To welcome in the New Year, we at Gemini Connect are excited to announce that our latest project has finally launched: a new e-commerce website for Hanna Stables! This family-owned tourism business in Belize is our first international business partner and this is the first of many small projects we will be doing with them.
Tucked away in the lush hills of San Ignacio, Belize is a tropical ranch known collectively as San Lorenzo, including the historic Nabitunich "stone" cottages, and one of the oldest horseback riding establishments in Belize, Hanna Stables. The property has been family owned for three generations and is currently owned by Santiago Juan, an avid horseman who has continued has family tradition of running horseback rides to nearby Mayan ruins on the 45+ horses he has on the premises. Tourists have been flocking to Hanna Stables to experience the nearby Mayan wonder, Xunantunich, on horseback, or in other cases taking a leisurely ride through San Lorenzo and over to the unexcavated Mayan site Actun Kan. Hanna Stables has been doing swimmingly well on its own, as evidenced by its overwhelmingly positive Trip Advisor reviews from delighted guests.
However, the Hanna Stables website was due for a refresh (see the old Hanna Stables website here, as well as its corresponding social media pages and overall image library. Not to mention, the Nabitunich accommodations that used to host couples, families, and backpackers was gearing up for a re-opening, and what better way to attract customers than through online booking? This is where we come in.
In late November 2012, right before Thanksgiving, we two at Gemini Connect traveled down to Belize and spent two weeks on site at Hanna Stables, Nabitunich, and San Lorenzo farm. Not only did we learn more about the establishment and all who lived and worked there, but we captured tons of imagery and information that we could later use to rebuild the HannaStables.com website. We were fortunate enough to also visit many surrounding tourist areas that Hanna Stables plans to include on longer horseback rides for experienced riders.
Those traveling to Belize are probably already familiar with the popular Xunantunich ("Maiden of the Rock") Mayan ruins, but have you heard of Caracol, an even larger ancient Maya archaeological site, or one of the area's oldest Mayan sites Cahal Pech, both in the same town? Both ruins are stunningly well conserved, and unlike some of the more popular ones such as Chichen Itza in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala, visitors are largely unrestricted and can still climb atop the pyramids in Belize. For those wanting to get away from the more established ruins, Hanna Stables also offers visits to unexcavated ruins such as El Pilar and Actun Kan; traveling to these sites is a true adventure that will make your inner Indiana Jones swoon (spoken from experience!).
Besides the ruins, we also ventured deep into Belizean culture by visiting Martz Farm, another family run establishment consisting of a real life tree house and cabana deep in the jungles of San Ignacio. We delighted over owner Joe Martinez's authentic demeanor, hearty laugh, and beautiful poetry (he'll spout verses for you on command), and his wife Miriam's delicious home cooked meals. Their three children also keep the premises lively, as well as a host of horses, dogs, and a donkey out back.
We didn't stop with ruins and farms; we also visited the local San Ignacio Farmer's Market, Spanish Lookout to see how the Amish and Mennonites live, the Iguana Conservation Project, Guanacaste National Forest, Mountain Pine Ridge, Río Frío cave and waterfalls. Luckily, time also permitted a couple days relaxing on the beautiful coral Caye Caulker, and a crazy adventure across the border in Guatemala while visiting the famous ruins of Tikal.
WHEW. It was at face value a whirlwind trip that didn't end when we came back to Seattle--that was when the real work began. Weeks were spent sifting through thousands of photos, designing a brand new website, and putting together all of the administration tools we would need to become a full-fledged travel booking agency for Hanna Stables.
Alas, all things came together, and on 01/01/13, we were proud to announce to the world that HannaStables.com is live. From here on out, we remain in charge of maintaining and upgrading the website as needed, as well as posting Photo of the Day images on Facebook and Twitter, writing weekly blogs, and handling all of the online reservations. We would love if you visited HannaStables.com to see our final product, and also follow the Hanna Stables social networks (click hyperlinks below) as we have only scratched the surface with the stories and photos we have to share.
P.S. If anyone wants to visit Belize, let us know! We are happy to refer you to some great people and help you plan a memorable trip of a lifetime.