Howler House Blog: stories, photos & videos

A NEW bird watching deck

It has been a busy few months at the Howler House; Beans has built a NEW beautiful bird watching deck that joins the NEW 1,500 foot wooden walkway to the house that is attached to the NEW wooden parking spot up the road. All is beautiful! We also have new bikes and a new canoe – and next comes a new little studio on the other side of the crocodile pond.

When Beans was building the new deck, there was a little humming bird nest with two tiny pearly white eggs inside, hanging in the bushe over the new deck construction. The mother hummingbird sat determinedly on the eggs while the deck was being built, and everyone was careful not to disturb her. Just a couple of days after construction had ended, the babies hatched!

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Howler House Videos

Welcome to my small collection of Howler House short videos; all of the wild life videos are shot from the Howler House deck and help to explain why many guests never leave the deck; enjoy, and then please do come and see for yourself. Send me an email to inquire about rentals, check out my reviews on Trip Adviser, and come visit us in Burrell Boom, the most peaceful and exciting unique little spot in the world. Enjoy.

This little video is a collection of shots from the deck and the back porch; the crocidile pond is in the back yard, and I have just completed the construction of a wooden bridge to park for parking, a 150 foot boardwalk around the back of the pond, and a bridge over the pond to the back door of the house. I will post a blog with photos soon.

This video of the Howler and Giant Iguana Stand-off  was such an amazing afternoon; we were all hanging out on the deck: Val and Tony and Tinnie and Miss Erelen, enjoying the setting sun, when the Giant Iguana came and set himself down on the wrong branch; he was on the Howler family’s branch. The usual routine is for this beast of an Iguana to settle himself down with long tail dangling over the branch,  on the branch  above — while the Howler family makes it way across the lower branch. But, not this day. You can hear our chitter chatter in the background as we watched this unusual encounter between the Howlers and the Giant Iguana, enjoy.

Just a day on the deck of the Howler House …… breathing deep and feeling so very peaceful.

I had fun making this little video, I was sitting at the table checking out our Trip Adviser reviews when the Howler family came to visit; the  “kids” were still babies then, now they are two.

This is one is a fun little video I made to apply for a job traveling around the world making short videos and blogging for Jauntarista — it was called the best job in the world, and I made it to the short list of 50; what a fun experience. Enjoy.

 

Howler House has a new canoe – and more!

 

new canoe

Every time a guests leaves the Howler House, I ask what improvements would make your next visit even better?  My list included a canoe, more dishes and baking equipment for the kitchen, and more comfortable seating. A list that I managed to check off this winter, thanks to all our guests. The house has a beautiful new three seater canoe built by a local canoe builder, Derick Stewart, and just in time for canoe season, the river is a beautiful smooth flowing green at this time of year.  Local carpenter, Nicholas Newman, who built the kitchen cabinets and the bedroom furniture, came back to build some living room seating that is nice and comfy cozy, he also built a big completely screened in dinning area on the deck. Tony and Beans painted the entire house a beautiful bold deep blue and bright yellow trim, the new paint job looks stunning from the river, and while I loved the wooden look, paint is much easier to keep clean. For those of you who like to cook and bake – we now have some beautiful good quality pots and pans and baking bowls and dishes and spoons and casserole dishes too. I am looking for some good cookbooks on Belize dishes as well to add to the new kitchen utensils. And, oh yes, Beans and Rudy also built a new little (temporary dock) for the new canoe.

My dream would be to see the Howler House become a place that guests return to enjoy another time, and my hopes are that with each visit the Howler house will become more beautiful and well equipped. The big plan for the next couple of months is to build a wooden driveway attached to a 150 foot boardwalk, on the other side of the pond, with a bridge over the crocodile pond that leads to the house — and, a wooden deck over the backyard septic field ;).

Sweet dreams, indeed. Thanks to all the Howler House guests!

