About Us

Contact Us







Seeing is Belizing
Hazel Marshall

There was a bit of a bump on the road as we drove into the jungle.
‘What was that?’
‘A snake.’
It was not the usual start to a holiday with an ecotourism slant. Most people interested in ecotourism are also interested in wildlife and therefore driving over one of its prime specimens was probably not going to be popular.
‘It’s okay. It’s a Tommy Goff.’
Tommy Goffs, also known as Jumping Tommy Goffs are one of the most aggressive and poisonous snakes in Belize and therefore the best way to meet one is to drive over it.

Belize is well known for its diving but a better kept secret is its almost untouched rain forest. And one of the best kept of those secrets is the Lodge at Pook’s Hill. The Lodge is in a clearing quite literally carved out of the jungle. I’ve lived in a tent in the middle of an African jungle and I’ve seen a lot of wildlife but what is unique about Belize is that its jungle is so deep, so dense, so dark that you may be able to hear an animal or even smell it but you may not be able to see it.

I had come to Pook’s Hill for a few days R&R. And I had definitely picked the right place. Pook’s Hill is one of the most peaceful, relaxing places that I have ever had the good fortune to stay in. This is in large part due to the Snaddons who set up the Lodge in the early 1990s. Belize is one of the biggest melting pots in the world and the Snaddons are archetypal Belizeans having, between them, lived in Trinidad, Wales, Scotland, England and South Africa before moving to Belize. They are perfect hosts. Not only are they extremely knowledgeable about the local wildlife but they also offer a huge variety of activities from swimming in the river to horseback riding. The Lodge is also paradise for the true naturalist. In addition to all the local wildlife (minus one snake) there is so much plant life that many of the ferns and orchids have yet to be catalogued.

In addition to the main Lodge where the most delicious home made food is served and eaten in company with the Snaddons and any other guests, there are a small number of individual cabanas. They are built in the traditional Mayan style with high thatched roofs and are both spacious and cool. It is difficult to decide where the most enjoyable place to listen to the wildlife is. I thought my favourite was from the verandah of the main lodge sipping a delicious tropical cocktail last thing in the evening, feeling the cool breeze and the brooding intensity of the jungle, but that was until I listened to it from the comfort of my luxurious bed first thing in the morning with the sunlight dappling through the window.

Pook’s Hill has been developed within the tenets of ecotourism. This is a word which has a different meaning for each person you ask but for the Snaddons it’s all about size. As soon as anything is done on a large scale it has an impact on the environment, be that the human or the ecological environment. That’s why Pook’s Hill has only a small number of cabanas and that’s why it is such a magical place to stay. And as someone who wanted to avoid the usual tourist haunts and stay in a place which did not destroy its environment this was a good choice.

Pook’s Hill is within easy reach of many interesting places to visit. Still on my eco slant I decided to pay a visit to the Panti Medicinal Trail. There are various ways to reach the trail, the most exciting of which must be to canoe along the river. I took the bus. The trail is located just outside San Ignacio (one of the largest and prettiest towns in Belize and the only one outside Belize City which can boast a set of traffic lights). The Lodge is quite difficult to reach without a car but I was lucky enough to catch a lift with one of the workers at the trail who had popped into town.

The Panti Medicinal Trail is run by Rosita Arvigo, who arrived in Belize over 20 years ago from Chicago, via Mexico. Always fascinated by plants and the natural rhythms of life she persuaded Don Elijio Panti, one of the last traditional Mayan healers, to train her in his ways of collecting herbs and treating patients. The result of his teachings can be seen today in the Panti Medicine Trail which is based on the route that he travelled daily to collect his medicinal herbs. I wandered along the trail with Rosita as she explained the herbal qualities of each plant in fascinating detail. I was particularly interested in the Doctrine of Signatures, a theory which claims that some plants look like the part of the body which they can heal.

On my return to San Ignacio I was devastated to find that I had missed the last express bus back along the Western Highway. Thinking I was going to have to find a hotel room, I was relieved when a friendly driver explained that the local bus was leaving in five minutes.

Local buses are an experience not to be missed in Belize. No air conditioning and permanent ringing of the bell whenever anyone wants to stop, whether to actually get off the bus or just to have a chat with someone in one of the villages means that you have to learn to relax very quickly or you will explode with frustration. I loved it. In my view, travelling is supposed to be about learning about other people and sitting on a bus with them for a few hours is a good way to do that. Having said that I was delighted to get back to my cabana and a large cocktail.

Although Pook’s Hill was my destination there are a large variety of ways to stay in Belize in an ecologically friendly way. The choice is large and ranges from the basic to the luxurious. How about staying with a local Mayan family in their home? Or, at the other extreme, why not stay in Francis Ford Coppola’s luxurious lodges at Blancaneaux? Whatever your budget Belize will have a place to suit.

For more information on Pook’s Hill and the Panti Medicinal Trail please click below:

< Back to Index
< About the Author
< Reply to this Article