No, it’s not a math class, it’s a family reunion.
Now I don’t know about you but just the term ‘family reunion’ sets off my gagging reflex. It’s not my family. I’m crazy about them, spread out as they are across Australia, Europe and the US. It’s the idea of an organised get together –I’m thinking Disney or a cruiseship – that seems so ‘yuk’. Did you know that 34% of adult Americans (that’s 72 million people) have travelled to a reunion in the last 3 years. and that there is even a magazine that covers the industry?
But my family’s genome is decidedly contrarian and crowdphobic so our challenge was to find a location, undiscovered by Reunion Magazine that would be a good fit for 18 people ranging in age from 13 to 88 with a diverse set of tastes and interests.
Reader, we chose Belize. (Can you tell that I’m taking a Bronte class?) And here’s why.
It’s a tiny country in Central America (about the size of the state of Massachusetts, formerly known as British Honduras) where the official language is English. It has a small but diverse population and punches way above its weight in terms of what it has to offer: climate, world class Mayan antiquities, a magnificent Barrier Reef, over 1,000 islands, excellent fishing, diving and snorkeling, rivers for canoeing, and jungle and wildlife reserves for exploring.
So where did we go and why?
To the oldest jungle lodge resort in the country, Chaa Creek. What started as a farm owned by a young ‘counter-culture’ English couple in the 70s is now a ‘grown-up’ resort, still owned by the same interesting couple. Chaa Creek describes itself as ‘wildly civilized’ and that actually sums it up nicely as the place is, at the same time, both supremely relaxed and highly sophisticated. Accommodations are tasteful and comfortable. The staff is capable and charming and there are a vast amount of things to see and do.
For our gang of 18, there was truly something for everyone. Just take our New Year’s Day activities as an example. Following a hard night at the Blue Angel Bar in San Ignacio for the younger crowd, a large group rose early and took off for Guatemala and the ancient ruins of Tikal. Another group, including my parents in their 80s, headed down the Macal River in canoes, finishing the day drinking beers on San Ignacio’s main street, while our 13 year old daughters spent the day getting beauty treatment at the Spa.
During our stay, we also rode mountain bikes, went horseback riding, lounged by the pool, visited several magnificent and deserted Mayan antiquities and went deep underground in caves to explore the Mayan underworld. Chaa Creek even organized a special lunch for my sister’s birthday that looked like something out of an Isak Dinesen story, involving horses, champagne, dining ‘au plein air’ and an ancient Mayan site.
And so, for you crowdphobic travelers who think that trying to get your family together is at best an exercise in herding cats and at worse, a commercial nightmare, head for Chaa Creek Lodge in Belize. There are 18 of us who are sure you’ll have a wonderful time.
Photo Credit: Leland Hedges - the view from his bedroom at Chaa Creek