Colleen Spring hears a noise in the bushes and asks her husband Alan to add a log to the fire. Extra light never hurts when you’re warding off jaguars.
Muscled four-legged ambassadors formed part of the welcoming committee when the young Floridian couple first made camp on eight acres of Belizean property in 2002. They had set out to create a new home for themselves, but they brought little more than a tent, a 4×4 jeep and a machete to clear their path.
“The first night was sleepless,” Colleen recalls. “There were many unknown noises, and at every one I thought, ‘Is that a jaguar? Is that a jaguar? Is that a jaguar?’”
On discovering Colleen and Alan nestled in the brush the following morning, the astonished locals laughed. “Crazy foreigners, why aren’t you at Saint Ignacio Resort?” one implored.
But the Springs persisted with their plan to build a jungle resort for eco-travelers. They are among a growing number of young entrepreneurs whose business goals are more to finance a lifestyle than to make large profits.
“We are trying to make money so we can live a certain way,” Colleen explains. “We get to live here.”
The Springs’ ability to face down jaguars and build from scratch has paid off.
Today, Colleen and Alan preside over 105 acres, 15 citrus crops, and six sturdy cabanas at a lush retreat they have named Table Rock Jungle Lodge. They have over $500,000 invested in their business, and their Belizean entourage has expanded beyond felines to include 19 employees, seven donkeys and a flock of hens – as well as three 4×4’s and two machetes.
All of this sprang from a marriage vow.