Jaguar & Other Surprises At Chan Chich Lodge


I was just starting to think how surprisingly awesome broccoli is, when a guest at Chan Chich Lodge showed me the photo he took about an hour ago. It was taken using his phone, through the scope that our guide Luis had while they were on the morning Gallon Jug tour. That complements well, to say the least, the photo the guest took with just his phone last night. Continue reading

Fossils, In Technicolor, Can Get You Thinking


Evidence of marine life that was thriving about 1.3 million years after the largest mass extinction on Earth has been found in what is now Paris Canyon in Idaho. Credit Jorge Gonzalez

The moment I saw this illustration above I was taken back to the books of my childhood–the ones my parents knew I liked the best, and a favored gift on birthdays, with fantastic illustrations of prehistoric creatures. These books also taught me the value of a public library, where I could triple my inventory for weeks at a time, and they kept my flashlight in use after lights out.  Thanks to illustrator Jorge Gonzaelez for this memory, and for providing another reason to appreciate the importance of the work of Nicholas St. Fleur and his contemporaries, the new generation of science writers who bring natural history to life:

After Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction, Life Rebounded Rapidly, Fossils Suggest

By Nicholas St. Fleur

One day when L. J. Krumenacker was a teenager, he left his home to hunt for fossils. He drove about an hour and a half to Paris Canyon in Bear Lake County in southeastern Idaho and stopped at a foothill covered in sagebrush. Mr. Krumenacker got out of his car, picked up the first large rock he saw and smashed it with a hammer, uncovering seven or eight fossilized shark teeth. Continue reading

Recommended By Guests At Chan Chich Lodge

bird-tales-kitWhen guests of Chan Chich Lodge told me last evening about their local Audubon Center in Connecticut (USA), my first thought was a memory of the Audubon Center in my hometown, also in Connecticut, and how essential it was to the decisions I made to do what I do today.

Then they mentioned Bird Tales, and I had never heard of anything like this before, but it made so much sense to me I thought I should excerpt the description here and point it out to the many bird-centric visitors to our platform here (click the image to the left to go to the website of the Center that created the program):

…Initially working with four facilities operated by Transcon Corporation, our Audubon Center Bent of the River Education Program Manager, Ken Elkins, incorporated Audubon at Home environmental principles into the goals of these facilities to improve the quality of life for their residents. Continue reading

Chef Ram At Chan Chich Lodge

Chef Ram2.jpg
Chef Ram and I have multiple chef colleagues and foodie friends in common, but this is the first chance that he and I have had to work together. I have been looking forward to this opportunity for quite some time.

He will be expanding and strengthening the farm to table program that Chan Chich Lodge started nearly three decades ago. He will work primarily with Amie, whose success with food programming (and places where that food is enjoyed, which has also been widely appreciated) in India since 2010 made sure that the projects got attention. You will see those ideas here, so stay tuned. Continue reading

I Hope To See You At Chan Chich Lodge

CCLWalk.jpgYesterday in these pages we welcomed you to visit the new website for and the actual place, Chan Chich Lodge. It bears repeating. This time by me personally. Please come here.

The snapshot to the right, taken on my phone just minutes ago on my morning walk, says the same. If you combine it with the last time I was walking these paths, you will see one more reason why I walk every morning.

I walk the roads and paths at Chan Chich every morning with the hope of seeing wildlife, and knowing that breathing the air here is better than doing so almost anywhere else on the planet. It is pure.

Between the puma-sighting snapshot and now I was in India. I have just arrived to Belize again and expect to be here for some time. I did not see any big cats this morning, but the birdlife is as abundant as ever, and their song just now provides very good cheer. If you need more information on why to come to Chan Chich, or how, or when, just let me know.

Raduan Nassar, Back To The Land

9780811226561On January 31st, 2017 New Directions Publishing is bringing this masterpiece, published originally in Brazil in 1984, to an English-reading audience for the first time:

For André, a young man growing up on a farm in Brazil, life consists of “the earth, the wheat, the bread, our table, and our family.” He loves the land, fears his austere, pious father, who preaches from the head of the table as if from a pulpit, and loathes himself as he begins to harbor shameful feelings for his sister Ana. Lyrical and sensual, written with biblical intensity, this classic Brazilian coming-of-age novel follows André’s tormented path. He falls into the comforting embrace of liquor as—in his psychological and sexual awakening—he must choose between body and soul, obligation and freedom.

I was completing a degree in literature the year this was first published, but Portuguese was not an option for my reading, nor was Brazil really on my map at that time. As a result, or for whatever other reasons, I never heard of this book before.

