Chan Chich Lodge in Northern Belize delivers luxury bungalows in the jungle along with gourmet food, unexcavated Mayan ruins, and plenty of wildlife and bird watching. But you have to get there first.

This shot was taken from the top of one of the unexcavated Mayan structures looking down on our bungalow at Chan Chich Lodge.

Getting to Chan Chich Lodge in Belize

We were in a hurry. The border crossing from Chetumal, Mexico to Corozal, Belize was painless, however, it still took longer than we anticipated to get to the border and then get across it. With dusk approaching we drove through Orange Walk Town, made our turn toward a village called Yo Creek, then high-tailed it north toward Chan Chich Lodge in Northern Belize, jouncing over increasingly pot-holed dirt roads interspersed with even more brutal sections of eroded-pavement.

There’s a reason most lodge guests fly in.

About an hour later we miraculously hit smooth pavement: we’d reached the Blue Creek area which was settled by members of a  Mennonite community who live and farm in this part of Belize. The Mennonites, apparently, hate pot holes as much as we do.

Too soon, we left the Mennonites and their lovely smooth road and continued on through larger and larger stretches of thick jungle and deeper and deeper pot holes.

Morning light on a trail at Chan Chich Lodge.

Chan Chich opened in 1988 at the pointy end of the nature resort trend and continues to get rave reviews more than 20 years later. The thing at Chan Chich isn’t the luxury, though there’s plenty of that. The lodge’s 12 bungalows (plus one full house) are atmospheric and absolutely comfortably appointed with ample porches and yummy beds. The service is great. The pool is inviting.The food is superb. For more, read our full profile of Chan Chich Lodge for iTraveliShop.

Private Mayan ruins at Chan Chich Lodge

The real clincher at Chan Chich is the setting. Deep in the jungle, Chan Chich was built among unexcavated Mayan ruins. Believed to have been inhabited as far back as 770 BC, the complex includes two large plazas, numerous courtyards and other structures including a ball court.

Chan Chich Lodge occupies what was one of the plazas and the mounds of the other structures and sites dot the surrounding acres–many linked via well-maintained jungle trails so you can explore them whenever you feel like unleashing your inner Indy.

A keel-billed toucan.

Wildlife and bird watching at Chan Chich Lodge

The lodge provides plenty of other reasons to hit the trails too and we took advantage of morning and evening walks during which we spotted (with a lot of help from the experienced lodge guides) more than 20 species of birds that we’d never seen before including a stately white hawk and the impossible-looking keel-billed toucan. While the big prize, the jaguar, eluded us, other guests did see a puma the night before we arrived.

Karen following a guide during a morning bird watching walk along trails on the Chan Chich Lodge property.

Chan Chich is owned by the Bowen family which also owns Belikin Beer, the only beer made in Belize. The family also owns nearby Gallon Jug which is part working cattle ranch, part coffee plantation, part self-contained town and part privately owned conservation area. They’re doing a good job at all four endeavors. Their beef and their coffee are both excellent and the thousands of acres the Bowen family currently owns and protects (things are that big out here) form part of a vital wildlife habitat and migration corridor.

This is the post office at Gallon Jug homestead. The “mail boxes” inside are actually old wooden Coca Cola crates nailed to the wall which is fitting since the Bowen family, which owns this working cattle ranch and coffee plantation as well as Chan Chich Lodge, made their considerable fortune as Coke Cola distributors.

Your most common companions at Chan Chich will also be your wake up calls.  As the sun rises, howler monkey family groups begin to stir in the canopy surrounding the lodge and as they do they begin to howl. True to their name, these small black monkeys really let loose with a roar that sounds like pure evil, even thought the monkeys themselves are harmless their brief, daily racket sounds like a bunch of crazed serial killers with heat stroke. You’ll get used to it.

This magnificent creature is an ocellated turkey–part peacock, part butterball.

Sleep through the howlers and you’ll be roused by the ocellated turkeys. Once common throughout the region but now considered threatened, these delicious birds (that’s the problem) are more peacock than turkey with iridescent feathers, glow-in-the-dark head warts, and a distinctive call that includes a bit of gobbling plus a series of thumps that builds into a noise that sounds like someone trying to start a stubborn motorcycle or an uncooperative lawn mower.

Check out our video, below, to see and hear ocellated turkeys in all their unique glory at Chan Chich Lodge.

Here’s more about travel in Belize

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