Belize boasts no shortage of boutique hotels where natural beauty is the star attraction, but we’re here to pitch that Chan Chich Lodge is in a league of its own, coupling as the only Caribbean safari in the country. Known to bird-watchers worldwide, Chan Chich Lodge is a legendary eco-retreat with pumas, oscillated turkeys, and white-tailed deer freely roaming it’s 30,000-acre wilderness grounds in Northern Belize. Packing serious eco-credentials in a less-visited corner of the country, every wildlife enthusiast should have Chan Chich Lodge on their radar for a dusk-to-dawn nature experience—from night safaris to lagoon birding and archeological discoveries.
Belize is said to be the perfect introduction to neotropical birding, and Chan Chich is the unparalleled destination to do it from. In fact, Northern Belize shines extra bright even outside of peak migration with its influx of Yucatan endemics, warblers, waterbirds, and even raptors — Chan Chich has impressively recorded over 370 species of Belize’s near-600 total count. It’s here, when sunlight peeks through fine white netting in your luxury, garden, or deluxe cottage, that you’re reminded you’re staying remote in wilds that are hugged by half a million acres of conservation lands. Hummingbirds harmonize with waking cicadas as you head out, boots on and binoculars in hand, from your wrap-around veranda to the central lodge for a coffee before your guided tour.
Explore the open area around the Gallon Jug farm and coffee plantation or head to Laguna Seca for water-loving birds like the Northern Jacana, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, or Anhingas. And as the day warms up, the upper escarpment at 900 feet above sea level is your best bet to scan vistas for King Vultures, Black-and-White Hawk-Eagles, and even White Hawks in the slopes below.
Sure, the screened-in outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi are a tempting pull to spend the rest of the day, but it’s hard to ignore all the possibilities that lie on site, and even off. Canoe the spring-fed Laguna Verde lake with a packed picnic, head horseback into the jungles of Gallon Jug Farm to scour the Punta de Cacao Maya Site, or kickback and cruise around Laguna Seca with a motorized boat tour instead.
The Lamanai Maya Site, which directly translates to submerged crocodile, is not only the nearest archeological reserve off Chan Chich’s grounds but also the third largest in all of Belize. Although if you’ve unearthed your inner Indiana Jones, visiting the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave is the next best thing. Voted the most sacred cave by National Geographic, its skeletal remains, ceramics, and stoneware left behind by the ancient Maya lie just beyond its entrance through waterfall rapids a mere hour and a half drive away.
AT DUSK: Night Walks + Safari Drive
As if you couldn’t get your fill during the night, the setting sun alights whole new adventures under the guise of darkness. It’s then that Belize’s nocturnal animals, like any five of the country’s elusive wildcats, cute kinkajous, and even creepy-crawly tarantulas make their way out into the open.
Brave the trails on foot with your guide to any of the nine miles of Chan Chich’s well-maintained trails, or get comfortable inside the safari-style open-backed truck—both promise the eyeshine of nocturnal fauna under high-powered spotlights. Besides hunting at night, temperatures are also cooler, which means this safari experience is your most likely chance to see the jaguar, ocelot, margay, or puma onsite at Chan Chich Lodge.