From backpackers to Princes - a real rags to riches story

Mick and Lucy Fleming

Prince Harry enjoyed both his stay at The Lodge at Chaa Creek and the real life rags-to-riches story about how his fellow countrymen turned an overgrown little farm on the banks of a then remote part of Belize into a 365 acre luxury eco-resort fit for, well�

Mick and Lucy Fleming were around the Prince's age when they arrived in Belize with a couple of backpacks and two hundred English pounds to their names over thirty years ago. When the Flemings realised that selling vegetables to cash-poor people who grew their own wasn't going to get them by, they built a simple thatched roof hut using sticks from the jungle and pieces of tyres for door hinges and invited backpackers and other young adventurers to stay.

The rest, as they say, is history, as Chaa Creek farm steadily grew into Belize's first true eco resort and the surrounding rainforest evolved into a vibrant private nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary.

Along the way, the Flemings developed a keen appreciation for Belize's rich Maya history and the rainforest environment, establishing the Belize Natural History Centre and hosting archaeological researchers from universities and other institutions to investigate over 70 Chaa Creek Maya sites

Even Prince Harry was said to be impressed. One of his first words when looking over his new home for the night was "Wow," and the sense of wonder grew as he learned the story of how his fellow countrymen turned the ramshackle citrus orchard into one of the Belize's most highly regarded tourist destinations. "He kept asking questions and you could tell he was becoming more and more impressed as he learned what the Flemings had started with, and what they'd accomplished over the years. He seemed to really enjoy meeting Mick's mum, who was visiting from England and had anecdotes from the early colonial days and Chaa Creek," staff member Larry Waight said.

The Prince also chatted with the Fleming's children, Piers and Bryony, who were born and grew up on Chaa Creek.

When the Flemings first arrived in Belize they were befriended by officers and soldiers from the British Armed Forces, who maintained bases nearby and conducted jungle training and Harrier jet patrols over the forests surrounding Chaa Creek and the Guatemalan border. "Everyone knew each other back then, and Belizeans had, and in fact still do have, great affection for Queen and Royal Family. You saw this in Prince Harry's exuberant welcome to Belize," Mr Fleming said.

While Belize's love affair with the Royals hasn't changed, Chaa Creek certainly has, with the Prince able to enjoy gourmet meals and fine wines from an excellent cellar. With 135 staff members on hand Prince Harry was well looked after, enjoying a professional massage from the Chaa Creek Spa, a visit to the onsite butterfly farm and quality amenities. 500 lit candles heralded the Price's arrival.

"It was a wonderful visit and Prince Harry was a warm, appreciative guest who did seem to enjoy the Chaa Creek story," Lucy Fleming said. "And to us it really did bring home the fact that not all that long ago we had dirt floors, would kill a chicken for our guests' dinner and had a staff of one - our neighbour's son. I guess to go from backpackers to the Royal Family for guests is something, but to us it's all just another part of the Chaa Creek story, and we couldn't imagine life any other way."