Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize
Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary in Belize is a pioneer when it comes to the conservation of local wildlife.
It’s the world’s first jaguar preserve in the world and stands out for its research projects and contribution to forest preservation.
Belize is an attractive destination for travelers who wish to experience the Central American Caribbean. It’s home to a rich cultural diversity and to incredible natural landscapes.
Keep reading for a full breakdown of this fascinating sanctuary in Belize and its untapped beauty.
Overview of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary in Belize was initially declared a forest preserve in 1984. It moved on to be declared a Belize jaguar preserve in 1986.
The nature reserve is located in the Stann Creek district of south-central Belize. It covers 128,000 in the eastern slopes of Belize’s Maya Mountains. It is the first jaguar sanctuary in Belize and the world.
The name Cockscomb comes from a ridge in the mountains of the preserve that looks like a rooster’s comb. This formation is even visible from the Caribbean sea.
The first explorers to reach this sanctuary in Belize arrived in 1927. It was primarily used for logging purposes until 1984 when a nationwide study of jaguars was initiated.
The project, led by American zoologist, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, showed the Belizean authorities that the nature reserve was a biological corridor and area of great importance for the jaguars in Central America.
In 1986 hunting in the area was forbidden. By 1990 and 1995 the Belize government expanded the sanctuary.
The neighboring Bladen Nature reserve adds a wider extension of territory to the area, giving the jaguar population 250,000 acres combined for them to roam free.
What You’ll Find on the Sanctuary in Belize
Flora and Fauna
Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary in Belize is the habitat of a large variety of wildlife. Apart from the jaguar, it’s home to other mammals such as tapir, cougar, otters, wild pigs, monkeys, ocelots, deer, and more.
This sanctuary in Belize harbors more than 300 different species of native and migratory birds; including the majestic scarlet macaw, parrots, toucans, and hawks.
It’s also the home of a large number of insects, toads, frogs, spiders, snakes, bats, and much more!
The dominant trees in the Jaguar reserve are mahogany and cedar. The dense and thick vegetation includes bromelias, orchids, and other jungle vines.
Water and Trails
Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary in Belize has several waterfalls and part of the Monkey River. This natural body of water is one of the largest in the country. It discharges in the Caribbean Sea.
The reserve is known for its multiple trails hikers can explore. There are close to 12 miles of nature trails to hike. Each of them with their own personality and difficulty. They are unpaved and have the proper signage.
The relief of each trail varies from flat to steep and tough. Each of the trails is designed to lead hikers to an amazing destination like a lookout or waterfall.
The most popular trails to consider hiking are:
- River Path Trail
- Tiger Fern Trail
- Plane Wreck Trail
- Victoria Peak Trail
- Joel Gordon’s Trail
Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary was once inhabited by the Maya civilization. There’s a small ceremonial center in the middle of the reserve. Learn more about the History and Cultural Expressions of Belize in this interesting article.
The visitor facilities in Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary in Belize are run by the Audubon Society. The nature preserve has some of the most comfortable infrastructures in the country.
The visitor center allows travelers to learn about the history and ecosystems of the park. There’s also a tube rental for touring the rivers and a free slideshow park keepers show visitors.
You can also rent life jackets, generators, conference rooms, binoculars, and hammocks.
Plan Your Visit to the Sanctuary in Belize
How To Get There
Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary is located off the southern highway, twenty minutes away from the province of Dangriga.
You can get there by local bus and by vehicle. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended during the rainy season. The place is only 2.5 hours away from Belize City.
There are also short local flights operated by Tropic Air that take travelers from Belize City to Dangriga.
It’s recommended to buy the entrance fee in advance at Maya Center Village close to the Southern highway. The tickets are sold at the park office and at a Maya Women’s Center. It costs $5 per person for foreigners and $1.25 for nationals.
Best Time to Visit
The conditions in Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary are heavily humid. There are warm temperatures and heavy rainfalls for most of the year.
The migration season for birds is from September to March, so there’s a large chance of encountering diverse species. The area also has a dry season when the weather’s cooler from February to May.
