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Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sactuary

Getting Here | Other Essentials | Attractions | Accomodations

camping_grounds.jpgThis information is provided courtesy of the Belize Audubon Society.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1990, is world renowned for being the first jaguar reserve. This "one of a kind" reserve was established as a result of jaguar studies conducted in the area by Alan Rabinowitz. Besides being the home to Belize’s largest cat, the Sanctuary protects the headwaters of two major river systems and supports an abundance of hardwood vegetation types and a diverse faunal assemblage. Over 128,000 acres of lush jungle are ringed by the spectacular Cockscomb Mountains.

The wonders and diversity are accessible to both the casual visitor and the serious naturalist through a series of nature trails. These trails vary in degrees of difficulty ranging from an easy hour-long stroll along the river to a four (4) day challenge of conquering the Victoria Peak. The trail system within the sanctuary provides breathtaking views across the Basin and waterfalls abound. If the hiking is too much, relax with a swim or try tire tubing down the river.

Without exception, all visitors to Victoria Peak must comply with the following guidelines which are closely monitored by Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary personnel.

The sanctuary is home to all five (5) of Belize’s cats: Jaguar, Puma, Margay, Jaguarundi and Ocelot. Based on on-going research, it is estimated that over 80 resident Jaguars are in the area. Belize's national animal, the endangered Baird's Tapir, also inhabits the Basin and sightings of over 290 different species of birds have been recorded.

The Jaguar (Baalum- means Jaguar or king in Maya) is the third largest cat in the world after the Tiger and Lion, and is the only member of the large cat genus to live in the Americas. An adult male may weigh up to 200 pounds and measures 6 ˝ feet from nose to tip of tail. The CITES Red List (International List of Endangered Species) declares the jaguar as in need of international protection. Jaguars are often found in dense forests and swamps with good cover and easy access to water. The best time to spot one is at dusk or dawn. When the ground is damp, look out for the Jaguar tracks on any of the trails.

Getting There

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is located 6 to 61/2 miles off the Southern Highway, approximately 20 miles from Dangriga. The entrance is at Maya Center Village, where the women’s group collects the US$5 entrance fee to the park.

By Car

From Belize City, the journey takes approx 2.5 hours. Take the Western Highway out of Belize City, turn left onto the Hummingbird Highway (signposted to Belmopan), then right onto the Southern Highway (signposted to Punta Gorda), just six miles before Dangriga. The turnoff to Cockscomb is located at Maya Center, about 20 minutes after turning onto the Southern Highway. It is noticeable by the large thatched buildings on the right-hand side of the road and the jaguar preserve signs. Visitors should park at the turnoff, and pay the entrance fee at the Maya Center Women’s Center and then drive up the dirt road (6 to 6 1/2 miles) to the Cockscomb Basin Visitor’s Center.

By Bus

The BBDC, National Transport or James Bus Service from Belize City to Punta Gorda will stop at Maya Center, if requested (about 3.5 hrs). All buses stop in Dangriga before proceeding south. Upon arrival at Maya Center, visitors will need to pay the entrance fee at the Maya Center Women’s Center. From here, the actual park is a 6 to 6 1/2 miles down a dirt road. Visitors can hike into the park (roughly 2 hours) or hire a local taxi from the village to drive them (US$12.50 taxi journey one-way).

By Plane

Flights are available from Belize City to Dangriga (Maya Island Air or Tropic Air) and take approximately 20 minutes. From Dangriga either take a taxi (US$75) to Cockscomb or take a bus to Punta Gorda and ask to stop at Maya Center.

Money Matters & Services Provided

Dangriga is the last stop with banks, pharmacies, and a wide variety of grocery shops. It is also a good idea to stock up on fruits and vegetables at the market so that you can do your own cooking.


Please note that when going to Cockscomb, you need to bring along your own food. CBWS has a small snack shop and sodas, snicker bars, water and toiletries. There is a modest kitchen where you can do your own cooking.

Other Essentials

Bring along mosquito repellent, flashlights, towels, and toiletries.

The Visitor Center inside the park has the following items available for rent:
Boots – per person per day BZ$ 3.00
Inner tubes – per tube BZ$ 5.00
Kitchen utensil use per day 
Single person BZ$ 5.00
Groups 2-5 BZ$ 10.00
Groups 6 & above BZ$ 20.00
Books BZ$ 5.00
Binoculars BZ$ 5.00
Generator Rental BZ$ 20.00 per day
Conference Room Rental 
Groups(students) BZ$ 20.00


Gentle Loop Trail takes the visitor to the river and then back through the jungle. This short trail is suitable for all ages and abilities and serves as an easy introduction to Cockscomb’s flora and fauna.

The Waterfall Trail is a 3 km hike arriving at the picturesque 20 foot high waterfall. The river forms a perfect pool for swimming, enabling the visitors to refresh themselves before the hike back.

Ben’s Bluff is a 4 km hike which follows the Waterfall Trail and then continues a further kilometer up a steep trail through the transition zone of rainforest to pine forest. The effort is worth it as the trail culminates with panoramic views of the entire Basin. The waterfall is a refreshing stop coming and/or going to Ben’s Bluff.

Outlier Peak is an all-day hike through many varied habitats. Starting in flat jungle, the trail works its way up the rugged terrain of the Outlier Mountain. From the top, there are spectacular views over the Basin and Victoria Peak which make the effort worthwhile.

The Victoria Peak Trail is only for the intrepid hiker. It takes approximately 4 days and is a high adventure expedition. Victoria Peak is the second highest peak in Belize and consequently delivers fantastic views from the top. This hike requires a Belize Audubon Society permit and a licensed guide (as well as camping equipment). Victoria Peak’s opening season is from December to May 31st.

For the less energetic, taking a 30-minute float down the South Stann Creek River in a tire inner tube is a relaxing way to see the jungle. The tubes can be rented from main office for (US$2.50/Bz$5.00).


Click here to find information about Belize Explorer accommodations in Cockscomb and Maya Center.

Helpful Links


Community Based Tourism:  Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary | Victoria Peak

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