Located just 10 miles off the coast of the Caribbean Sea, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most impressive nature reserves in all of Central America. Originally established to preserve the last remaining native jaguars from extinction, today Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is visited by thousands of people to witness pumas, ocelots, margays, howler monkeys and more than 500 species of tropical birds like toucans and curassows in their natural habitat.
To protect the environment and to allow visitors to get an intimate experience with the natural flora and fauna, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary has a large network of special trails that serve visitors interested in spending as little as an hour or as much as five days in the reserve. The hiking trails through the reserve pass by waterfalls, lovely expanses of native rainforest and crystal clear streams, some of which can be floated down on inner tubes.
Starting in 1974 as part of the Belizean government’s efforts to protect their native jaguars, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary came into existence in 1982 with help from Alan Rabinowitz of the New York Zoological Society. Rabinowitz’s work in studying and documenting the jaguars raised global awareness about the rich biodiversity in the area. In 1992, three groups of endangered howler monkeys were brought to the park and their descendants continue to thrive in the reserve today.
In the middle of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary lies a small ancient Mayan ceremonial site named Chucil Baalum. Today, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is entirely staffed by native Maya and visitors pass by the Maya Center at the entrance to the reserve. Local Maya villagers earn a living from selling art, handmade goods and souvenirs at the center.
For visitors seeking a longer immersive experience inside the reserve, lodgings are available.