  • spectacular view of the Belize river
  • canoe on river
  • Bird on wire
  • new canoe
  • New paint job
  • Screened in Porch 2
  • Screened in porch
  • miskito net med
  • New Canoe for the Howler House
  • Kitchen close up
  • New kitchen
  • living room
  • Shower
  • New dock

spectacular view of the Belize river

A Gaint Iguana and the Howler Family

The most magnificent of all the Iguanas

This giant Iguana often hangs out on the same branch over the river in front of the Howler House, he is the biggest of the many and diverse Iguanas and lizards that live on the river bank — and certainly the most magnificent. When the setting sun casts a golden glow on his lizard skin he is truly a work of art; nature’s art. But, one evening he decided to hang out on a different branch, the branch that the Howler Monkey family that lives in the canape always uses:

Howlers Walking across Branch

Watch the video to see what happens: another howler house vacation rental moment!

Ms. Tinnie: Keeper of the Howler House

Meet Ms. Tinnie: Keeper of the Howler HouseMeet Ms. Tinnie

What a beautiful friend.  Tinnie and I  met about 5 years ago now, I’ll always remember how she laughed as she told me, I work hard, I have five ‘pickney’ to care for. And she had a 6-day-a-week retail job in Belize city, which meant she had to travel the local bus an hour each way, bumping and stopping and sometimes letting her off five miles from home — if she was late for the last bus to Boom.  And — she was cleaning one of the local schools every single evening.

Yes, Tinnie is a hard working woman with a big soft heart and a singing voice that is beautiful. When I decided to try to run a little vacation rental business with the Howler House, the first thing I did was ask Tinnie if she would work with me and keep care of the house and the housekeeping for guests.

Once again, how blessed I feel to have such a wonderful friend working together with me to create this little vacation dream spot in the jungle.  Tinnie and I have worked together since the beginning, and now — thanks to all our visitors, Tinnie has been able to quit her $3.00 BLZ an hour job in the city – yahooo! But, keeping care of the Howler House is not her only job – she still works plenty hard cleaning the school, the preschool, and now she is also working with the new vacation rental next door. (If you are looking for a vacation rental that offers two large bedrooms and two bathrooms and an amazing tree house over the river, check out Tony and Val’s place: Belize River Home)

Tinnie dreams of becoming a  farmer, like her father who taught her all about agriculture in the jungle,  and herbs and medicinal plants — she has a beautiful piece of land just down the road – and, if she can sell an acre of her river-front, she will be able to finance her agricultural dream! So, if you are dreaming of building  a home  in the jungle – be sure to talk to Tinnie.

You can also drop your clothes off at Tinnie’s house if you need extra laundry done while staying at the Howler House.

Ms. Erlene: Howler House Manager

Ms Erlene- Howler House ManagerMeet Ms. Erlene

I first met Ms. Erlene back in 2008 on my first trip to Burrell Boom. I was traveling with her brother, Tony (RIP) and my best friend Val, Tony’s wife. That was on our first expedition when we set out to explore the country and see if Belize was really the place we wanted to be — and, you know, it is people like Ms. Erlene that most definitely made Belize the  place to be for me — and especially Burrel Boom.

Erlene has the biggest heart and the biggest spirit and the most wonderful laugh. She has been an amazing friend for me, she knows every thing there is to know about getting things done in Belize, and everyone you need to know, and I don’t know what I would do without her constant help and wonderful friendship.

Yes, I am certainly blessed in Belize with a friend like Erlene — and now she is the Howler House manager! Indeed, the village of Boom is blessed with her too. The first year I met her, she took me along on her annual Santa delivering presents trip from the back of a pick-up on Christmas morning. That Santa suit has gotta be hot, but she danced and laughed and sang and played on an old wash board shaking her booty like only she can!  Check out the video: Christmas with Erlene!

Erlene lives at the top of the driveway, and if you arrive in a rental car, you must stop at her house and honk your horn, and IF she is home, she’ll ride down to help you get settled into the house and give you your receipt and keys. If Erlene is not home, the keys will be waiting for you at the house, and Erlene will come down with your receipt before you leave – or, you can stop and pick it up at her house. We have a courtesy cell phone for you in the house, and you will find Erlene’s number there as well. Erlene is your contact person for any problems.

You can find driving directions to the house on this Blog Post: Driving Directions

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Ms. Carol’s Place

Just look for the pretty lady and the pink house!

