Mick and Lucy Fleming have come on an astonishing journey. It is now 30 years since the couple opened a jungle lodge in the remote Cayo District of Belize. Since 1981, they have transformed a simple six-room property into a superb eco-resort that is also one of the finest places in the world to enjoy a family vacation.
One secret of the Flemings’ success is that they have never been content with what they have achieved, but have kept on raising the bar in response to rising expectations. First came electricity and hot water, then a progressive upgrade of the thatched cottage accommodations. After a time, Chaa Creek started to become quite stylish, and the world began to take note. The steady program of improvements reached a new level in 2000 with the inauguration of a lavish hilltop spa. And in 2009, another marker was passed with the installation of a splendid lap pool and sun terrace.
It is a two-hour transfer from the Belize international airport to Chaa Creek, the last 15 minutes of the journey being along a bumpy dirt road. We arrived to find the grounds manicured and the staff as engaging as ever. The resort employs well over 100 local people, and their soaring morale does the Flemings great credit.
Chaa Creek is located on a 365-acre estate and is perched on a hillside overlooking the clear, clean water of the Macal River. The purpose of our recent trip was to see the new split-level Treetop Jacuzzi Suites. These have been constructed so that their decks are lost in tropical foliage, which is perfect for watching the abundant birdlife — including the spectacular Blue-crowned Motmot and the Keel-billed Toucan — but less ideal when the howler monkeys turn up at 4 a.m.!
The suites are airy and cool, thanks to steeply pitched roofs and screened windows. There is no air-conditioning, but an elevation of 1,500 feet, combined with effective fans, renders it superfluous for much of the year. Gleaming hardwood floors, white cotton-covered sofas and kaleidoscopic Guatemalan textiles all help to create distinctive interiors of true sophistication. Spacious, well-equipped baths provide effective showers and excellent lighting. Overall, the Treetop Suites represent a leap from solid comfort to genuine luxury. (If they are fully booked, a Garden Jacuzzi Suite provides an entirely acceptable alternative.)
Activities at the property include horseback riding, canoeing, hiking, bird-watching and well-organized escorted trips to spectacular ruined Mayan cities such as Tikal, Caracol and nearby Xunantunich. The latest innovation at Chaa Creek is a satellite tower for improved Wi-Fi and telephone communications. And, apparently, a new restaurant is actively under consideration. Three decades on, the Flemings don’t seem to be slackening their pace!
Illustrations ©Melissa Colson
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