Close Encounters with Nature at Chan Chich Lodge: A Hidden Gem in Belize’s Rainforest

by Khaila Gentle

The wind blowing through the trees of the forest surrounding us mimics the sound of rainfall. But today, there isn’t a rain cloud in sight. The sky is clear and vibrantly blue, interrupted only by the occasional cumulus cloud floating lazily by. The sun beams down on us. Though, at eight in the morning, there’s still a refreshing chill in the air. Our server Emil brings us a plate of the fluffiest fry jacks I’ve ever seen. And at that moment, quiet chirping draws our attention to the water feeder hanging mere feet away. A small hummingbird flaps its wings so quickly it seems as if she has twice the amount. Briefly, the Yucatec Maya term for little bird, “Chan ch’ich”, comes to mind. This small but peaceful moment is the perfect embodiment of what it’s like to retreat to the jungles of Belize at Chan Chich Lodge.

Inside Thirty Thousand Acres of Greenery

Photo by Chan Chich Lodge

The Gallon Jug Estate is comprised of 30,000 acres of lush greenery. It ranges from towering broadleaf forest to wide open green pastures. And at the heart of it all sits Chan Chich Lodge – one of the few places in Belize where close encounters with nature come as easily as a farm fresh meal and a hot cup of coffee.

This vast, verdant expanse is located in southwestern Orange Walk. It’s part of one of the largest nature reserves in Belize. And, it also makes up part of the tri-national Maya Forest.  La Selva Maya, the largest contiguous forest north of the Amazon basin, extends across northwestern Belize, northern Guatemala and southeastern Mexico.

With all that in mind, the Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle Team visited the charming eco-lodge that is Chan Chich knowing we were in for some amazing rainforest adventures. What we got was far more than we could have ever expected.

Chan Chich: Where close encounters with nature come as easily as a cup of hot coffee. Photo Ⓒ Caribbean Culture & Lifestyle

On our first day, we were greeted by an unconventional welcoming party. As we took a post-breakfast stroll down one of the many nature trails that criss cross the property, a small group of white lipped peccaries decided to make an appearance. At first, we heard their distant grunts. It was followed soon after by the sound of foliage cracking beneath small hooves. Suddenly, they emerged, dashing across the trail ahead of us. They disappeared into the thick of the forest in what seemed like a matter of seconds. By the time any of us could get our phones out, the small herd had vanished. The memory of such a unique experience, though, remained with us throughout the rest of our trip. This close and fascinating encounter with Belize’s wildlife – the first of many – certainly set the tone for the rest of our stay.

Going Where Peace and Quiet Prevails

Gallon Jug is known for being one of the few places in Belize where you can have close encounters with the country’s diverse wildlife. Here, there are increased chances of seeing hundreds of species of birds as well as tapirs, monkeys, deer, and more. And it’s very easy to see why.

Sitting inside thousands of acres of protected Maya forest means that the estate is far away from the usual disturbances of modernity. No loud trucks and cars, no blaring music, and at night, no blinding lights. It’s for this reason that the Gallon Jug Estate is one of the most likely places to spot some of Belize’s big cats – the puma, the ocelot, the jaguarundi, and even the elusive jaguar.

At Chan Chich, it’s hard to ignore the pervading peace and quiet. During the day, only the trees (and an occasional ocellated turkey) stir. As evening approaches, the silence is punctuated briefly by the majestic cries of Black Howler Monkeys in the distance.

A Night Safari Through the Rainforest

To end off our second day at the lodge, we got the chance to witness what this writer believes is one of the best and most unique nature experiences to be had in Belize: a night safari through the rainforest. With hopes of spotting a jaguar or a puma, we set off, accompanied by our driver and our knowledgable guide.

The night safari: a unique experience at Chan Chich Lodge

We made our way down the winding roads that lead away from Chan Chich in our expedition truck. Apart from moonlight, the headlights, and our guide’s flashlight, darkness surrounded us. With our eyes fixed on the trees around us, we tried our best to catch a glimpse of red or white shimmers in the darkness – light reflecting off the eyes of a bird, marsupial, or something else.

Throughout the tour, aided at times by binoculars, we spotted white tailed deer, possums, tarantulas, owls, and a number of bird species. The showstopper of our tour, though we didn’t encounter a cat, was spotting the nocturnal Fer-de-Lance while returning.

We returned to the lodge that night fully impressed by the abundance of wildlife on the estate. Many persons, locals and tourists alike, will go their entire life without witnessing half the critters that you can get up close and personal with in this not-so-faraway slice of Eden.

Experience Belize Unhurried & Undisturbed at Chan Chich Lodge

Within less than a day of staying at this unique rainforest Lodge, we were all certain of one thing. There’s so much to experience in Belize. By the time we departed, that sentiment had not changed.

There is also much to be experienced at Chan Chich. And with their knowledgable – and very welcoming – staff, diverse list of activities, and fresh farm-to-table meals, it’s near impossible to leave without having at least new experience.

With an unparalleled abundance of wildlife (and the best chance to see the elusive jaguar in its natural habitat) Chan Chich is a fantastic destination for naturalists, birders, and those seeking an authentic retreat to the jungle.

Boasting two massive lagoons, winding nature trails, and vistas from atop which you can witness the country’s sprawling natural landscapes for yourself, Chan Chich is definitely a place to witness Belize like never before.

Featured Photo courtesy Chan Chich Lodge

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