Just look for the pretty lady and the pink house!

Meet Ms. Carol

Ms. Carol is one of those unique and wonderful people who welcomes everyone with a big beautiful smile that is as delightful as the meals she cooks up in her little kitchen in Burrell Boom. Fresh fried fish and chicken and delicious burgers are her specialties.

Carol will serve you up a yummy dinner or lunch along with lively conversation and answers to all your questions about the village.

Originally from Boom, Carol, like many Belizans, spent part of her adult life “up North” before returning to this sweet little village. But, I’ll let Carol tell you her own story. Carol volunteers at the local not-for-profit internet cafe on Tuesday nights – so, that is where you’ll find her until after 7 pm. You can always give her a call to see if she is open before walking up that way – her number is in the Howler House Guest book.

Be sure to spend at least a day just hanging out around the village – take a nice walk or bicycle ride in the morning down to the Black Orchid for a swim. You can also paddle the canoe to the Resort. In the late afternoon, go on up to Ms Carol’s and enjoy the cooling of the day with a cold drink while you let the smells from her kitchen wake up your appetite. Often the local kids/adults will be playing ball in the field right in front, it is a very pleasant way to pass away the end of the day.   If you want, you can even arrange to have some meals pre-cooked to keep in the house fridge, just ask Carol. And, don’t be shy to go into the big pub right next door, run by Hector [aka Yellow Man] and Ms Carol’s partner. There’s a couple of pool tables and dominoes is a popular game, sit down and pass some time with the locals – you will find the friendliest people with the most entertaining stories.

Enjoy!

  • Hector [aka Yellow Man] - proprietor of the pub
    Hector [aka Yellow Man] - proprietor of the pub
  • Yellow Man's Pub
    Yellow Man's Pub
  • Yellow Man's Pub
    Yellow Man's Pub
  • Ms Carol's Place
    Ms Carol's Place
  • Always friendly, lively conversation at Ms Carol's Place, walk up the road and hang around a bit while you wait for your yummmy food
    Always friendly, lively conversation at Ms Carol's Place, walk up the road and hang around a bit while you wait for your yummmy food
  • On the road to Ms Carol's Place
    On the road to Ms Carol's Place
  • FRESH Fish -- the best fried fish in Boom
    FRESH Fish -- the best fried fish in Boom
  • Ms Carol's place
    Ms Carol's place
  • Fresh Fried Fish and Fried Chicken - the best!
    Fresh Fried Fish and Fried Chicken - the best!

Riding a wing and a prayer: starting the Howler House vacation rental

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Last year this time, I really was riding on a wing and a prayer. I’d just returned from teaching a semester at sea and I had a little pocket of money and four months left of an unpaid sabbatical. Well, I thought it was going to be four months.  I was going to try to survive off a small writing contract that paid me about $800 Canadian dollars a month — and, hopefully the odd Howler House vacation rental ( I designed an online course for UBC).  While I was at home, in the village of Boom, I could live on about 20 Canadian dollars a day – total, with ease; as long as my only expenses were food and refreshments, water and electricity. I did the math and figured I could survive.  But, of course, when the house is rented I would need a place to stay – I choose Caye Caulker, a small island that is just an adventuresome two-hour trip from the Howler House vacation rental, Caye Caulker is another one of those unique in the world places – really. The streets are sand, everyone walks, or bikes or uses a golf cart; the street signs say Go Slow and everyone does and my morning bike ride takes me along the beach under the coconut trees from one end to the other in about 30 minutes – I love this beautiful little island.  I say the two-hour trip is adventuresome because I take the local bus, an old school bus that picks me up in the village and bumps and rocks slowly along, stopping frequently and filling to the brim with all sorts of talkative people. The bus stops about four blocks away from the Caye Caulker water taxi dock: The San Pedro Express,  and the walk is noisy and busy and the sidewalks are broken and the city is a mess with poverty and sweltering heat. By the time I get to the Water taxi dock, I am so ready for an ice cold Belikin and a breeze and a relaxing wait for the next boat.  Ahhhhh. And, I have a new friend who works at the dock giving people massages – right there in your chair while you sip on your cold beer – it is heaven. Her name is Bridgett and her hands are magic. The boat ride is about 40 minutes across turquoise Caribbean waters and if you are smart you will put down your cold beer and get in the front of the line so you can get one of the few seats up above with the captain and really enjoy the cruise from the city to the island.  So, while Paul, the first guest at the Howler House vacation rental, was visiting I headed for the island in search of super cheap accommodations – which I found no problem. Right on the lagoon with a sunset view for 20 bucks a night. It was funky, but so am I. The really cool thing is that while I was there – I a met this super funny couple and they became my next guest for the Howler House vacation rental. And, of course, I realized that Caye Caulker is a good place to meet potential new guests!

