The Ministry of Tourism, through the National Institute of History and Culture (N.I.C.H.), and the Belize Police Department are conducting an investigation to determine who sabotaged Chukka Belize’s rappelling tour at the Nohoch Che’en Archaeological Reserve some six miles off the George Price Highway at mile 38.
On Monday, September 24, tour guides checking on the site found that several of their rappel ropes and the rappel platform had been damaged and the stairs that lead to its Crystal Cave was partially destroyed by fire.
The only thing that prevented the fire from destroying the whole set of stairs was a downpour that came on Sunday. Chukka personnel discovered burnt firewood on the stairs, which was what the vandals used to start the blaze.
Chukka Belize operates on what is called the original Jaguar Paw property, on which the Jaguar Paw Hotel still currently sits.
To access the site, someone would have to pass through the private lands that Chukka leases from two Belizean landowners.
The damages and resulting cancellations of tours for the next three weeks will cost the company thousands of dollars in lost revenue. But the reason for the sabotage is still a mystery since, according to Chukka Belize’s country manger Valerie Woods, the company’s tours pose absolutely no threat to anyone operating in the area.
Chukka’s tour packages are far different and are offered at far higher prices to a different clientele altogether.
She has confirmed that one individual, a representative on the FECTAB group, has consistently hurled attacks at Chukka Belize on his personal Facebook page and has engaged in name-calling and undiplomatic language.
When asked if she believes her own employees would do such a thing, Woods said, “Why would any of the tour guides put his job on the line? Chukka Belize offers them standard salaries and pays their Social Security contributions. Besides, we hold no one to signing a piece of paper on the terms of their employment.”
Woods says Chukka Belize has assured its close to 50 tour guides and caretakers that their jobs remain secure, and that the company will continue to invest in Belize as it has been doing since 2010. She added that the company will also take necessary steps to secure its equipment.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Tourism denounced the act, saying that it “has commenced an investigation…” and that “those found to be responsible for the act of sabotage will be dealt with.”