Work assignments took me to Brazil several times in the intervening decades, and Latin America has been home base for most of the last two decades. I know I must read this, and soon, so it has just moved to the top of my next-book list. But for a very different reason the author has my attention, thanks to this:


In 1984, at the height of his literary fame, Raduan Nassar announced his retirement, to become a farmer. Continue reading

Montenegro, 2017


Wild and wet … Lake Skadar national park, Montenegro. Photograph: Alamy

It is now ancient history, but it may as well be yesterday, since I can look at the photo above and it has no less of an impact on me. When Montenegro was still part of what remained of ex-Yugoslavia, La Paz Group worked in partnership with UNDP on a project for the Prime Minister of this soon-to-be independent nation. He was visionary, and wanted to replicate what Costa Rica had accomplished as a small ecologically diverse country–harnessing sustainable development to ensure his country would not become the victim of the forces of mass tourism.

Skadar Lake was the crown jewel in the country’s potential attraction of ecologically-oriented travelers, and the perfect complement to the wild beauty of the coast line and the spectacular mountains. Montenegro has done a very good job in the decades since my first visit to Skadar Lake (standing exactly where the photographer above stood, looking at my own photos from that visit), communicating its commitment to those principles. Nonetheless, the challenges never go away, so we wish them continued success in fighting the dark forces:

Montenegro’s pristine Lake Skadar threatened by new resort

Tourism in Montenegro is booming, but the approval of plans for a new ‘eco-resort’ has led to protests from conservationists who fear it will threaten a stunning national park Continue reading

2017, Year Of Wilderness Conservation, Farming & Food

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A few days ago Arnay, the General Manager of Chan Chich Lodge, posted a snapshot of the sightings board just outside the reception area, where guests share what they have seen on any given day while trekking with guides, or trekking solo. 2016 was not exceptional for Chan Chich, but it was another year of exceptional opportunity to witness the abundance that comes with committed conservation.

The big cats made their presence known day after day after day. The entire food chain on which they depend was right there with them, well balanced in the 30,000 acres of forest that Chan Chich protects, surrounded by an additional nearly half million acres that other private conservation-minded land-owners protect in northwest Belize. Continue reading

Big Weather & Big Cats At Chan Chich Lodge

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is of interest because it is a pioneer in conservation in Belize–as Chan Chich Lodge is in its own way. But in writing about it Vicky Croke, for The Wild Life at WBUR (National Public Radio, Boston, USA), reminds a few of us of our time in Belize during Earl, and the aftermath during which jaguar sitings have been, and continue to be, inexplicably spectacular:

Jaguars Interrupted: Counting Big Cats After A Hurricane

Two months after Earl hit Belize, researchers at the world’s first jaguar reserve are still taking stock.

By Vicki Croke

This past summer, within days of gathering spectacular camera-trap footage of a female jaguar and her two tiny cubs sauntering through the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize, field scientists with Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, got the news that a tropical storm was forming and might just come their way. Continue reading

Sardine Disco Balls, Or Cabo Pulmo


A free diver swooping into a sardine ball. Credit Keith Sepe

Joanna Klein’s story in the Science section of the New York Times this week, titled Swimming With the Mysterious Sardine Disco Balls of the Philippines, has had me thinking in recent days about the Gulf of California, and specifically about Villa del Faro. If you have reason to be in the Philippines, click the image above to get a quick view of what may be in store for a diver in certain waters.

But otherwise, I will riff off that photo in the direction of Baja California Sur. The intensity of those sardine schools are comparable to the biodiversity in the waters of Cabo Pulmo. Continue reading

Getting Our Thinking Right, When It Matters Most

9780399184123An editorial that I read yesterday– Does Decision-Making Matter?–was a welcome “moving on” from all the other kinds of recent editorializing. Welcome because it tells us there is a new Michael Lewis book, and especially welcome because it shows that five years after we first heard him credit two scientists for their influential work he has now gone the last mile in documenting their greatness for a mass audience. We have had a couple nods to that same work in our pages in recent years.