DSC00062This is my funky little digs for 20 bucks a night, but they gave me a deal for the week!

And this is the view from my funky little room

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And this is me, right at home on Caye Caulker

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 “Howl with the Howlers” Reviewed March 4, 2013 for a stay in February 2013

If you are looking for a place to begin, end or make a base for your adventure trip to Belize, the Howler Tree house is the place to be. You literally sit in the jungle trees on the banks of the Belize River. This jungle tree house will not disappoint you. It is spacious, in first rate condition and provides the privacy of your own secluded oasis but also has the convenience of a resort as it is associated with nearby Black Orchid Resort. So if you want to dine and have excellent food or sit by the pool, the resort staff will more than accommodate you in prompt and kindly service. Erika is a wonderful host who not only provides a luxurious tree house, but also makes sure you are picked up and delivered where ever you need to go. There are cave tours, tubing, zip lining, and Mayan ruins close by as is Caye Caulker for the best snorkeling in the world. But what makes this property stand out is the connection to the jungle: whether it’s listening to the roar of the monkeys at twilight, hearing the splish splash of gators and critters below you in the river, or watching the colorful and very large Iguanas run over one another, you will not be disappointed!!! So go howl with the howlers!!!

To Be Continued ….

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A year ago today ….

Deck with computer
A year ago today the first Howler House guest arrived, Paul, a young man on his own from the States who was looking for a place to reflect and do some writing. I was so nervous because my little house is unique, and as much as I love the Howler house, would my guests? The Howler family that lives in the canopy all around me can be LOUD! Sometimes in the middle of the night the river is alive with howling monkeys and splashing crocodiles. I am in love with the jungle and its nighttime wonders; but will my guests love it too? Only two days earlier, I’d hired a friend to drive me to the city to help me buy the fridge and stove, and only the day before the electrician came to hook up the stove. It was also an unusually cold January, and the house had no big blankets, normally a sheet is all you need and I was broke – not another penny to put into my sweet little tree house. It was also raining and the river was rising and the driveway was turning to mud. Paul arrived via a pick-up by the Black Orchid resort, which is just down the road. It was early afternoon, so I invited him to come for a drive around the village with my neighbor, Tony. He was hungry so we stopped at Ms Carol’s for some of her delicious fried fish (or chicken or burgers), but it turned out he didn’t have cash – thought he could go to a debit machine in the village. No worries, I lent him some money and we made a plan to go to the debit machine in Ladyville the next day – just a 15-minute drive.  Paul loved his week long stay, he wrote my first review …. and I was in business.

The howler house gave me a beautiful view of a beautiful country. The pictures are a good representation of the house. Most of the windows are just screens so I felt like I was always outside. The fresh breeze and ceiling fans kept the temperature comfortable. The porch is brilliant. It’s a great place to relax and listen to the jungle. There is a family of howler monkeys that provided hours of entertainment. The emerald green river is very soothing.
Burrell Boom village has simple stores, a fruit stand, and a few restaurants where I was able to get the basics. I found the people very friendly. The Black Orchid staff members were very accommodating. There is a phone in the house and you can call them for help with anything. They helped me schedule a tour of Altun Ha that turned out to be fantastic. The food is pretty good too, a filling meal is about $10US.
Last, but not least, Erika is a cool person and great host. She gave me a tour when I arrived and showed me around the village. She introduced me to her land partner, Tony who is an awesome guy as well. Erika’s howler house is a great place to base your Belize adventures. Cheers.
January 2013

To be continued …

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What to Pack for your vacation to Belize?

