myriad conservation groups, including Audubon, plans for extensive logging and citrus production on the acreage were shelved. Bowen and Coca Cola donated a massive tract of land as the core of today’s Rio Bravo Conservation Distict. Bowen retained what is now the private reserve of Chan Chich, 3000 acres of which is cleared and used for farming coffee, cocoa, and cattle. It is the large and intact forest, affected only by selective logging over past decades, that provides habitat for Jaguar and five other wild cat species. Macaws and parrots flourish, rare raptors breed, and in Central America, few places can compete as home to such a diverse and productive ecosystem.
The lodge is built on the floor of the first plaza of a formal Mayan ruin. Fearing looting and destruction of the site if left alone, Belize’s Department of Archeology granted Bowen the permits to build a 12 casita luxury eco-lodge. Local hardwoods were used in construction, making each casita a work of art. Thatched roofs help them blend into the landscape and while totally comfortable, they are not over the top, built in harmony with the site. Small seating areas let you sit quietly with nature, watch Red-capped Manakin pick fruit from the shrubs or spider monkeys ply through the trees. Collared Aracari and Keel-billed Toucan display from canopy perches. Ocellated Turkey strut about like a welcoming committee, while hummingbird feeders are active with Long-billed and Stripe-throated Hermits. Who doesn’t like to sleep in a queen-sized bed and wake to sounds of the forest or step out onto your verandah while local coffee is brewing to hear the calls of Tody Motmot, Gray-throated Leaftosser, Red-lored and Mealy Parrots, and more!
The lodge has a stable of extremely qualified guides, all personable, knowledgeable, and kind. Sometimes it’s hard to pull yourself away from huge trees that shade the plaza where Crested Guan and mixed flocks of tanagers alight. However, once afield, guides know where the Bare-throated Tiger Heron is hunting, where they saw a Tapir taking a bath, where warblers and hummingbirds come down to drink, where a trogon is nesting — this feeling of being shown the secrets of the forest one by one is just fantastic!
At day’s end, people like to congregate in the bar, where Belikin beer is free for all, and finer spirits and wines are available for purchase. The bartender is a fine photographer and with some encouragement may share his photos in a slideshow. Night drives go out almost every night — great finds may include margay, puma, fer de lance, and tapir. Paraque and several species of owls are regularly seen.
Guests mingle engrossed in conversations about what they have seen, hope to see, and the wonder of why species are doing what they do. Conversations grow over delicious meals that feature local foods, including meats and vegetables from the nearby town of Gallon Jug.
A note from Caligo Ventures’ owner Peg Abbott. “I chose Chan Chich as the place to celebrate my 60th birthday this past February. Surrounded by friends I’ve traveled with for many years and some new friends just made on that journey, we wined and dined and saw tremendous birds, a Jaguar, a Margay, Tody Motmot, manakins, and more. The special ambiance of Chan Chich, with so much care given to hospitality and the construction, makes one feel very special. To find this amid some of the most productive forest for seeing birds and wildlife in Central American, you can’t go wrong!”
To book custom birding tours to Belize, please call Caligo Ventures at 800-426-7781.
Upcoming Guided Group Tours to Belize Include:
Two Great Eco-Lodges
Chan Chich & Pico Bonito
January 12 – 20, 2018
Southern Belize: From Mountains to Mangroves
Hidden Valley Inn & The Lodge at Big Falls
March 10 – 18, 2018