Cotton Tree Lodge – Culture, Environment, and Education

by Marti Mayne / Sep 12, 2008 /

Cotton Tree Lodge – A Commitment to Culture, Environment, and Education

 

Cotton Tree lodge

 

Since opening in January 2007, owners Chris Crowell and Jeff Pzena have worked to create a vacation package which encourages guests to step beyond the regular tourist trails of tropical Belize and to explore, learn, and interact with local people and the environment.  

While the lodge offers everything you would expect of an all-inclusive resort—luxury cabanas, delicious meals, lush landscaping, and attentive service, the experience goes much further than that.  Daily tours are scheduled to bring guests into Maya villages and homes to make corn tortillas or chocolate, see an organic cacao farm, and learn about the domestic lives and traditions of an indigenous people.  An excursion to a Garifuna village introduces another unique culture in tiny, yet diverse Belize.  Trips to ancient Mayan ruins such as Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit hint at the power of a lost civilization.  Nocturnal jungle walks, early morning bird watching trips, bush medicine hikes, and excursions to local wildlife sanctuaries expose guests to a wealth of biodiversity.  Knowledgeable local guides accompany these trips, and they are happy to answer any questions you might have about your destinations. 

Manager Chris Crowell lives on site, and as a former teacher he is always ready and willing to offer new insights on the country and its people while he sits with guests at dinner or captains the lodge boat.  Guests are encouraged to spend some time getting to know the service staff, the majority of whom grew up in local Maya villages.  English is the official language so nothing is lost in translation.  Children especially will enjoy hearing what it is like to grow up in a country so different from their own.

 

Cotton Tree Lodge

 

 

This formula has proved attractive to many educators and educational travel companies, and Cotton Tree has seen a steady stream of groups and individuals seeking a more in-depth vacation experience in Belize.  National Geographic Expeditions stayed at the lodge as part of a tour of Belize focusing on culture and natural history.  Elderhostel will be sending three groups in spring of 2009, and will include lectures on sustainable development and traditional music performances as part of their itinerary.

University professors are also finding Cotton Tree Lodge to be a convenient host for field studies and study abroad opportunities.  Transylvania University brought 20 students as part of a tropical ecology trip, and Dr. Gene Kaplan of Hofstra University organized a trip specifically for professors in 2007. 

Special Chocolate Weeks give guests the opportunity to learn about the processes of making chocolate ‘bean to bar’, explore issues such as organic farming and fair trade, and of course make chocolate themselves and taste their creations!  These trips have been hosted by both the lodge, and by chocolate expert Clay Gordon in partnership with the Chocolate Lovers Travel Club. 

 

Cotton Tree Lodge

 

Sustainable Harvest International, a non-profit teaching sustainable agriculture techniques to small farmers of Central America, oversees a demonstration garden on the Cotton Tree Lodge grounds.  SHI holds workshops in the garden several times a year and guests are welcome attend.  With a few weeks notice, it is possible for individual guests or groups to arrange time to volunteer on one of the SHI projects—including planting cacao trees or building a wood-conserving stove. 

Many guests in the lodge become interested in the nearby villages, especially the schools.  In the past, some guests have offered to bring school supplies to local students.  A few individuals have worked on developing ongoing partnerships between US schools and the Santa Ana and San Felipe village schools.  

 

Cotton Tree Lodge

 

For more information on Cotton Tree Lodge, call 866-480-4534 or visit www.cottontreelodge.com.

 

 Marti Mayne is the B&B Editor for Wandering Educators.

 

 

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Comments (3)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    11 years 1 month ago

    Thanks, Marti - this looks to be on our list of things to do!! I can't wait.

     

    Jessie Voigts

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

  • Christy Hammond

    11 years 1 month ago

    Our family vacation to Belize, most notably, the Cotton Tree Lodge was amazing.  The trip was a chance for us to be together before our older kids headed off to college over the next several years.  Little did we know the impact it would have on all of our perspectives, changing us forever.  Our 17 year old daugther, an avid chemistry lover, seems to have found her calling in agriculture after spending the day at a local organic farm which the Cotton Tree folks arranged.  She will be returning to Belize (of course, I need to go with her! :)  )  to work on Juan's bio-dynamic, organic farm in March 2009.  As a former educator, I plan to offer to present some hands-on, inquiry based science programs at a local school.  Of course, Holly and Jeff from Cotton Tree Lodge are offering sound advice and direction.  If you get a chance to travel to the Punta Gorda area of Belize, Cotton Tree Lodge should be on your list of places to stay.  They seem to have found the perfect balance of relaxing, learning and adventure.

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    11 years 1 month ago

    Christy - that is so incredibly cool, your experiences there. Thank you so much for sharing this! We can't wait to get down there. 

     

    Jessie Voigts

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

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