What to pack ?

That’s the big question that a lot of guests ask me – what to pack for your vacation in Belize?

My first response is always, as little as possible. Belize is a laid back casual country where you want to dress for the weather and the activities you want to enjoy — not for appearances sake!

Pack light

Shoes! Most important, for goodness sakes — bring comfortable shoes!

For hiking the Mayan ruins you want light weight hiking boots or running shoes. Flip Flops are your best bet for the beach and walking around the village. And, the ultimate in non-fashion statement — CROCS, are the best for wet muddy weather. And, rubber boots are necessary sometimes – I will let you know!

Light sun dresses are the best for comfort and staying cool — unless you’re a guy, and then you’ll just look silly. But, December and January can get cold, as low as 65% at night. So, if you are coming in the winter time, bring a cozy sweater and warmer rain jacket. There are rain ponchos in the closet for the warmer season.

Bring four or five comfortable light sun dresses for a week’s stay, along with the same number of T-shirts, a couple of long sleeved cotton shirts to protect you from the sun and bugs at those times of days, and a couple pair of shorts and two pairs of light long pants should do you.

For guys, light cotton shirts and shorts and light pants are best, blue jeans can be hot, hot, hot.

You don’t need a lot of clothes, you can hand wash items in the sink and hang to dry on the deck. If the sun is shinning, that’s a breeze — but, if there’s a lot of rain, you’ll need ask Tinnie to do your laundry for you. She’ll pick it up and deliver it back to the house for $10 US a load. But really, keep your suitcase light, full of light clothes and don’t bother with any fancy wear or accessories.

You know you want to bring your bathing suit - right?

Even if you are too timid to swim with the crocs in the river, there is a lovely cool pool down the road at the Black Orchid resort that you are welcome to enjoy along with a nice beverage, or even a fabulous local meal.

Sun hats and caps – you want to keep your face shaded for comfort when your walking, bicycling or paddling. Bring a good straw hat that breathes and stays on with a string. And, a baseball cap will work too. I use both, depending on the wind factor.

Sunglasses are helpful too – but don’t bring your fancy expensive ones, as a matter of fact — just don’t bring anything that will break your heart to loose or leave behind.

BUG REPELLENT – please bring some good natural bug repellent – especially if you are traveling during the rainy season, which is June – October.

A lot of people ask me what I recommend for bug spray, and to be honest I switch it up quite a bit. Just try to avoid too much DEET, and check out the Howler House face book page for links to cool ways to keep away the bugs.

Sunscreen of course, and then sun burn relief creme for when you forget to use the sunscreen.

Your Camera! Belize is such a picturesque country, and the Howler House is a photographer’s paradise – so BRING your camera.

I have met people who didn’t bring their camera because they were worried about thieves. Please, do not worry about being robbed at the Howler House. First off, Boom is a small village where everyone knows everyone and this makes being a thief pretty difficult — cause they inevitably get caught! Second, my neighbor, Tony, is a local Boom boy, and no one within a hundred miles of Boom would dream of breaking into the house when Tony is around — and he is around all the time! And finally, the house has grates on the door and window making it even more unlikely that anyone is going to try to break in when you are out.

There is no pharmacy in Boom, so bring along whatever drugstore items you need; aspirin, eye drops, Tampax, Q-tips, condoms, special shampoo or conditioner — you get the idea.

Bring a water bottle and perhaps a thermos for each of you – please help avoid creating garbage while in Belize, there is no recycling — yet!

If you are an avid fisherman – bring some of your gear.

Bring a day pack so you can carry snacks and stuff when you are out and about exploring.

Myself, I can’t live without my sarongs – actually, a couple of good sarongs are worth a half a suitcase of clothes!

And, they look good too!

Sarongs

That’s it  – now you know what to pack for your vacation in Belize!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are planning a bus trip to Mexico, the bus is super air-conditioned and you will NEED a sweater! That is the only time you are likely to get chilly, unless you are visiting in December to February then you will want a light sweater for chilly mornings and evenings.