A few days ago I mentioned, in reference to my recent visit to Belize, an earlier visit to Tikal in Guatemala. In the photo above, taken in 1999, three future La Paz Group contributors (Seth Inman, me, and Milo Inman from left to right) were getting our “om” on in preparation to climb the stairs in the background.
Amie Inman, who took that photo, reminds me that she and I had been to Tikal earlier, without our two sons. On both occasions we had the kind of mystical experiences for which this location is known. We had climbed the temple in advance of sunrise, as recommended (no photos from that with us currently, so credit for the photo below goes to a fellow wordpress blogger; click the photo for attribution).
What we all remember about our visits to Tikal, and on a separate journey to Copan in Honduras we had the same sense, was how the archeologists and the relevant authorities in these particular national parks had done just the right amount of excavation. Some things were left to the imagination. Seth and Milo, in a conversation we overheard, said that Tikal was much better than Disney World, because it was real – it was like being Indian Jones. Our understanding of “real” was “unspoiled” in the sense that one could see plenty of uncovered evidence of Mayan culture, and also see that these artifacts of that culture eventually were swallowed by the jungle.
The Tikal photo was helpful for me to process the fact that Belize remains very much on my mind since my visit. There was a strong dose of Mayan archeology where I was visiting and as noted in my earlier post I had the sense that it was just about the right amount of excavation, all things considered.
Chan Chich Lodge made quite an impression on me once I finally had the chance to experience it in person after two decades of hearing about it. The balance between nature and archeology was also quite right. I snapped only one photograph in Belize, at breakfast on my second day. The hummingbirds were so abundant I broke my commitment to leave all technology behind and carry only a notepad for a couple days.
Then, that night I wished I could have reversed the commitment again but I was too far afield when I encountered a mature tapir wandering down a path on property. I had only a high beam flashlight to admire it with. It was enough.
It was enough for me to begin saying why I think Chan Chich deserves its legendary status. It is a place where wildlife is abundant. The staff were happy that I had seen the tapir, but not at all surprised. It is common, as is seeing the various big cats including jaguar. One of the guides showed me photos in his laptop that were from recent months of guiding guests, and I saw many things in his laptop that most people would only expect to see in an episode of Attenborough’s Nature series on BBC.
But while wildlife viewing is important, the real point is the conservation that makes that viewing possible. Chan Chich sits on a property of about 30,000 acres of private reserve, and is surrounded by several hundred thousand more acres of protected area, mostly private as well. I am still in the early stages of studying the history of the property, and its present challenges and opportunities, so this is a marker of my starting point in making the case for Chan Chich Lodge as a must visit property.