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A Holiday Escape That's Truly for the Birds:


Petaluma, CA, October 2007 -- "Make the red and green in your Holiday the vivid plumage of a parrot," suggest the proprietors of Casa del Caballo Blanco, a jungle eco-lodge in Belize that founded and supports that country's first ex-situ conservation program dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of migratory and resident avian wildlife.

Jodi and Vance Benté invite folks to experience a six-day "Belize Wild(life) Holiday Package" during the period of Dec. 1, 2007 through Jan.  31, 2008. This total immersion eco-tour of Western Belize and Eastern Guatemala combines jungle walks through archaeological sites with neo-tropical birding and volunteer time at the on-premise Casa Avian Support Alliance (

The $965 per person (double) rate includes airport transfers from Belize City, five nights casita lodging, all meals on-site, guided tours and activities, taxes, park fees and permits. Guests also receive a year's membership in the Casa Avian Support Alliance. (This membership is also available for "green" gift giving.)

While birding is a primary focus, in this part of the world it's impossible not to be immersed in the sites and lore of ancient cultures as well. Guests interact with staff by helping with trail maintenance and spending time in Casa's kitchen learning about traditional Mayan and Creole cuisine. Excursions include an exemplary birding location, the unexcavated El Pilar, where groomed trails direct visitors through temple mounds and overgrown ruins into a heavily shrouded, mature canopy that birds frequent. Three species of toucans have been observed from this vantage point along with trogons, kites, parrots, hummingbirds and many more species of resident and migratory birds.

Another day guests board a 19th century hand-cranked ferry to cross the Mopan River to access Xunantunich, a major Classical Period ceremonial site associated with settlements of the Mopan and Yucatecan Maya. There's also a trip by cayuco, a motorized launch, to Topoxte across the Yaxha Lagoon. Yaxha is thought to be the third largest Mayan site in Guatemala. Less visited than other sites, the wildlife here is abundant, including howler monkeys frolicking above in the forest canopy.

Belize, after Costa Rica, is home to more birds than anywhere else in the region. It sits strategically in the major migratory fly-way between the Americas. Belize attracts and sustains over 530 species of birds most of which are threatened by rapid habitat destruction, illegal hunting and poaching and the negative effects of global warming.

Casa del Caballo Blanco, a six-cabana, eco-friendly accommodation, shares 23 acres with the not-for-profit Casa Avian Support Alliance (CASA) whose purpose is to understand and support the biodiversity of Belize that attracts and sustains an extensive avian population.

The project undertaken by Jodi and Vance Benté, lodge proprietors and Alliance founders, is in cooperation with the Government of Belize's efforts to protect critical habitat, the loss of which negatively impacts both resident and migratory birds.

This is the first avian voluntourism program of its kind in Belize.  It has been listed by the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Tourism Program (, Belize Audubon Society, Friends for Conservation and Development and Birds Without Borders.

The Casa's hacienda-style Main House celebrates the region's Hispanic culture with high, beamed ceilings, tile floors, hand-made furniture and interior design features hand-crafted by local artisans to evoke the footprint of an ordered, spiritual world of centuries ago. Nestled on a hillside overlooking the Mopan River Valley, the location provides a stunning view of the Mer de Verde, the "Green Ocean," a site that could likely have been used in a similar manner by the Mayans. The guest quarters, six thatch-roofed, fully screen cabanas, all have en-suite bathrooms, refrigerators, hand-crafted furniture and Mayan-inspired fabrics.

Meals served in an airy, thatch-roofed dining room include Mayan food prepared in centuries-old Quiché, Mopan and Yucatecan traditions. Creole foods combine exotic Hispanic and Caribbean flavors. All produce is fresh from Casa's own gardens and local markets and prepared locally by Belizeans.

For information on year-round educational programs and vacation packages, please visit or call 707-974-4942.

On-site facilities provide a haven for avian wildlife recently freed from captivity or treated for injury or illness. Here birds can heal, rehabilitate and eventually be released back into their natural habitat. The facility is dynamic and will evolve annually with the guidance and cooperation of the Forest Department, Belize Audubon Society, Friends for Conservation and Development, Aves Sin Fronteras, and other organizations and experts from the avian community. A portion of each lodge package and cabana rental is donated to CASA to assist with medical supplies and other expenses related to the management of the non-profit facility.

Visit the alliance website for more information,

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