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ATTRACTIONS > Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary  

You could spend a year here and still not see all there is to see inside this awe inspiring global treasure. Realizing it lies just about 10 miles from the Caribbean Ocean makes it that much more of a miracle.

View of Cockscomb Basin from Victoria Peak

A 160 square mile area that was first established to save the jaguar from extinction, the Cockscomb, as it’s locally known, is actually made up of two basins that serve as watersheds for two of Belize’s major rivers. Jaguar, puma, ocelot, jaguarundi and margay have their homes and hunting grounds inside the reserve. The howler monkey’s roar is heard often and there are almost 500 species of birds, including the curassow and the keel-billed toucan that can be seen here.

Bridge over stream on trail to Ben's Bluff and waterfall

An extensive network of well marked and maintained trails that vein the Cockscomb allow hikes and expeditions that can last anywhere from an hour to 5 days. Apart from the extraordinary array of flora and fauna, visitors are treated to beautiful gentle waterfalls and crystal waterways that can be floated down on inner tubes. It can feel like you’re inside nature’s own spectacular motion picture presentation.

After a campaign that began in 1974 by the Belizean government to protect the jaguar, the arrival of New York Zoological Society scientist and wildlife researcher Alan Rabinowitz in1982, sealed the fate of the Cockscomb basin as a sanctuary and reserve. Rabinowitz found that the habitat provided the ideal environment for the jaguar to live in, and his studies brought Cockscomb to the attention of conservationists around the world. Subsequent endangered additions to the park include three groups of howler monkeys that were transplanted here from Northern Belize in 1992 and have thrived since.

Unidentified toad

Humans have occupied this area of land off and on since the time of the ancient Maya who left behind a Classic era ceremonial site known as Chucil Baalum. The trees have been selectively logged for Mahogany since at least the mid eighteen hundreds. More recently, the western basin was subjected to logging as evidenced by the camp remains that still exist here with names like, "Go To Hell" and "Leave If You Can." The logging operations attracted a small community of Maya who used to live in the basin until they were relocated to what is today called The Maya Center.

The Cockscomb staff are all Maya Indians and come from the Maya Center which sits at the entrance to the sanctuary about six miles from its headquarters. Villagers are able to support themselves through the sale of arts and crafts, and a thatched roof craft center at the entrance also sells souvenirs and handicrafts. Accommodations are also available inside the sanctuary for those wishing to stay overnight or for a few days.

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