The Jaguar Preserve Belize or also known as the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the country’s main attractions and offers some unique and interesting hiking trails in the world. With over 100 square miles of lush green forests, it is home to a variety of flora and fauna and serves as a reserve for one of the largest cats in the Americas: the jaguar. With all that, it is no wonder that it attracts millions of tourists from around the world, and if you’re interested in hiking through the Cockscomb Basin Belize, then read up on our guide to help you better plan your trip.
A Brief Glance at the Jaguar Preserve in Belize
Cockscomb Basin is located about six miles west of the Southern Highway and the Maya Center. Both private and public transport can be used to go there, though it should be noted that the road can be a bit rough especially after a strong rain. Nonetheless, the drive to the park is scenic in itself with views of highlands and flatlands covered with orange and banana groves. The park is open daily from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, and visitors are required to pay an entrance fee before going in.
The nature reserve is what most people imagine it to be. The lush rainforest is thick with trees all around, with orchids, ferns, and other plant life growing scattered all over the place. Sharing the reserve with jaguars are other forms of wildlife like pumas, tapirs, deer, iguanas and a host of other exotic animals. It is interesting to note that the park is also home to hundreds of bird species, as well as the critically endangered Morelet’s tree frog.
Although you may see some of these creatures along the trail, the chances of crossing paths with a jaguar are rather slim since they roam and hunt during nighttime. However, you will certainly come across paw prints and other telltale signs of their presence. And even if you don’t see any of these large cats while hiking, note that some of them are probably watching you.
With a rich diversity of plant and animal life in the area, it is no wonder that the Jaguar Preserve Belize is one of the most frequented places in the country.
Hiking in the Jaguar Preserve in Belize
There are several hiking trails in the Cockscomb Basin Belize. They may differ in distance and degree of difficulty but all of them offer something that will make your adventure both remarkable and memorable.
For instance, there are a couple of short-distance hiking trails like the Green Knowledge Trail which is popular among hikers who plan to go birding. Then there’s the Gibnut Trail which makes for a great night hiking adventure and where Jaguars are often spotted. If you’re looking for a very short stroll, then take the Plane Wreck Trail where you’ll find, of all things, a plane wreck.
Not all hiking trails in the area are about jaguars though, since the Jaguar Preserve Belize is also home to some of the most scenic and mesmerizing waterfalls. The Tiger Fern Trail, for instance, culminates at the Tiger Fern Waterfall with a small pool where you can swim in.
For those looking for a longer adventure, you can try the Victoria Peak Trail which is a 54-kilometer round-trip route that takes about 3-4 days to complete. The trail takes you through the dense jungle with never-ending uphill and downhill climbs. Campsites are very primitive along this trail and there will be plenty of angry insects buzzing around (along with other exotic animals and perhaps a jaguar or two if you’re lucky).
Food and Water
You’ll want to be prepared with your food and water supplies if you intend to stay in Cockscomb Basin Belize for a few days. There’s a Visitor’s Center there, but they only sell chips, cookies, and sodas which certainly won’t be enough to sustain you for your journey. That said, you’ll be passing through several small villages on your way to the park and several small shops where you can stock up on your supplies before heading to the reserve. There’s also an option where you can have meals prepared for you at the Maya Center, which will then be delivered to your cabin or campsite (for additional fees, of course).
Camping and Accommodations
There are three campgrounds in the Jaguar Preserve Belize, all of which have raised grounds where you can pitch your tent (bring your own). There are also picnic shelters and tables available. The main campground is a short walk away from the Visitor’s Center and has access to toilets and showers. The other two campsites are located in the Tiger Fern Trail and the Outlier Trail. For those wanting to go on a multi-day trekking adventure to Victoria Peak, there are two camping grounds along the trail, both of which have latrines and cooking areas.
There are also cabins where you can stay for the night (or two) if you plan to spend a few days in the area. There’s a dormitory which you’ll be sharing with other hikers or visitors, although you can rent a private cabin complete with beds and a kitchen. Otherwise, be prepared to share a communal kitchen (with a refrigerator and several gas stoves) with other visitors, as well as shared baths and showers (no hot water).
What to Wear
Hiking through the jungles of the Cockscomb Basin Belize isn’t as demanding as other treks in the wild, but you’ll still want to be prepared and dress appropriately for the activity. That said, make sure that you wear:
- Hiking Pants (hiking shorts are fine, but pants will offer you better protection against insects trying to get a bite at your legs)
- Hiking Jackets
- Base Layers and Mid Layers
- Hiking Socks
- Hiking Boots/Hiking Shoes (some may get away with a pair of sneakers on short day trips)
- Hiking Hat
- Hiking Gloves
What to Bring
Aside from food and water, you’ll also want to pack along with the following:
- Backpacking Tent
- Sleeping Bag and sleeping pad
- Insect repellant
- Swimsuit (there are plenty of natural pools where you can take a refreshing plunge after a day’s hiking adventure)
Globo Surf Overview
The Jaguar Preserve Belize offers one of the best jungle hiking adventures ever, with a diverse range of flora and fauna as well as scenic mountain peaks and waterfalls that will satisfy most hikers’ whims. Be sure to plan your trip accordingly and keep the tips above in mind to ensure the success of your hiking trip to Cockscomb Basin Belize.
- Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize Audobon Society