All Moms know best: A recent Fox News television broadcast highlighting Belize as one of a few selected international tourism hotspots shows that North Americans needn’t travel far to visit one of the world’s best vacation destinations, according to The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s Larry Waight. “It was interesting to be watching television and seeing Belize come up as one of the Fox News hotspots for 2012, in company with just a few select locations that included more distant destinations such as Vietnam, India and Korea,” Mr Waight said. “What it said to me was, ‘great, you don’t need to travel far to enjoy what tourism industry experts and an authority like Fox News describe as the most interesting and best in the world’,” he said. During the March 7, 2012 broadcast, Conde Nast Traveller Senior Editor Lisa Gill highlighted Belize. “It’s sort of undiscovered compared to Mexico, but it’s right next to Mexico, and it’s relatively safe, everyone speaks English there, it’s a really accessible place for Americans to visit and it has loads and loads of these wonderful, ancient Mayan sites that you can really go explore…” Ms Gill enthused. Cahal Pech is one of the wonderful Maya Temple Sites in Belize. This ceremonial center includes pyramid temples, palaces, and a ball court. The Fox News show interviewed industry leaders such as Ms Gill and Philippe Kjellgren, CEO of world’s largest group of luxury hotels, The Kiwi Collection who, after agreeing that tourism industry figures are expected to be healthy for 2012 offered their views on the world’s hotspots. Ms Gill pointed out that the United Nations World Tourism Organisation reported that some 980 million people travelled last year, and this year the number is expected to exceed 1 billion. “That’s really striking,” she said. “Travel is something I guess people really need, it’s an injection, a vitamin injection of really getting away,” Mr Kjellgren added, before both experts gave their travel tips. In addition to Belize, Turkey, Brazil, Seoul and Vietnam were singled out for special mention. “The striking thing for me was, while the other locations must be special to make the Fox News list, only Belize is so close to the US and Canada, so if you count travel costs, as well as the savings Chaa Creek is able to offer with our all-inclusive Belize vacation packages and our network of colleagues on Belize’s Caribbean coast, islands and Belize Great Barrier Reef, we must come out on top as not only among the best, but certainly the most affordable. “I think that really says something,” Mr Waight said. “Only in Belize” The La Ruta Maya Race 2012 Posted: Sat, 10 Mar 2012 17:34:02 +0000 The 15th annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge, held between the 9th and 12th of March and one of the world’s longest canoe races, replicates an ancient Maya river trade network through the rainforests of Belize to the Caribbean seacoast and is capturing a larger audience this year due to global interest in the 2012 Maya “prophecies”, according to one long time participant. Mick Fleming, owner and GM of the Lodge at Chaa Creek, which has been entering canoes in the gruelling race for 12 years, with his own team winning the 2002 Masters Class in 2002, said that in addition to the historical Maya link, the race also has a strong environmental significance. “One thing we’ve always loved about La Ruta Maya is that it creates more awareness of Belize’s beautiful river system and our need to continually monitor and protect its health. “It also has a colourful historical link, in that it traces one of the main thoroughfares for the ancient Maya of Belize and was an important trade route from the interior to the Caribbean coastline, linking the highland of what is now Guatemala to seagoing trade routes that extended north into Mexico and south to Panama and perhaps even further. “With so much attention during 2012 on the accomplishments of the ancient Maya civilisation, La Ruta Maya presents a real opportunity to highlight this fascinating aspect of Maya history,” he said. The La Ruta Maya runs 175 miles from San Ignacio town to Belize City, with three overnight stops at the villages of Banana Bank, Bermudian Landing and Burrell Boom. In recent years the race has attracted over 80 teams from Belize and overseas. After the Spanish conquest of the region the Belize river system continued to be the primary means of transport, communication and commerce in Belize up until the 1940s when the Western Highway, linking Belize City to the Guatemalan border, was pushed through. The early logging trade depended on river transport, as did the chicle industry which followed. Chicle, the sap of the sapodilla tree, was the main ingredient for chewing gum and was an important export for Belize. “When we began Chaa Creek as a small farm we depended upon the Macal River for transport to and from San Ignacio, so it has a special place in our hearts. The more people become familiar with Belize’s rivers the more they’ll come to appreciate them, and this is another reason why we feel the La Ruta Maya is important, and why we’ll be racing once again this year,” Mr Fleming said. First entering the race with canoes from the small fleet used for their guests, Chaa Creek now builds canoes specifically for the event which, Mr Fleming said, is a labour of love and something the entire country looks forward to each year. “It’s always a great race and falls into the ‘only in Belize’ category. The scenery is absolutely stunning, the crowds exuberant, the completion serious and the laughter constant,” Mr Fleming said. La Ruta Maya Promotes Competition and Conservation Posted: Fri, 09 Mar 2012 20:32:50 +0000 Today marks the beginning of the 15th annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge, one