Tracking Jaguars at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary  

by McNab Editorial Team

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is internationally recognized as the world’s first jaguar preserve. It protects hundreds of acres of jungle, wetlands, pine forest and watersheds in the shadow of the Maya Mountains and Victoria Peak, the tallest mountain in Belize.

Visitors enjoy hiking, swimming in waterfalls, tubing or kayaking down a river, cooling off by a waterfall, watching wildlife and spotting hundreds of bird species. As a wilderness area protecting some of Belize’s most precious natural wonders, Cockscomb Basin is a rewarding experience for any traveler looking for some adventure on the wild side.

Photo Courtesy: ROEming Belize

What to Expect at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

While you are not likely to see a jaguar because they are shy creatures who are mostly nocturnal, you might spot signs of the other cat species that are native to Belize, namely, mountain lions, ocelots, jagarundi and margays. You can also see deer, foxes, coatimundi, otters, tropical birds and Belize’s national animal, the mountain tapir.

Before becoming a sanctuary in 1986, the Cockscomb Basin area was regularly logged for cedar and mahogany. The sanctuary operates a visitor’s center and lodge on the site of the old logging camp. Today, the forest has returned to its wild, natural state. It is lush and green with thick tree canopies and many creeks, pools and small rivers.

The sanctuary has the most extensive trail network of any preserve in Belize. Jaguars and other wildlife also use the trails to travel between areas of the jungle.  You may see their tracks.

The sanctuary was established thanks to the ceaseless efforts of biologist Alan Rabinowitz, who spent years living among and studying the jaguars of Belize. It is now managed by the Belize Audubon Society and visitors can learn about the sanctuary’s wild residents at the Education Center.

Visiting Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary


The sanctuary is located in the rural Stann Creek District of southern Belize. The entrance to the park is about five miles from Maya Center Village. It’s a good idea to go with a knowledgeable guide. He/she can point out the best trails to see wildlife, birds or scenic views.

The easiest way to get there is to get transportation from Dangriga, a major town and tourist center about 20 miles away. It’s worth stopping at Maya Center on the way. Check out handmade Maya pottery, chocolate and textiles at the center.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a wonderful example of a jungle environment at its purest and best. Don’t pass up this opportunity for a truly wild experience. 

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