The Lodge at Big Falls, Belize
Name of Lodge or Ecotourism Project:
The Lodge at Big Falls.
Location: Big Falls village, Toledo District, Belize. 25 minutes drive from Punta Gorda, capital of Toledo district (known in Belize as "the forgotten district").
Year Established: 2003
Tourism activities: Adventure tours include snorkelling, river kayaking, and caving. Natural history tours include birding in particular. Cultural tours include visits to a local home, an organic cocoa plantation, an instrument maker and a medicinal rainforest plant nursery.
Ecolodge / Accommodation details: 6 cottage style thatched cabanas with en-suite bathroom and shower, ceiling fans and thatched veranda with hammocks. All cabanas have 1 queen bed and an additional single bed or bunks.
Responsible tourism practices. How is impact upon the local environment minimized?:
Solar lights and low voltage lighting are used in the ecolodge. The cabanas are designed to avoid the need for air-conditioning systems - the thatch itself helps to maintain a cool environment inside, plus energy efficient ceiling fans are used. Information in the cabanas encourages guests to re-use towels and economize on the use of electricity and water where possible. Landscaping around the ecolodge and cabanas using local tree, shrub & flower species. Local trees have been planted (Yemeri, Cedar, Mahogany, Zericote and Guanacaste) to introduce greater diversity and to create shade to allow the natural rainforest to rejuvenate itself beneath.
While not having re-introduced any fauna species our neighbours generally respect our wish to avoid hunting of iguanas on the riverside around the ecolodge nor hunting on the property itself. In this way our local animal species remain undisturbed. There are numerous bird species nesting all around the Ecolodge and abundant butterflies and jaguar, jaguarondi, Grison, Mexican Hairy porcupine, Agouti and other species have all been spotted on the ecolodge property. We are maintaining the orchard to offer our guests a wider variety of tropical fruits (soursop, breadfruit, avocados, pineapples, limes and grapefruit).
Guests are encouraged to only use marked trails in the forested areas and our low capacity means that disturbance will anyway be minimal.
How is the local community involved?: 100% of staff come from Big Falls village and have been trained by the ecolodge.
Does the presence of ecotourism leave a positive impact upon the local environment and community? If so, how?: We contribute to Belize's local economy by employing all staff from the village of Big Falls and providing sustainable employment for a number of families.
The gift shop sells locally produced Belizean crafts almost exclusively (at least 90% of stock comes from local craft makers).
We contribute culturally by including paid visits to local homes in our tour itineraries. These include a visit to a local harp player and maker of harps, violins and guitars; a visit to a home in Big Falls to see how corn is ground and tortillas made. This is a hands on experience for the guests and enjoyed immensely by guests and hosts alike.
We include a tour to an organic cacao plantation. All cocoa beans produced in the district are exported to the UK company Green & Black which produces Mayan Gold chocolate. Green & Black products also use the Fairtrade logo awarded to companies which ensure that the original producers receive a greater percentage of the retail price of finished products.
Who owns the lodging facilities (ecolodge)? Is it communally, or individually owned?: Individually owned.