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Luxury and adventure? Belize it

Lodges offer posh accommodations and fine dining in the middle of the wild.

John Bordsen
John Bordsen is the Travel Editor for The Charlotte Observer.

Ken Karas, originally from Long Island, N.Y., has lived in Belize about 12 years. Karas, 48, is the managing director of Belize Lodge & Excursions (www.belizelodge.com).

Q. Where are you based?

We're in southern Belize, within a 14,000-acre nature preserve surrounded by a 48,000-acre private, protected area that's surrounded by nearly 1.2 million acres of national parks and protected areas. We have 60,000 acres smack dab in the middle.

We're in the remote Toledo district, and it's about a 50-minute flight via Tropic Air from Belize City International to our private airstrip at the Indian Creek lodge. By road, it's about a 31/2-hour drive.

Q. High-end wilderness adventure companies balance luxury and roughing it. How do you do it?

We're like Wilderness Safari, out of South Africa: Five-star luxury in the middle of the wild. The day-to-day experience can be tailored to your level of adventure. You can get muddy on the trails or just relax; the itinerary is tailored to what you have in mind.

You spend two to four days at each lodge, and your move between lodges is part of the excursion experience of different cultures and habitats.

Each of our lodges is in a different environment and offers different things to do. Caves, rivers, mountains, jungles, hiking and biking trails, the sea and so on.

You have modern Mayans and ancient Mayan sites right there: Right by our Indian Creek Lodge are the ruins of Nim Li Punit, which translates as “Big Hat.” The carvings at Nim Li Punit are amazing – some of the best-preserved monuments in all of Belize. Guests are taken to the site by descendants of those ancient Mayans; you really get a sense of ancient civilization.

Q. What's the food – luxurious or local?

We have combinations of American cuisine, but with every meal there's a choice of something local or that uses local materials.

Q. How exotic does “local” get?

Like snapper baked in a clay shell that gives the fish a certain flavoring. Corn tortilla wraps. Tamales. Or callaloo, a vegetable that looks like spinach but has a different flavor.

Q. Are most of your customers American?

About 65 percent are from the U.S., the remainder from Europe. We've been marketing to Europe because of the strength of the euro and because Europeans tend to come for two weeks. Americans tend to come for six or seven nights.

Q. What kind of money are we looking at?

You buy a package and chose the number of nights you want to spend at each. The packages include three locations; you aren't able to stay at just one lodge.

The cost varies. Rates are all-inclusive – food, guides, excursions – except for getting to the lodge. Based on double occupancy, Indian Creek Lodge is $285 a night per person; Jungle Camp Lodge and Moho Cay Lodge are each $365. Ballum Na is three suites and accommodates a maximum of 10 people. The $400 per night includes a private butler and your own restaurant.

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