Chaa Creek’s Eco-Kids Summer Camp for 24 Very Special Kids and a VERY LUCKY Me
The Lodge at Chaa Creek may be the most beautiful resort in Belize. There are contenders for sure…but the attention to details, the staff, the grounds, the art, the rooms…as they say it’s “Wildly Civilized”. I say it is perfection in the jungle.
Mick and Lucy Fleming, the owners of Chaa Creek, moved to the area in the late 1970s and started from scratch. At first there was no road out to their home and the pioneers had to paddle in a dug out canoe. They opened Chaa Creek in 1981, the first jungle lodge in Belize and it has turned into something magical. You can read some of their story here…they are Belize tourism legends and amazing folks.
But I was invited to attend summer camp. The annual Eco-Kids camp that gives 24 young Belizeans from all parts of the country to attend (FREE!) this one week camp with amazing scheduling, gear, supervision, housing, food, activities and from what I saw CRAZY FUN. These 24 kids (age 8 to 13) were having the time of their lives.
I arrived Wednesday evening and met a few of the campers…
The 24 are divided into four teams. Toucans, Tapirs, Howler Monkeys and Jaguars. There are 10 counselors and jr counselors with the kids. TEN!
I was introduced to the tree of shame. Leave your undies in the shower and…up they go.
And some good old fashioned camp-pranking. While out hiking, mysteriously the kids shoes had been strung up across camp! They were (adorably) furious.
We chatted for a few minutes. Many of the girls assuming I was Gabbi’s mother (the young lady posing in the front) because we both have blonde hair. She is actually from San Pedro – where her mom is the owner of Wild Mango’s Restuarant and her dad, Chuck from Chuck and Robbie’s Dive Shop.
Toughest part of camp so far ladies? The howler monkeys that don’t let you sleep! They start barking and calling late at night. Oh to have such troubles!
The schedule. From planting lettuce & herbal medicinal cures to horse back riding to a camp fire…this is THE REAL DEAL!
It was getting dark…
And an early rise for a full day of camp the next day.
I arrived to check the VERY FULL schedule for our day and a full blown arts and crafts frenzy.
Boys making wallets, girls little purses…all with their names. Super cute.
Here is Kiefer.
It was time to hike to the bus! We were taking a ride over the Maya Farms…the gorgeous spot on the property, run by Mr Mick, were they grow all their fruits and vegetables. Organically.
And we are off…
Kids from everywhere. From a tiny village on the Mexican border in Corozal to Punta Gorda. From Ambergris Caye to Benque.
I honestly had no idea how easy and interesting composting is…we all stuck our hands in. The temperature reaches up to 160F.
We walked through the area where all the seedlings were starting out. Can you spot the toad?
We saw cabbages and okra and flowers and dragon fruit…
Each kid has a jungle diary for note taking…
Kiefer with a parrot nose.
And off we went. It’s just stunning out there…and the amount of beautiful food being produced…is all used at the Lodge and at the Guava Limb Cafe in town.
We went over to visit Lucy Fleming at her daughter’s home – we sat around in a circle, ate a snack, introduced ourselves and where we were from and she told us about the importance of sustainable tourism.
Why kill an iguana for meat (and feed your family one meal) when you can bring visitors to see it when it is big and beautiful on the side of the river and feed your family for a week?
The kids sang their songs…
Burgers, corn dogs and fries at Miss Deb’s Food Truck.
I am…I have SO MANY PICTURES! I am going to upload many MANY more when I get home…as a link if you want more…but let me quickly show you some more of the days activities.
The splash party. Water + tarps + bars of soap = extremely good times.
Thank you Counselor Sam for those pics…I was napping for a bit. I honestly have no idea how these kids have so much energy. (Please do not point out that I am old!)
I was back in the evening for dinner (pork stew) and games…
Some of the boys were practicing their acrobatics.
Hilarious, ridiculous camp games…that end up with kids covered in shaving cream…
Or a handful of the mischief makers being paraded in, blindfolded, to ask for one wish and to kiss the King’s Ring. Who GOES there and WHAT is your wish!
This girl’s wish: To move out of Belize City. The King’s Ring was…a glob of mayonnaise on the head counselor’s big toe. Blech, HILARIOUS to the rest of the kids AND totally good times at camp.
Time for bed for all of us…Docio, the amazing head of the camp – during summer camp and when visitors are staying – gave me a ride back to the lodge. It gets dark in the jungle!
What an AMAZING experience for these kids. I would LOVE to attend this camp for a week. Yes, at 41. Anyone would. This year, they received 165 -300 word essay applications and these 24 kids were chosen.
Miss Lucy said she read all the essays herself and she helped pick those who really put their hearts into it.
“What makes you an Eco-Kid”?
I can’t imagine why ever single child in the country isn’t applying for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The experiences, the fun, the education that they are taking back to their communities, the friends they are making from all over Belize – it’s totally priceless.
FOR LOTS MORE pictures and information and daily updates on what the kids were doing, please check the Chaa Creek blog. One of the first and most informational blogs in the country.
And keep an eye on it for the camp next year…honestly, they should be getting THOUSANDS of essays for this experience.
For more information on the campsite…yes YOU can stay at Chaa Creek for $65US a night (including meals), here is the Chaa Creek website. The website itself will get you dreaming of Belize.
I had an INCREDIBLE time…and have many many more photos of the kids to post (will do that later today with a link) and many more photos of The Lodge itself (that’s a blog in itself).
Thank you SO much to Lucy and Mick Fleming, to the counselors for welcoming me and to the whole marketing team for including me in this very special camp.
All kids are going home with plants to plant, information about the environment to share, many with dreams of interning or working at Chaa Creek in a few years and friends for a life time. What an amazing gift.
This last little girl, from Cristo Rey Village just across the river, told me she never wanted to leave. Never. And, you know what? I don’t blame her.