Belize 2019 - Cacao Origins Adventure Trip
February 23-March 2, 2019
You are invited! Journey with us to the heart of cacao’s origins. We will visit cocoa farms where we will meet farmers, learn how cacao is harvested and fermented and processed, from tree to bar. We will eat fresh cacao right out of the pod, and learn how to make drinking chocolate and tortillas with a Mayan family. Southern Belize is the least developed region in the country, with pristine jungle forests, many rare bird species and other creatures, and this will be an amazing trip. We hope that you will join us on this adventure!
our home in the jungle
Cotton Tree Lodge welcomes every guest with a free 10 minute massage, to help you make the transition into "vacation mode". The lodge maintains its own organic farm: walk the grounds and help yourself to mangoes, pineapple, star fruit, custard apple, soursop, bananas, papaya, plantain, orange, and grapefruit. The garden grows a variety of salad greens, root vegetables like coco yam, cabbage, callaloo, tomato, cucumber, sweet potatoes, and much more. They raise their own free range chickens for eggs and meat, goats for milk, cheese, and meat; and are starting to raise pigs. They source catfish and snook just downriver from the lodge. Wild harvested edibles from the rainforest such as jippi jappa, cohune cabbage (heart of palm), and many other interesting indigenous foods will be incorporated into our meals.
learn about cacao's origins and how it is farmed
Three of our days will be spent learning about cacao and about Mayan culture. We will hike the trails along with a Mayan farmer and learn how his productive farm coexists with the surrounding ecosystems of the rainforest. We will eat lunch in the farmer’s home, and learn how to make traditional Mayan drinking chocolate. Our agricultural education will be rounded out with a tour of the farm nursery to learn about cacao genetics, grafting, and planting considerations. We will see how cocoa is fermented and dried, and we will also learn about the process of pressing cacao juice and making cacao wine. One morning will be spent in a Mayan family's kitchen, learning how to make tortillas. Later in the week we will visit the factory to learn how to process chocolate from bean to bar, and every participant will be able to take home 3 bars that they make themselves.
explore southern belize
Three of our days are reserved for adventure, rest, and local exploration. Southern Belize is the least developed region in the country, with pristine jungle forests, many rare bird species and other creatures. Cotton Tree Lodge offers a variety of interesting and immersive adventures and learning opportunities. You may spend these days exploring archaeological sites, remote caves (with hidden swimming holes), learning about wild medicinal plants, zip-lining, fishing in the Caribbean, or simply resting and enjoying the relaxing setting of our accommodations.
Blue Creek Cave Hike into the jungle, put on your headlamp and your life jacket, and step into the river that flows out of Hokeb Ha Cave. This cave’s name means “where the water enters the earth” and you will actually swim right into this magical cave to the source of Blue Creek. Spend up to an hour in the cave, depending on your swimming level, or if you prefer, relax and enjoy a dip in the pools and waterfalls just outside.
Rio Blanco Waterfall Rio Blanco National Park is as remote as it is beautiful. The Rio Blanco River is a tributary of the Moho River and the park surrounds a spectacular waterfall and 104 adjacent acres of sub-tropical forest. Jaguar, ocelot, margay, river otter, and many species of birds and fish live in the park. Thrill seekers may jump off the 20 foot cliffs by the falls or cross the suspended cable bridge. Others may wish to explore the trail system, identifying flora and fauna.
Nim Li Punit Mayan Acheological Site The Maya Ruins of Nim Li Punit are situated on a beautiful hilltop site near the village of Indian Creek, affording views of Belize, Guatemala, and the Caribbean. A ball court connects the Plaza of the Stelae with temples on the eastern part of the site. Archaeologists are still determining the exact rules of the ancient ball game, but they do know that players had to pass a heavy rubber ball through a ring without touching it with their hands.
DAY 1, SATURDAY: Arrival and Orientation
Arrive in Belize City International Airport. Ground transfer by van to Cotton Tree Lodge, where you will join the rest of the group (if you are flying into Punta Gorda, Cotton Tree Lodge hosts will pick you up there). Introductions and orientation meeting. Appetizers followed by dinner in the Main Lodge and chocolate tasting. Rest up before the week’s adventures begin!
DAY 2, SUNDAY: Cacao Farm Tours, Traditional Mayan Chocolate Making Demonstration
Excursion to two organic cacao farms. Hike the trails along with a Mayan farmer and learn how his productive farm coexists with the surrounding ecosystems of the rainforest. We will eat lunch in the farmer’s home, and learn how to make traditional Mayan drinking chocolate. In the afternoon we will tour the nursery and learn about cacao genetics, grafting, and planting considerations. We will also learn about the process of pressing cacao juice and making cacao wine.
DAY 3, MONDAY: Free Day
DAY 4, TUESDAY: Traditional Foods & Cultures
The Mayan diet traditionally included a lot of corn, along with main staples such as squash, beans and chili peppers, and modern Maya people still follow a largely similar diet to their ancestors. In the morning we will go to the Mayan village of Santa Ana, where we will enter into the home of Eusebia Bo. We will help Mrs. Bo in the processes of shucking dried corn, boiling, washing and grinding the kernels into a corn dough, and then shaping the dough to form round tortillas. We will take our fresh tortillas back to the lodge for lunch. In the afternoon we will get a tour of Cotton Tree Lodge's extensive farm and gardens.
DAY 5, WEDNESDAY: Free Day
DAY 6, THURSDAY: Chocolate Factory Tour and Hands on Chocolate Making Workshop
Cacao Workshop at the Cotton Tree Chocolate factory in Punta Gorda for a hands-on bean to bar chocolate making experience. Topics include: Roasting, Crushing, Winnowing, Grinding, Conching, Recipe Formulation, Tempering, Molding, and Packaging. Each participant will leave with three chocolate bars they made themselves. Punta Gorda is a really interesting village and there will be time to explore.
DAY 7, FRIDAY: Free Day
FRIDAY NIGHT: Farewell dinner & dancing featuring live Garifuna drumming.
DAY 8, SATURDAY: Departure
Group van transport to Punta Gorda or Belize City is included; some may prefer to arrange flights from Punta Gorda to Belize City.
Pack for a Purpose
For those interested in adding a humanitarian element to your trip, Pack for a Purpose has published a list of items most needed in the community. This list includes school supplies, text books, books in English and Spanish for all ages, and soccer balls. (We will be bringing plenty of soccer balls and our son is hoping to get a game going with some local players).
February 23 - March 2, 2019
Cost: $1570 per person
Includes lodging, meals, and ground transportation from Belize City. Does not include flights, lodging upgrades, or activities on the three free days (refer to Cotton Tree Lodge site for adventure options).
Children 4-11: 1/2 price; Children 0-3: free