of the world’s great river races tracing a 175 mile ancient Maya river trade route through Belize, and, according to Belizean eco resort Chaa Creek, a valuable way to raise awareness of the need to safeguard Belize’s pristine waterways. The Lodge at Chaa Creek, which has been promoting environmental sustainability in Belize for over 30 years, has been a long-time supporter and enthusiastic participant in La Ruta Maya. So passionate, in fact, that owners Mick and Lucy Fleming sent a staff member to Canada to learn canoe building from Ted Moores, a master canoe builder of Bear Mountain Workshop in Ontario, and now produce their own handmade timber canoes. During last week’s visit to Belize, Prince Harry christened a new Chaa Creek canoe, The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee, for a British High Commission entry in the race. “We enjoy the race for the sheer competitiveness and the fact that it brings so many Belizeans together for the three days it runs. But for us, an important aspect is that it highlights the beauty of Belize’s pristine river system and, hopefully, that leads to a greater understanding of its fragility and the need to continually work towards protecting all of Belize’s waterways,” Mr Fleming said. The race begins today in San Ignacio town in western Belize’s Cayo District, near the Guatemalan border. The colourful, exuberant start always involves competitors – and spectators – getting drenched with water as canoes splash and tip throughout a sometimes chaotic early morning start. The crews then battle for station prizes along the way as well as a cash prize at the end of the race. Today, Day One, the canoes will set the pace with a gruelling paddle some 49 miles to Banana Bank, where they spend the night amid a carnival like atmosphere. Tomorrow will see the intense 60 mile leg to Bermudian Landing and an even bigger party, followed by a 36 miles run to Burrell Boom for the last night’s rest before the 25 mile frantic dash to Belize City, finishing under the Belcan Bridge. Now in its fifteen year, the La Ruta Maya coincides with the national holiday of Baron Bliss Day, named in honour of a wealthy English sailor who fell in love with the former British colony while visiting aboard his yacht. Even though he never actually set foot on land, Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss left a fortune said to have been some two million US dollars in a trust fund to benefit the people of Belize and is buried in a granite tomb at the foot of the lighthouse that bears his name. Mr Fleming, who was part of the Chaa Creek team that won the Master Class in 2002, said he is looking forward to seeing how the Chaa Creek canoes do this year, and has been encouraged by the strong commitment to river conservation the race organisers have shown again this year. Day-by-day race results will be posted on the Chaa Creek website, he added. Royal christening in Belize – a beer bottle and a canoe Posted: Fri, 09 Mar 2012 15:57:44 +0000 Queen Elizabeth II christened the QE2 in 1967 with a bottle of champagne. When Prince Harry christened the Jubilee last week, named in honour of his grandmother’s Diamond Jubilee, or 60th anniversary of occupying the throne, he used a bottle of beer, according to the canoe’s builder, Chaa Creek owner Mick Fleming. But the beer was Beliken, the country is Belize, and the Jubilee is a canoe, so it was perfectly fitting. The prince was christening the canoe for the 15th annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge, arguably Belize’s biggest sporting event with over 80 local and overseas teams paddling the 175 miles from San Ignacio town, close to the Guatemalan border, to Belize City on the Caribbean coast. Sponsored by the British High Commission in Belize and Bowen and Bowen who among other things brew the national beer, Beliken, the specially designed, Chaa Creek built canoe will be crewed by three teenagers selected from a nationwide competition. The canoe was launched at the ancient Maya temple site of Xunantunich on the Mopan River near the Guatemalan border after the Prince toured the archaeological site and enjoyed a traditional Maya Deer Dance performance from the top of the temple, just as his ancient Maya royal counterparts would have done centuries before. After the tour of Xunantunich, the Prince inspected the canoe and, with a bottle of Beliken beer officially christened her the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee, or Jubilee for short. By coincidence, the Jubilee was built by The Lodge at Chaa Creek where the Prince stayed and had dinner the night before. Video of Prince Harry christening the Diamond Jubilee canoe built by The Lodge at Chaa Creek That Belize’s premier eco resort would be in the boat building business is not unusual considering Chaa Creek’s enthusiastic participation in La Ruta Maya over the years. Chaa Creek’s owners, Mick and Lucy Fleming, are well known environmentalists who have been working to safeguard the Macal River which borders the resort and nourishes the 365 acre private nature reserve the Flemings established around it. There will be several Chaa Creek-built canoes among over 80 craft expected to compete in this year’s race, which traces ancient Maya river trade routes during the three days it winds through Belize’s pristine rainforest environment, stopping nights at villages with picturesque names such as Banana Bank, Bermudian Landing and Burrell Boom. The La Ruta Maya race is part of Belize’s annual Baron Bliss Day Celebration, a national bank holiday named after an eccentric wealthy Englishman who fell in love with Belize while visiting aboard his yacht and bequeathed a fortune to the country, even though, confined in a wheelchair aboard his boat, he never actually set foot ashore.