A pretty unique way of spending half a day or more is to get out of Belize City and visit The Orchid Garden Eco-Village at 14.5 Miles Western Highway.  To get the best out of your time there, let them know you’re coming by ringing (00501) 225 6991 or (00501) 624 6337.

 

The Orchid Garden is run by a Taiwanese couple who have spent the last 20 years making sure their 43 acres of resort, eco-village, tropical savannah and riparian woodland is a haven for native Belizean species of flora and fauna.  They have also experimented with a number of “eco-sustainable practices” – ways of getting what you need from the planet without taking more than is absolutely necessary, and if possible, giving something back at the same time.   

 

Their restaurant is just one example: a large, tranquil space with low walls constructed out of river stones topped with lengths of thick bamboo harvested from the banks of the Sibun River.  The weight of the roof is taken by trunks of logwood and other hardwoods, and the roof is insulated with cohune palms.  In the centre of the space is an open area planted with typical rainforest plants.  The tables are made from thick slices of 50 + year old mahogany, cut from what was left by the loggers when they harvested the main trunks.  It is bordered on one side by a butterfly corridor.  There is an adjoining “Stone Room” exhibiting the different kinds of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock found in Belize.

 

There are over 100 varieties of orchid and bromeliad, as well as a plethora of hibiscus, bougainvillea and other flowering bushes and plants.  Mango, Blueberry, Almond, Cashew, Flamboyan and Oak trees have been planted to encourage a wide variety of birds – 40+ species are seen there on a more or less daily basis.

 

The main “event” is a Belize familiarization tour which explains some of the major happenings in the history, geography, geology, languages and cultures of Belize, while taking you on a nature trail which encompasses a large “nature” swimming pool (no concrete or chemicals), a 5 acre wetland wildlife habitat,  mushroom and aquaponics houses, an iguana sanctuary, and a woodland trail which leads to a surprising exhibition of “Nature’s Artistry in Root and Stone” on the ground floor of the owner’s rather surprising house.

 

Afterwards, if you have the time and inclination, you can extend your walk along a trail which runs through about 5 acres of savannah behind the eco-village, and through a few hundred meters of fairly dense riparian woodland to Hector Creek, which borders the nearby village of Hattieville.

 

The tour fee of $U.S. 30 includes lunch – people rave about the food.  You get what they happen to be cooking that day, but it’s organic, home-grown whenever possible, and without the use of any chemical preservatives.  The signature drink is hibiscus flower iced tea, made each day from the deep red flowers growing on bushes all over the resort.  They make their own bread, cakes, yoghurt and tomato ketchup and serve dishes from five of the principal cultures represented in Belize: Kriol, Garifuna, Mayan, Mestizo and Taiwanese.  Vegetarians and vegans are welcome, which makes a change from the tokenism they usually encounter; though if you are vegan, it would be sensible to let them know when you ring up to tell them you’re coming.

 

Take your bathing costume and have a swim after lunch; or relax in a hammock under a cohune thatch roof between the iguana sanctuary and a massive cashew tree, as the birds forget you’re there and perch ever closer.

 

 (There’s also high speed internet access for those people who just have to check their e-mails every couple of hours! AND a Games Room with table tennis and pool tables, AND 75+ channels of Direct TV if you have children with you who can’t live without it, AND a small library for those who discover a desire for a good book, not having brought one of their own!)

 

As you sit on the bus going back to your accommodation in Belize City (bus fare around $BZ 1½ per person!), you might find yourself giving serious thought to the possibility of  forgetting about Belize City, and spending more time at the Orchid Garden Resort and Eco Village.