My Tour Around the Sanctuary Belize Mega-Project in Southern Belize

I’ve posted for the past two days about my weekend tour of the absolutely gigantic project, Sanctuary Belize.  Located between Hopkins and Placencia along the coast, the size in total is about 14,000 acres or 20 plus square miles.  Absolutely gigantic.  They have a super impressive website with the master plan and with all of the information…I am not going to even TRY to describe it all.

And before I start, as with any development, particularly one of this unprecedented size in this area, there is lots of information and some controversy out there.  I am in absolutely no position to judge any of it on my website.  This visit, as a guest of Sanctuary, was my very first.  I asked them if I could see the area (via email) and they incredibly graciously invited me for two days.  To mix with their potential investors, to meet their sales people, to stay at their resort, Kanantik, all with no ground rules or discussion beforehand.  Just an invite.  They SO didn’t need to do that.  They could have told me that it was for potential investors only – and I would have been fine with that.  It’s private land after all…

I am FAR from a real estate expert (in Belize or anywhere else).  So, I think it is best to present to you exactly what I saw.  You’ve seen the gorgeous resort Kanantik (owned by Sanctuary) where I stayed…along with about 30 potential buyers.

I did not ask hard, pressing questions (though others did), I was a guest.  I looked around, I listened and I took about one million pictures.  Here is what I saw on my FULL day trip to Sanctuary Belize.  But first, take a look at the Master Plan on the website.  And remember, that this area is as large as the island of Manhattan.

Our group had been prepped with a really impressive presentation about the vision behind Sanctuary, the Belizean owner/investor Johnny Usher and some of the many features of the project.  The part that clearly grabbed the most participants was what Sanctuary calls the “5 Ecosystems” on the land.  From river to tropical savannah to jungle to Caribbean marine to coral reef all on one property.  And how the developers plan to make sure that all of those all kept intact and healthy.

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Frank Connelly, the Director of Sustainability, really had a great story to tell.  Microclimates, conservation, employment of locals from the six surrounding villages, some of the cleanest drinking water on the planet running off of the savannah and of course, the show stopper…Sanctuary Caye.  About 18 miles off shore and owned by the Sanctuary owners.

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After breakfast on Saturday morning, we loaded on a boat to head north from Kanantik to Sanctuary.  It couldn’t have been more than a 15 minute ride up the coast.

IMG_1424We headed into a small deep water bay and then into the mouth of the dug out and then flooded MASSIVE marina that will really be the heart of Sanctuary.  200 slips that can house boats up to 150 feet in length.

Mangroves have been planted all along the banks and they spoke often of the many many more to come.  And how critical mangroves are to maintaining the environment in this area.

IMG_1426A fleet of Polarises were waiting for us – each equipped with a stocked cooler for the morning ahead.

IMG_1432 IMG_1460We started by cruising up to the top of a large clay mound – fill from the massive amount being dug out for the marina.

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Area for markets, condos, a hotel, everything this town -with 1800 lots Sanctuary will be one of the bigger villages in this area – will need in the future.
IMG_1435We headed down the mound and along the canals that are being dug…water front lots, most that are already sold.  A few which are being built on.

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We stopped at this home.  Well…almost a home.  It’s what they called a “kit home”…shipped entirely from Vietnam.  It was actually very cool…made entirely from what seems like wicker.

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The view of what will be the waterway.  Now dug out but waiting for flooding.

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We loaded back in and drove down the soon to be waterway.

IMG_1456We stopped briefly at the lumber mill.  During the clearing of the lots, especially as they get closer to jungle and mountains, large hardwoods are being felled.  They are making every effort to use the wood for construction.

You can see a bit of the Mayan Mountains in the background.  I can’t lie…the view over the Savannah to these mountains is incredible.

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We drove for a bit and stopped at another potential home.  Now a show home and the residence of many of the Sanctuary sales staff.  They called this one “Pod Style”.

IMG_1461 IMG_1462 IMG_1465Each room – the bedroom, the kitchen/living area, the guestroom – in its own very modern unit.  Almost Bali style.  You can finish one pod at a time…and during the rainy season?  You want to make sure your umbrellas are handy.

Builders were on hand at many of the housing sites to talk about specifics.  We visited different houses of different styles, sizes and with different views.  This savannah area is going to go almost completely untouched by the project.

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A very peppy lady showed us around her home.  The first of a few that were occupied.

IMG_1470We then stopped at Tom Hershkowitz’s home – he and his wife live here and he is a partner and part of the Sanctuary sale team.  His house is also pictured in the Wall Street Journal and he has a blog about his move to Sanctuary.

This was part of the ride over to see the progress being made on some of the roads by the savannah area.

IMG_1478 IMG_1479We toured the gorgeous house with a view of the marina and headed over to the new beach club for lunch…and some relaxation time in the pool.  I’ll stop with the pictures there for today…I have so many more from the pool area and from the afternoon tour.

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I’ll just say a few things about the people that I met on my two day visit – the potential investors from both Canada and the United States.  I’d guess that the group was split about 50/50.

A few of the people were definite buyers by the end of our tour.  They love Sanctuary, the story and what it has to offer.  They see the potential.  They know it is going to take time but they are planning for retirement or for their family or for an investment.  They are good hardworking earnest people who are really taken with the entire story – particularly the environmental part.  And to me?  That environmental focus was great news.

The other thing  was universal amongst all the participants – after this tour and stay, they are totally SOLD ON BELIZE.  Maybe Sanctuary is not what they are looking for but they love Belize.  They want to come back and explore.  A few were thinking seriously about Ambergris Caye.

All of them.  And that is certainly more than I can say about cruise ships and that industry in the country.

SO…from an economic perspective, this is a project that I really WANT to work.  And I can’t wait to visit it in a year or two to see the progress.  I’m hoping I am remembered very fondly by the home owners and potential home owners.  I will dream of that private island until I can get back!

Stay tuned for LOTS more pictures tomorrow of the rest of my tour….into much more undeveloped areas of the project.





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