Best time to travel to Belize

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize

A unique jaguar preserve, untouched by tourism industry

Best time: December–May

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

One of the world's top jaguar preserves, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, is located in southern Belize, on the eastern side of the Maya Mountains. It occupies about 96,000 ac (38,849 ha) of lush tropical forest and is populated with amazing and endangered wildlife species. The best time to immerse yourself there is during the dry season from December through May.

About 200 jaguars (Panthera onca) roam free in the preserve, however, visitors have very few chances to spot them. The animals are found in the West Basin wilderness, away from most popular trails. Besides, these members of the cat family are known to be very discreet. You have better chances with about 300 bird species that live in the preserve. Macaw, toucan, and the great curassow are spotted frequently.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is also known for Mayan cultural artifacts dating back to 10,000 BCE. Visitors can see Chucil Baluum, the Maya ceremonial site, surrounded by the jungle. However, the main treasure of the preserve is its trail system. Visitors can climb the second highest mountain in Belize, 3,675 ft (1,120 m) Victoria Peak, for truly spectacular views. The trail is 17 mi (28 km) long. Easier hiking options include The River Overlook and the Rubber Tree Trail, which are perfect for wildlife spotting. However, for the best Instagram-worthy pictures, take the scenic 2.5 mi (4 km) Tiger Fern Waterfall Trail.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary?

To explore Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary comfortably, one should visit from December to May when the weather is less humid and rainfall is scarce. During the dry season, wildlife, birds in particular, are easier to spot, making hiking an enjoyable experience. Show more

Where is Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary located in Belize?

Situated to the eastern side of the Maya Mountains, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is preserved within 96,000 acres of lush tropical forest. The sanctuary accommodates a massive jaguar population of over 200. Accessible by car from the nearby towns of Placencia, Dangriga, and Hopkins, the sanctuary is a popular attraction for nature lovers. Show more

What are the chances of spotting jaguars in Cockscomb Basin?

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is home to over 200 jaguars, but spotting them is challenging due to their elusive behavior. Jaguars tend to keep themselves hidden away from popular trails and are tough to track. However, visitors can view several other wildlife species like curassows, macaws, and toucans within the sanctuary. Show more

What are the top hiking trails to explore in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary?

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary provides an extensive trail network that caters to hikers of different skill levels. The Rubber Tree Trail and The River Overlook Trail are ideal for a relaxing hike while spotting wildlife. The Tiger Fern Waterfall Trail offers picturesque views of the sanctuary's most significant waterfalls. The Victoria Peak Trail caters to experienced hikers and culminates at Belize's second-highest mountain peak. Show more

Are there any other wildlife species besides jaguars that can be spotted in the sanctuary?

Visitors to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary can observe various wildlife species apart from jaguars within the tropical forest ecosystem. The sanctuary accommodates approximately 300 bird species, including parrots, toucans, and the great curassow. Other commonly seen animals include monkeys, peccaries, and coatimundis. The sanctuary is also home to several varieties of lizards, snakes, and other reptiles. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen