There’s no denying the Caribbean cruise vacation is an ecological disaster. Those who decline being herded about as one of a thousand or two others on a cruise liner, can take a bolder path. Increasingly, people turn to ecotourism and to eco-resorts as alternatives.
"Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education." (TIES, 2015). That is the definition of ecotourism, and H’Ohm Jungle Retreat near Cayo, Belize embodies just these principles. Its guests are assured a stay that is both educational and regenerative.
Located along the scenic Hummingbird Highway in the heart of the Belize jungle, H’Ohm offers an affordable eco-vacation with the opportunity to become part of a lasting cooperative community. It opened in 2014 as an eco-retreat with a vision of wellness and sustainability.
H'Ohm Jungle Retreat - Kickstarter Video from H'Ohm Jungle Retreat on Vimeo.
Learning by living – interpretation and education
Founders, Louisa Chiaramonte, along with her partner, Sean Horrell, are committed to exploring alternative and natural architecture. H’Ohm offers hands-on building workshops and accepts work/stay vacationers. With the help of an international mix of members and guests, they have etched out a lively mix of accommodations.
Working as a team, 14 collaborators representing all parts of the globe built a hardwood platform and erected the 30-foot geodesic dome that serves as hub of community life. The expansive structure, supplied by Pacific Domes, accommodates varied purposes, transforming from yoga studio, creative arts center and classroom, to meeting space and entertainment venue.
It is a green energy building that performs well in the event of weather extremes. The lofty dome architecture allows warm air to cool at the top. It boasts a large picture window with inspiring mountain views. Healing sounds often resonate within the space from a collection of large quartz crystal bowls.
Recently completed is the large, all pine kitchen. Located at the front of the property, it has benefit of being “on the grid.” Chefs can now enjoy a well-appointed, fully electric kitchen. Generators serve the rest of the property.
Tents are erected spaciously along trails in secluded, yet convenient locations. This arrangement provides an opportunity to immerse in the rich natural surroundings, free of modern distractions. At night, a cacophony of jungle sounds: monkeys, parrots and other wild things hypnotize; while earth’s display of stars, unmasked, casts the sky in opulence.
Permaculture – conserving the environment
Guests of H’Ohm Jungle Retreat learn about permaculture, the philosophical basis that underlie the eco-resort's major decisions and informs its day to day activities. There are several ways to engage. Whether as a guest, seasonal (January through June) or full-time cooperative member, all may experience permaculture tenants directly by living its values.
Not quite glamping, a stay at H’Ohm remains for a hardier set. Development has taken a deliberately slower pace than at first envisioned. “By stepping back, we can adapt organically,” according to Chiaramonte. In doing so, she is acknowledging a core permaculture principle by honoring time as a factor that brings about a stable, more sustainable state.
This authentic, pragmatic approach has seen many victories already. 20 acres have been developed and are now teeming with mature fruit trees and a shifting array of edible foods. Crops, interspersed along trails, constitute an abundant “food forest.” Callaloo, coffee, mangos, plantain, soursop, and citrus are among the harvest that assures sustenance.
The beautiful Maya mountains loom above the large natural clearing that provides nutrient dense grass for the eco-village’s milk cows.
Jungle magic – sustaining well-being
Full immersion in nature is a powerful tool for healing. Finding oneself, like America’s great poet, Walt Whitman, in “a blade of grass” is a mind-altering, quantum experience. Science tells us that such revelations can catapult us toward lasting change where other means have failed. Whether one is adventurous, or merely curious, H’Ohm eco-retreat can facilitate profound healing journeys.
Drawing upon its multi-talented community, a wide spectrum of workshops is offered on a rotating basis. Whether yoga or agriculture, all are in keeping with the H’Ohm mission to enhance the lives of its members and guests, and to impact the broader world with its hopeful story of living in harmony with nature.
An intense, life-enhancing experience is almost guaranteed in the biodiversity of the Stann Creek rainforest. It is the natural habitat of a huge variety of wildlife. Tracks of tapir, deer, and even wildcats are often found along the trails and streams. Toucans, hummingbirds and tropical birds of every sort are encountered regularly. The world’s first jaguar sanctuary is a just day trip away.
H’Ohm eco-retreat has 60 acres replete with meandering paths punctuated by seasonal waterfalls and pools. It becomes a playground for those seeking a deeper experience of nature, themselves and community.
Runt - The Toucan from H'Ohm Jungle Retreat on Vimeo.
Eco-design principles – drawing on the past to build for the future
H’Ohm will demonstrate and modify traditional and alternative construction methods with an eye toward cost, ecological impact and sustainability. Other buildings are in varied stages of completion. Next in the works is an earthbag dome. This method utilizes resources at hand. The rich clay available on site has been used locally for centuries, and together with white plaster lime paint will create a cheerful, hardy finish to the eco-dome. Participants are signing up now for the January 2017 event.
Those wishing to experience sustainable living in an affordable working vacation have an opportunity to do so. H’Ohm Jungle Retreat is expanding its intentional community, permaculture farm, and volunteer/tourist destination. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
H'Ohm Jungle Retreat - weather update
Hurricaine Earl hit Belize City as a category 1 hurricane Aug. 4, 2016. The storm is forecasted to move to the southern Yucatan Peninsula or Guatemala with concerning, high winds, landslides and flash flooding. It's winds were estimated to be 80 mph (129 kpm) drenching Central America.
What was left standing? You guessed it! Geodesic domes are the built to withstand high winds and are sometimes the only structures left standing.
To learn more about ecologically viable geodesic domes, and dome eco-villages, contact Pacific Domes:
Pacific Domes Inc.