Belize is a small country of 8,867 square miles that sits on the northeastern coast of Central America. The friendly neighbor of Mexico and Guatemala, Belize shares ancient Mayan past and common ethnic backgrounds with Central America.
But it is the salty air drifting over from the Caribbean Sea that has infected the country with a colorful Caribbean flamboyance that can be seen through its distinct Colonial/Caribbean-style architecture, coconut-based dishes, white sandy beaches, laid-back ambience and its English and Creole dialects. Belize is in fact the only Central American country with English as a first language.
With approximately 270,000 people living peacefully in a secure political environment, enriched in diverse cultures, Belize is a premier ecotourism destination. Though small, Belize boasts the largest Barrier Reef in the Western Hemisphere, the famous ‘Blue Hole, three of the four pristine atolls in the Atlantic, over 200 sand islands, the only Jaguar Preserve in the world and over 500 species of exotic birds.
If that’s not enough, Belize is home to numerous remains of ancient Mayan cities, some still undiscovered under the jungle’s lush vegetation, majestic Maya Mountains that soar 3000 feet into the clouds, some of the tallest mangrove trees in the region, complex cave systems, the only pine forest (Mountain Pine Ridge) in all of Central America, and a unique and colorful cultural mix.
Belize is often described as a “melting pot” of cultures all intermingled to form a unique “Belizean identity”. Even with the many interracial unions, Belize boasts several distinct and identifiable ethnic groups. These include the Creole, Mestizo, Maya, Garifuna, East Indians, Chinese and Mennonites.
These all blend to form a people with a wide diversity of cultures, traditions and beliefs all co-existing in harmony. The Belizean society exemplifies the preservation of individual identities and ethnic differences.
English is the official language of Belize. However, English Creole is widely spoken and remains a distinctive part of everyday conversations for most Belizeans. Spanish is also common and is taught in primary and secondary schools in order to further develop bilingual citizens.
Belize’s economic past was an amalgamation of colonialism hinged with the popular and affluent deforestation of the country’s precious forests for the exportation of logwood, mahogany and chicle. Europe was providing high demand for dyes and other minerals that the diverse jungles of this tiny, remote country could provide. Today, with the dawn of Independence almost three decades ago, and the newfound wave of environmental awareness, much of Belize’s pristine forests have been declared protected areas. The country is now experiencing an economic boost with its primary sources of income being agriculture and a growing tourism industry.
Traditional agricultural products include, bananas, citrus, cocoa, sugarcane, lobster and fish. Today farmers are diversifying with the changing market trends and investing in the cultivation of shrimp, special fish species like the tilapia and less staple fruits like papayas and cashews.
Although developmental costs are extremely high in Belize, the government has declared the tourism industry a high priority. With the beautiful and pristine natural resources that thrive in this country, tourism seems a viable path to improve the economy and provide a better standard of living for all Belizeans.
Burrell Boom is a tranquil riverside community located approximately sixteen miles north of the Belize international airport. It epitomizes rural Belize where residents maintain a peaceful coexistence with the vastly unspoiled natural environment. Flora and fauna abound.
Multi-colored species of tropical birds including the yellow-headed parrot, redheaded woodpecker, yellow-tailed oriole, several types of hummingbirds and herons inhabit the orchards, marshlands, and riverbanks of the countryside. Vibrant yellow cashews, rich custard apples, deep purple and red mangos, berries of various shapes and color, and a surplus of tropical plants complete the setting while providing the key ingredients for an array of local dishes and beverages.
The “boom” in Burrell Boom is intimately associated with the logging industry that shaped the area during the 1700s. The Boom refers to the iron chains that was extended across the river to hold back logs set afloat from mahogany camps higher up on the Old Belize River. There, the logs would hit against each other creating a booming sound throughout the day.The village is famous for its assortment of fruit wines and preserves all made from organic ingredients. At locally-owned wineries, wines brewed from fruits harvested in the area are fermented in an assortment of large hollow barrels, resulting in a superb blend of rice, sorrel, potato, berry, and cashew wines to suit every taste.
Around March 9th of every year, the true flavor of village life is put on display when the La Ruta Maya, Belize River Challenge, an internationally renowned canoe race, arrives in the village. The four-day, 180-mile river challenge starts in San Ignacio Town and canoeists and support teams overnight in Burrell Boom before continuing the final leg of the challenge to Belize City.
