Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Celebs visiting resorts

Latin America: Bill Gates Takes an Island Eco-Holiday in Belize

The founder of Microsoft took his family on a whirlwind vacation around the Central American country of Belize, including a jaunt to its most famous private island resort.

(Bill and Melinda Gates)

With a star-studded roster of visitors that includes British royalty, Hollywood celebrities and some of the world’s wealthiest people, Belize has certainly come a long way from its status as a rustic destination suitable only for the adventurous. A plethora of high-end resorts – particularly those scattered around Ambergris Caye, an island near Belize’s spectacular Barrier Reef – have brought an entirely new reputation to the country’s tourism. At the forefront of this movement have been island resorts like Cayo Espanto, a trip to which was included in the 2011 Oscars ‘swag bag’, and whose visitors include Oprah Winfrey and Leonardo Dicaprio.

Now, Belize caters to a niche of those who prefer a little (or a lot) of luxury with their eco-tourism. Hundreds of acres of untouched jungle surround Chaa Creek Resort, an environmentalist’s paradise found in the coastal rainforest at the foot of the Maya Mountains. At just a two-hour scenic drive from Belize’s international airport, the resort is perfectly situated to give the feeling of total wilderness, while remaining conveniently close enough to civilization. With 365 acres of protected lands, there is plenty to explore – and Chaa Creek also creates “beach and rainforest” packages with a network of island resorts.

Having hosted Prince Harry last month as he toured Central America and the Caribbean for the Queen’s Diamond Jubillee, Chaa Creek is certainly no stranger to elite guests. After dropping anchor on their 200-ft yacht near Ambergris Caye on April 10th, Bill Gates and his family enjoyed a visit via helicopter to the renowned private island resort of Cayo Espanto, a trip that included some snorkelling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Cayo Espanto has long been a celebrity hotspot in the country; Private Island News’ interview with the founder, Jeff Gram, can be found here (link).

(Image of Cayo Espanto from VPI)

Next, two of Gates’ young daughters, sixteen-year-old Jennifer and seven-year-old Phoebe, were dropped off by the helicopter at Chaa Creek, where they had a fun day at the resort’s spa and its unique Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm, where the girls were given a butterfly to release into the wild. Lucy Fleming, who founded Chaa Creek with her husband Mick over three decades ago, said in a press release that she was thrilled that the girls’ parents had chosen to send them to the resort, demonstrating not only its natural beauty, but also Chaa Creek’s commitment to “safety, security and privacy.’’

According to Mrs. Fleming, the visit by the Gates family spoke volumes about how Belize has evolved as a tourist destination. “Having hosted Prince Harry at Chaa Creek when he visited Belize last March we are taking pride in the fact that not only Chaa Creek, but Belize as a whole is attracting the sort of guests who can afford to stay where ever they choose, while at the same time remaining an affordable destination for the average family, couple or individual looking for something special,” she said.

Read more about this story: Times Union

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