Fish Tales ~ August 2019 & “2 for 1” Special
August 26, 2019
A Walk in the Past –  Part 2
September 30, 2019

A Walk in the Past –  Part 1

Belize is a remarkable country that is rich in culture and history and some history only a few know about.  Mike and I have were both born in Belize and after a short time in the USA, we returned to Belize and have lived here for most of our lives.  We have enjoyed the beauty that Belize has to offer and raised our children to appreciate the same whether in the jungle or at sea.  This week we got together with family, for my birthday, and the discussion came up about the history of Belize River Lodge and thought that we would like to share some of it with you.

Did you know that Belize River Lodge is the oldest resort and fishing lodge in Belize?  And has been in continuous service since 1959/60?

Did you know that it was built by Vic and Elizabeth Barothy in 1958?  And there are still Barothy’s family in Belize, who also happen to be my step-grandchilden (Elizabeth, Melanie & Rebecca) and great grandchildren (Chase, Zac, Andy, Gavin, Anastasia & Lucas).

Did you know that Vic Barothy’s mother still rests on this property?  Mrs. Frances A. Barothy is buried past the bungalo (building far right) under the Zericote tree, surrounded by Ixora bushes.

Did you know that the most well-known guides you hear about got their start in fishing here at the lodge on the Olde Belize River?  Names such as Andrewin, Eiley, Leslie and Westby all got their start under Vic’s tutelage.  Mike and I have continued training guides that are well known in Belize and abroad.

Did you know that live aboard fishing and diving started with the legendary Vic Barothy?  When Vic Sr. & Betty left Cuba, they brought their two motherships, the “Vickie” & the “Tarpon”.  They started building their lodge on the Belize Olde River in British Honduras while running their live-aboard operation.  After Hurricane Hattie in 1961, the live-aboard operation continued as they got the lodge back in operational order.

Mike and Marguerite continued with the live-aboard, the M.V. Cristina and M.V. Blue Yonder, operation until 2012, after taking on the Long Caye Outpost in 2011.  In the years prior to 2012, the live-aboards were remaining mainly in the Central Belize area due to fishing congestion farther south, north and east and as the Outpost took off and the same well-trained staff and guides support the Lodge, the Outpost and the live-aboards, so the live-aboard operation was retired.

I could go on and on with more “did you knows” but I wanted to share more about what actually happened along with fishing in this area of Central Belize.

Barothy’s Lodge, which today continues as Belize River Lodge, has been a training ground or school for many Belizean families.  The Lodge has provided jobs by training and educating men, their sons and grandsons in the art of spin and fly fishing, techniques of guiding, boats safety, conservation and so much more.  The Lodge has been a school to many men and women who have gone on to be tour guides to Mayan sites, birding who share their love of Belize.  The Lodge has trained sons, daughters and wives of guides along with young mothers or young girls interested in learning about cooking, making & decorating cakes and pastries, and an education in housekeeping and waiting tables.  While learning the technique of guiding and being in the “service industry”, the most important lesson in this learning process that we teach is  ~ our guests always come first, because without guests there is no tourism, no lodge and no jobs.  We are so proud of the many men and women who gained an education at Belize River Lodge, those who have remained with us and also those who have gone on to be independent professional guides, chefs and upstanding members of their communities.

We realize that because of what has been accomplished in the past, it has brought us to where we are today.

  • Tourism is now Belize’s number one growing industry and at Belize River Lodge we are happy to have been a part of so many lives and years of hard work and perseverance and know we helped in some way to reach today.
  • We are thankful also to have been a part in getting good laws passed in the protection of Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish, and also in supporting conservations laws and by practicing conservation every day for this will take us further into the future. Presently, we continue to help in the protection of our Flats, habitat and Belize supporting the Coatalion of Sustainable Fishing, the Ban on Gill nets and many other conservation paths to a better Belize.

However, we must take a pause to see exactly why we say Historical Belize River Lodge.  Besides the things that have been done to keep the lodge going forward there are so many things that come together to make it historical.  Belize River Lodge has been maintained in its original state for over 59 years.

Belizean breakfast at the mahogany tables

  • Any new improvements have been finished to blend into what was there already with the “Colonial” feel.
  • Beautiful mahogany walls have not been painted over, but rather these walls have been left to age graciously and grow into very warm and welcoming rooms. This warm feeling greets you as you enter the living and dining areas and the same feeling continues into the guest bedrooms.
  • Our three full slab mahogany tables are set daily to host “family style” meals.
  • The furniture in the living and dining rooms, some are cut mahogany sides from the saw mill that used to be downriver and some are Heusner, Cleghorn & Jones family antiques.
  • There was also a book case full of books from the library of Elizabeth Barothy’s collection. She was an avid reader and artist and in her drawings she documented many orchids of Belize.  The bookcase in Room #5 in the Cottage was Elizabeth’s.
  • The big screened-in porch brings back great memories of the many colonial homes, which were built by “ship builders”, that once existed in Belize. The screened-in porch is open to let the breezes blow through and many guest often comment, as they all sit on the screened porch that opens into the living area, that they have the sensation of sitting on the aft deck of a great sailing ship.  The screened-in porch is open all the time and is a great room where everyone can meet, relax and share their fishing stories and experiences of the day before the dinner bell.
  • The dinner bell is another colonial memory and rings to call everyone to dinner. The bell, while traditionally Colonial, also is enjoyed by the ladies working in the kitchen.  The bell system allows for them to be clearing and cleaning the kitchen, serving food to the guides all while you relax and enjoy your meal.  The ladies hear the bell and can help at the table, allowing them to finish in the kitchen early for a restful night.
  • At the lodge there are a series of bells in the front and side entrance that are still is use after so many years. The ladies in the kitchen ring the bell one time for one of the men to help if needed, three times is for the skiff to cross over to pick someone up from the parking area and so on.

I hope you enjoyed the history tour, part 1, of our historic Belize River Lodge.  When I started writing this, I didn’t realize it would end up this long, so have broken the story into two parts.  Look out for part 2, next week.

Warm regards,
Marguerite Miles