This morning’s walk was accompanied by a podcast I had neglected for some months, with an interview that Chuck Klosterman–not mentioned in our pages before–gave to promote his new book. It is time to finally correct that oversight. I cannot explain why that is important as well as the interview can, so I suggest listening to it. If you do not have the 90 minutes required for that, a short synopsis version of his promotional interview can be heard and read on this NPR interview given at about the same time:

‘But What If We’re Wrong:’ A Look At How We Will Remember The Now, Later


What if everything we think that’s important or interesting or relevant right now will be totally insignificant in the future? Or what if something we don’t really appreciate today will be considered great in 200 years, like how people didn’t think much of “Moby Dick” when it was written, but now we think it’s pretty great? These are the questions that critic Chuck Klosterman asks in his new book. In it, he tries to predict how we will remember the present when it is the past. And he’s not too worried about whether he’s right or not. Continue reading

Tierra del Fuego


Dogs at this year’s shearing. Outside the season, gauchos may go weeks without seeing a person. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

I am reminded of the 2008-2010 period of my life, which was spent mostly in Patagonia; some of it was in Tierra del Fuego. These photos, from an article in today’s New York Times, show that this newspaper is adapting.


Horses, like these from Estancia Por Fin, help gauchos with shepherding sheep. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Continue reading

The Gulf Of California In Front Of Villa Del Faro


Seth sent a snapshot he quickly took on his phone yesterday late morning at Villa del Faro. He had already told me the day before that they were seeing whales in the same vicinity of where the boats are in this photo, but he had not had his phone handy to snap a picture. So this would have to do. It looked as though a regatta was passing by. Continue reading

Villa Del Faro Morning Walk

vdfwalk1This post from yesterday reminds me of an early morning walk I took a few days ago with Seth and Jocelyn, when these two donkeys came wandering down the road. One seemed determined to get his head and shoulders portrait in the best possible light.

So I indulged him, and both seemed happy with a bit of nose-petting. No carrots, but never mind. When we continued our walk they started to follow, but then, nope. They wandered off in the opposite direction.

vdfwalk2Donkeys do that. A walk at dawn is the best way to know a place–at its quietest, and as per donkey logic, in the best possible light. I had arrived at Villa del Faro after a visit at Chan Chich Lodge, where dawn greets you with howler monkeys howling, and on a walk you will definitely hear a symphony of birdsong. At Villa del Faro you will hear birdsong, but different; at most it will be chamber music, more likely solos and duets. Continue reading

A Place To Reflect, To Reconnect, To Recharge


This past week I have been at Villa del Faro with Seth and Jocelyn, reviewing plans for 2017. It was a week in which the thought came to us: people need time to reflect (among other important things). I took this photo of the Stone Beach Cottage at about 5:30 p.m. yesterday and I can visualize many friends, colleagues, and plenty of as yet unknown folks who would benefit from some reflection time there. Continue reading

Life Among The Lighthouses


Writing now from Villa del Faro, in Baja California Sur, I am delighted to read this article from the Travel section this week in the NY Times:

Keeping the Fire of Irish Lighthouses Alive

The golden age of lighthouse construction is long gone, but in their wake are beautiful vistas and stories that bring modern Irish history to life.


To get to the Clare Island Lighthouse in County Mayo, in the west of Ireland, you climb up to the island’s northern cliffs along a road of stones, past damp sheep chewing grass, around the bend through an alley of fuchsia hedges in bloom. Keep walking until you reach the lighthouse and slip your key in the lock, hang your parka by the door and take a seat beside the peat-burning fireplace. Someone may be nearby to take your drink order, and the reward for a long walk will be a cold gin and tonic and the soft heat of the fire. Continue reading

From Recent Chan Chich Lodge Guests


When this family told me about their encounter with a troupe of monkeys I had not yet seen these photographs, which they shared as they were preparing to depart Chan Chich Lodge. Looking at the photos now I understand why they were so thrilled by the wilderness setting. The first one I saw, above, was just a blur so I skipped it, but when I came back to it I realized this was what the son in the family had most loved–the exploration, the search to see his first animal in the wild. Continue reading

Congrats On Fellowship, Shannan

Plum Creek forester Steve Griswold examines a map of the Checkerboard forest.

Good maps and models show us how things are shifting – and are likely to shift in the future — under climate change © Benjamin Drummond

I am happy to meet Shannan this way:

Meet the NatureNet Science Fellows: Shannan Sweet (Cornell)

Conservancy NatureNet Science Fellow Shannan Sweet spends most of her time these days thinking about climate change, agriculture and, well, maps. But the maps that interest her most are not about road trips, or hiking adventures. They’re not even as much about a place as they are about a destination.

Her destination of choice? A world that can feed 10 billion people without exhausting its resources or exacerbating climate change. Continue reading

From Guests At Chan Chich Lodge


A family from Spain shared with me some photos they took during their first four days in Belize, spent at Chan Chich Lodge. I asked what was their favorite “thing” about Chan Chich and I appreciated the simplicity of their reply: they most enjoyed the simple fact of being in nature. Waking up to the spectacular racket of monkeys claiming territory in the nearby trees Continue reading