–Our home district, Cayo, is the largest in the country and home to some of its most exotic scenery and warmest people. On Thursday, it was the starting point for the second local media familiarization tour organized by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB). Our first stop was the Black Rock Lodge, located deep inside Cayo hill country on rugged terrain. Our host, the Lodge’s security and tour manager Giovanni Fernandez, introduces us to the Lodge’s many activities.
“As you may well know, Belizeans love to jump in the river. So, that’s one of the activities that we do and promote here and having at the Black Rock would be river tubing. You hike down for about 25 minutes and then tube down the Macal River…the pristine Macal river, I must say. We do sit on a 250 acre property. We do canoeing, tubing, bird watching, guided hikes and mountain bike rentals”.
The Lodge sits next to the Macal River and across from the Don Elijio Panti National Park, named for the revered Maya healer and conservationist. One of its many attractions – not the tourist kind – is its self-sustainability. Fernandez tells us more.
Mr. Giovanni Fernandez: “We are self sufficient here at Black Rock. We sit right across Eligio National Park which makes it quite unique; we do not have any disturbance in this area. We generate our own electricity using hydro-power and solar power. The lodge also has a back-up system that we use. The water that we use here is a spring water. The waste water is being treated, [we do have artificial wetland]. By the time the water gets down to the river, it’s basically clean and ready for consumption again”.
Black Rock is located about 19 miles in from the George Price Highway between San Ignacio and Benque Viejo. On Friday it was off to the Mountain Pine Ridge where, eight miles in, there is the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch, the first and most active center for the study and cultivation of butterflies. It began in 1996 as an export-oriented facility but has shifted to tourism and conservation. Its owner, Mr. Jan Meerman led our tour and discusses the nature of the very friendly flying creatures he hosts.
“So, what you worked through so far is the butterfly display where they are adults because to get to the butterfly stage, you need to start here with the Pupa cage where the pupae come deposited by us and when the butterfly merges from that area , they fly to this area. So, this is the flight-area. The reason I invited you to come here in the morning is because butterflies like warmth. That is why in many tropical countries, you have so many butterflies than in the tempered area. But even here, they need to have body warmth to be active. So, butterflies like to sun themselves in the morning. Now, with this beautiful weather, if you come here between 8 and 9, you see all the butterflies trying to find the sunny spot and they sun themselves.
There are sixteen species of butterflies at the sanctuary, including the Blue Morpho butterfly, and countless other plants and birds. At least two of those are named after Meerman himself to honor his work with them.
Mr. Jan Meerman: “When you bring butterflies, you have to know about vegetation; you have to go out and look for things. In Belize, it’s still relatively unexplored and we have discovered here on the property, several plants and animals that are new to science. One is the plant zicat that that is now named ziemiermermani, but can also be found in France and a kind of large spider was discovered here and they decided to name it after me . So, these two species that were discovered here, those are the work that we did here with butter flies as a side effect, but we do quite much more interesting discoveries”.
We would like to thank Black Rock Lodge, Windy Hill Resort, Fuego Bar and Grill, Green Hills Butterfly Ranch and Ko-ox Hannah Restaurant for hosting us and providing us with our meals on this portion of the tour, and to Belize Transit Services for transportation.