The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

by Carolee Chanona

With panoramic views, hundreds of species of birds and home to all five species of Belize’s wild cats, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is an unforgettable adventure!

When in Cockscomb, do as the Jaguars do.

the cockscomb basin wildlife sanctuary

The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Belize Audubon Society

The world’s first jaguar preserve consists of 128,000 protected acres. It is a short 30-minute drive Northwest from Placencia in Southern Belize. An expanse of biodiversity, the reserve is a safe haven for all of Belize’s wild cats including Puma, Ocelot, Margay, Jaguar, and Jaguaranudi. These majestic creatures are a marvel to behold in their natural habitat.

In the sanctuary, you’ll find signs of activity everywhere. Recordings are almost daily of scats on trails and paw prints in the mud. At the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, you are immersed deep into the world of these wild cats. Who knows? You might also be lucky enough to experience a close encounter.

A jaguar in the wild on the access road. © Takuto Kurosawa, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Though your focus may be to spot a Jaguar, there is so much to see. For example, the verdant blanket of Cohune and Ceiba trees that fill the broad-leaf tropical forest. Oversized ferns and vines line the 118 combined kilometers of jungle trails. Throughout the day you’re treated to the resonating soundtrack of the snaps of the White-Collared Manakin. You will also hear, the guttural roars of the Black Howler Monkey, and futuristic notes of the Montezuma Oropendola.

What to do!

When in Cockscomb, do as the Jaguars do and prowl the grounds at night. The Sanctuary offers camping facilities, cabins, and night tours for those interested in trying to see the nocturnal cats in the wild. Head out at daybreak and stay quiet – you may receive a greeting with a flurry of colour from Keel-Billed Toucans gliding through the air or a troop of pig-like Peccaries, and yes, even that coveted Jaguar encounter!

During the day, trek to one of three waterfalls within the Basin for a refreshing picnic, or head to the lookout of Ben’s Bluff for an expansive view of the CBWS Basin and Victoria Peak on a clear day. During the rainy season, drift downstream on a river tubing excursion for highlights of the South Stann Creek River at your leisure.

Whatever you end up doing, your visit to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary helps support the healthiest jaguar density in Mesoamerica!

Photo Credit: Belize Audubon Society


Original Article by: Carolee Chanona. Published October 8, 2018.

For more information, visit the Belize Audubon Society at

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