Hiking The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary - 03/15/14 12:14 PM
Belize Family Vacation Travel Series
Oh so much fun we had in Belize! Come along for another day of adventure as we explore the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the world’s first jaguar preserve. It’s just the place to explore a jungle, to swim in solitude beneath a refeshingly cool waterfall, to hear the calls of birds and monkeys high up in the trees, and to hike along a trail less traveled.
What is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary?
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is home to one of the best maintained jungle hiking trail systems in Belize. It’s also a safe haven for many native wild cats, including jaguars, pumas, margays and ocelots. But don’t worry, the odds of you crossing paths with any of these wild critters while hiking in the sanctuary is unlikely.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is also a haven for other Belize critters – coatis, kinkajous, deer, peccaries, tapirs and nearly 300 species of birds call the sanctuary home.
Are you ready to get this adventure on the trail? Great! As with every journey, there is a beginning, and so, this journey begins at the Wildlife Sanctuary’s Information Center. It’s perfect for orienteering yourself to the sanctuary’s many hiking trails and the resident wildlife. Oh, and meeting a resident jaguar that won’t eat your hand.
Alright now, keep an eye open up, down, and all around as we explore this hidden gem. Who knows? You might just see the footprints of a wild cat!
A Family Hike In The Cockscomb Basin
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary offers nearly 20 miles of marked trails along 12 different nature trails. Best of all, most trails lead to at least one swimming hole, the perfect respite for cooling off after a hot hike. Our trail of choice? A shorter, simpler trail to a lovely waterfall. Hmmm. Should we be concerned about that Jaguar Xing sign??
Thankfully no! According to our guide, these jaguars are mostly nocturnal and typically keep themselves much deeper in the jungle than our adventures would take us. Didn’t stop us from looking high and low for jaguar paw prints. None spotted. The only critters to cross our paths this day were a colony of leaf cutting ants. Literally! They were cutting a path straight across the trail. Fascinating little critters, they were.
Moving on now! Follow the trail as it leads up a relatively steep and humid path into the depths of the jungle. Remember the Sanctuary rules, now. Take only photos, leave only footprints. We want to keep this place in tip-top shape for the critters that live here.
Ah yes! The waterfall at the end of the trail. The perfect respite after a long, hot hike. Wear clothes that you can swim in because, believe me, after that hot and sweaty hike, you’ll want to jump in! Though it did take a little convincing to get the boys to swim behind the waterfall. Once there, fun was had by all.
Remember to take time to soak in not just the waterfall, but everything that surrounds you. Keep an keen eye open and a sharp hear listening . You just don’t know what you might see or hear. This place is teeming with jungle flora and fauna. We didn’t see any big critters on our hike, though – the benefits of hiking with a very chatty boy!
A Hike Off The Beaten Path
Oh the benefits of hiking with a local guide. Who knows what kind of adventure he might just bring you on. Perhaps it will be a hike off the beaten path, as was our fortune on this day. Our jungle waterfall hike was complete, but our adventure was not.
Who knows where a path less traveled might take you? It may be straight to the site of a small plane that made an unexpected arrival. You’ll feel like you’ve just been transported straight into an Indiana Jones adventure. Well, ok, that’s what my kids thought, and we went along with it. Though the hike was short, it was well worth the exploration.
See? Doesn’t it look like a scene straight out of an Indiana Jones movie? Don’t worry, everyone made it out safe and sound. Even my youngest, though he did attempt to climb inside for some additional exploration.
Tips To Visting Cocskcomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
We booked a guided adventure through our hotel, Jaguar Reef Lodge. We were happy we did! Our guide was great, ensuring we saw everything we possibly could. He even took us off the beaten path to that airplane, something we wouldn’t have found on our own.
Considering your own Cockscomb Basin adventure? Here’s tips to get you started:
- Many hotels and tour operators offer guided wildlife sanctuary adventures.
- You don’t need a guide to explore the wildlife sanctuary.
- The wildlife sanctuary is an easy day trip from many locations within Belize.
- There is a small entrance fee, payable at Maya Center Village.
- The actual entrance to the sanctuary is six miles past Maya Center Village.
- Bring bug spray! Or you might become snack time for mosquitoes and no-see-ums.
- The Maya Center gift shop is run by local residents. Buy souvenirs here and support local residents.
Want to read more of what others say about the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary? Check out the TripAdvisor reviews. The sanctuary was the recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2013.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is managed by The Belize Audobon Society.
Over to You!
So what do you think? Would you enjoy a hike through a wild jungle where jaguars sleep? Don’t worry, we were never at risk! In reality, those big cats hide themselves away deep in the jungle, where we were not venturing. Though if you want to see jaguars, that could be arranged with overnight trips in the sanctuary.