Belize Expedition: Day 11
January 16, 2011
Spanish Creek Rainforest Reserve: Rancho Dolores
The sun set in Bermuda Landing, and we headed seven miles up the road, west to Rancho Dolores Village. After a few wrong turns—and an escort from a friendly Belizean—we finally found the entrance to the Spanish Creek Rainforest Reserve. Rocking along the narrow road, under a dark canopy of vaulted bamboo shoots leaning over the car, it seemed like we had arrived to another world.
The road opened, and we arrived to fresh chicken tamales boiled in broad banana leaves, kerosene-lit palapas with vaulted thatched roofs, and cold Belikin beer: just what we needed to get energized for our last project. Started and run by Miami-based Marc Ellenby, Spanish Creek is an amalgamation of many things—organic farming, volunteer training, sustainable tour operator—but at its core are agro-forestry—the integration of forest and agriculture—and, above all, bamboo. Marc has farmed citrus and bamboo in Florida for decades, venturing down into Belize in 2004 to begin his dream farm.
His 50-acres of bamboo make up the largest and most diverse bamboo plantation in Belize, and he expects to be the only exporter in Belize. Eighteen different species of bamboo spread out over the 50 acres. Interspersed are jackfruit, avocado, and banana trees; there’s a chicken coup, wandering lambs, and one big-balled ram.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing tress in the world, not to the mention the strongest. In the right conditions, shoots can grow up to two feet a day—Marc says he’s measured his growing a foot a day. Mature shoots can grow hundreds of feet and they’re strong enough that, in many countries, bamboo replaces rebar as a concrete reinforcement. And, because these bamboo shoots grow in clumps, emerging from a single cutting planted under the soil, felling a shoot doesn’t kill the plant—another simply emerges from the source. It’s the ultimate sustainable tree.