Still, it’s important to keep in mind this area is made of tropical rainforest and is considered one of the wettest parts of Belize.
My recommendation is for you to come prepared and keep in mind rain can strike at any time, something that inevitably brings vivid sounds and mystique to the jungle.
Where To Stay
The Audubon Society offers basic accommodations for visitors to spend the night in the Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary in Belize.
Booking these venues requires visitors to contact them directly and pay a deposit. Here are some of the options.
- Jaguar House (Balum Naj)
A newly renovated cabin fully equipped with bathroom, hot water, kitchenette, living room, and outdoor terrace. It fits up to 6 people in two rooms and costs $120 per night.
- White House
Located in the entrance of the nature reserve, the white house is two stories tall and has a screened balcony for admiring the wildlife. There’s a fully equipped kitchen, two rooms with bathrooms. It costs $81.75 per night.
The Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary fits up to 30 people in bunk beds distributed into 5 separate rooms. There are separate bathrooms for both men and women, with cold water showers and toilets. Staying in the dorm costs $20 per person per night.
- Bird House (Mujan Naj)
The birdhouse fits up to 4 people and has two bedrooms with bathrooms. It has a screened living area. The price is $81.75 per night.
- Rustic Cabin
The rustic cabin has a capacity for up to 8 people. It has 4 rooms with 2 single beds each and shared bathrooms nearby. The price is $20 per room per night.
The two main campgrounds in the sanctuary have picnic areas and tables. One is close to the visitor’s center and has toilets and showers for visitors, while the other is on the Tiger Fern Trail and only has a latrine. There are two more campgrounds deeper in the forest with cooking facilities and latrines. The cost for camping is $10 per person per night. Campers are required to bring their own equipment.
What To Bring
Enjoying your time at Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary in Belize requires you to visit with the necessary gear for an adventurous jungle expedition.
Here’s a short packing list to consider for your visit:
- UV filter sunglasses
- Sun hat
- Eco-friendly sunblock and insect repellent
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Rain Jacket
- Warm fleece
- Water bottle
- Snacks and food for picnics
- Trekking shoes
- Long-sleeved shirt
- Long trousers
- Breathable light-colored clothing
- Trekking poles if needed
- Field guides
- Personal toiletries and medication
- Camping gear if necessary
Remember you must leave the sanctuary exactly as you find it, avoid bringing single-use plastic and bring any trash for you to dispose of the proper way.
What To Do
Cockscomb basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize offers activities for all types of travelers.
Although the majority of visitors arrive in hopes of encountering a jaguar, it’s important to mention jaguars are highly secluded and shy animals.
You have a higher chance of spotting a small mammal or other animal species on trails. However, there’s always that small possibility to see one or at least seeing jaguar paw prints on trails.
Visitors who arrive in this amazing sanctuary in Belize often do it to enjoy a camping experience, swimming, and river tubing.
You can also go birding, as there are 350 species of birds for enthusiasts to admire.
The marvel of Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary is admiring a fully functional and balanced ecosystem. The multiple trails are rated according to difficulty and you can go on night or day hikes.
It’s advised to visit the place with a specialized guide to avoid getting lost and for supporting local employment. Also, guides are the experts when it comes to fun facts and spotting animals.
Many travel companies and resorts offer tours in this amazing sanctuary in Belize. Visit Tripadvisor to see which are the best rated and learn from the experience of other travelers.
If you’re not yet convinced about visiting this incredible country, read this list of 10 Reasons to Visit Belize During your Vacation.
Get Ready To Explore Central America
Cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary in Belize is a paradise for adventurers interested in visiting this amazing country.
Although Belize’s official language isn’t Spanish, it’s widely spoken among the population. The country makes a great destination for Spanish learners to practice their conversation skills and experience a different culture.
What’s more, Belize is easily connected to Mexico, Guatemala, and the rest of Central America. Planning a trip to this fabulous region is guaranteed to equip you with Spanish vocabulary and fluency.
Sign up for a free class with our certified teachers from Guatemala. They’ll prepare you for your Spanish immersion trip to ensure smooth travels and the confidence for you to explore like a local anywhere you go.
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