On the average day the river bank is a popular swimming and picnic area for locals and a busy marketplace for cruise ship and other visitors, who are not only treated to wines, preserves, and other souvenirs but also to the blurry spectacle of curious spectators (howler monkeys) scurrying through the trees.
The most amazing spectacle of the village’s natural splendor is experienced at sunrise and shortly after sunset. The typical morning breaks with a magnificent blaze of orange, red, magenta, and yellow beaming over the seemingly endless horizon of lush vegetation. An echoing melody of birdsong, the occasional flutter of wings, and the tapping of tiny beaks against glass paned windows announce a new day.On the average day the river bank is a popular swimming and picnic area for locals and a busy marketplace for cruise ship and other visitors, who are not only treated to wines, preserves, and other souvenirs but also to the blurry spectacle of curious spectators (howler monkeys) scurrying through the trees.
The most amazing spectacle of the village’s natural splendor is experienced at sunrise and shortly after sunset. The typical morning breaks with a magnificent blaze of orange, red, magenta, and yellow beaming over the seemingly endless horizon of lush vegetation. An echoing melody of birdsong, the occasional flutter of wings, and the tapping of tiny beaks against glass paned windows announce a new day.
The nighttime air is saturated with an equally melodic rhythm of animal chatter. The cooling night breeze combined with a natural incense of fruit aroma mixed with the distant vapor of burning bush generates a meditative atmosphere. The sound of chirping crickets, the frequent coo of birds nestling in their nocturnal hideaways, and far-off calls of howlers ring out into the night air just as it did back in the 1700s when trapped logs were rocked by the river’s currents and a family named Burrell stood watch from their nearby house.
Preserving The Environment Is Our Legacy
Since its opening in 2005, the executives of the Black Orchid Resort recognized the significance of preserving the pristine river environment which has protected and nurtured the rich biological diversity for centuries.
In order to accomplish and standardize it practices towards sustainability, Black Orchid Resort became affiliated with the Rainforest Alliance to “go green” and implemented activities and programs designed to educate both staff and visitors in practicing conservation efforts.
The Black Orchid Resort is also pleased to be a member of the World Heritage Alliance, a joint initiative between the United Nations foundation and Expedia.com aimed at promoting businesses and destinations around World Heritage Sites. The Belize Barrier Reef System was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and consists of 7 marine protected areas. Inquire at the front desk for specialty World Heritage Alliance Tours to any of these sites.
For information on how you can become a Friend of World heritage Sites and support efforts at sustainable tourism, visit www.friendsofworldheritage.org and www.worldheritagealliance.org.
We are also proud members of the Rain Forest Alliance and the Belize Audubon society.
Health, Safety And Environmental Policies
Black Orchid Resort is committed to managing health, safety and environmental (HS&E) matters as an integral part of our business. We will provide a clean comfortable and save environment for our guests and employees and will be always mindful and protective of our environment.
We are committed to meeting the requirements of all applicable environmental legislation, regulations and accepted standards of environmental protection. Compliance with HS&E standards will be a key ingredient in the training, performance reviews, and incentives of all employees.
Risk Reduction, Prevention, Resource Management
We will seek opportunities, beyond regulatory compliance requirements, for reducing risk to human health and the environment, and we will establish and meet our own HS&E quality standards where appropriate.
We will strive to minimize releases to the air, land, and water through use of cleaner technologies and the safer use of chemicals. We will manage scarce resources such as water, energy, land, forests in an environmentally sensitive manner. We are committed to managing our activities in a way that is consistent with industry practices and in ways that support the environmental policies of the government.
We will regularly monitor and audit our operation and environmental management systems; and are committed to continual improvement in environmental performance.
We will communicate our HS&E quality and our environmental performances to our employees, vendors and customers, and will solicit their input in meeting our HS&E goals. We will provide training for employees to enable them to fulfill their duties in an environmentally responsible manner. The environment is the responsibility of all of us.
As a means to measure our progress, we will review environmental objectives, targets and programs annually. Your feedback is important and enables us to supersede your expectations. As a result we will be sending you an electronic survey via email to fill out which will take only 5 minutes.
We are committed to supporting and participating in community-based projects that focus on the environment. Black Orchid Resort recognizes the contribution environmental groups can offer on environmental issues and will participate in meaningful dialogue with these groups.
For more information on how you can support conservation initiatives in Belize please visit:
Gateway to all Belize has to offer, thank you for reading.
Doug & Karen Thompson
Owners of Black Orchid Resort
Belize R’US Inc.