Why You Should Visit Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Managed by the Belize Audobon Society, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS) is one of Belize’s largest and most important protected natural areas.

Located in the southeastern Stann Creek District of Belize near Dangriga, Hopkins, and Placencia, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary measures more than 150 square miles (389 square km) of pristine nature that includes mountains, wetlands, waterfalls, and Caribbean coastline.

The CBWS is perhaps best known for being the world’s first jaguar preserve. All five of Belize’s indigenous big cat species, including jaguars, inhabit the CBWS, and the jaguar conservation station carefully monitors and tracks jaguars in order to better understand these elusive creatures. Around 200 jaguars are known to live in the CBWS, but their solitary nature and nocturnal habits mean that they pose little risk to human visitors.

The CBWS is named after the Cockscomb range of the Maya Mountains that are said to look like a rooster’s comb. A wide range of animals are found in the CBWS, including deer, tapirs, monkeys, crocodiles, peccaries, otters, coatimundis, pumas, ocelots, jaguarundis, and hundreds of species of birds, including the Great Curassows, scarlet macaws, and keel-billed toucans. The CBWS is also home to a wide variety of flora, including beautiful flowering plants and rugged hardwood trees.

Although the CBWS is, today, a pristine natural area off-limits to vehicles and human residences, it was formerly inhabited by the ancient Maya. A few traces of their mighty civilization can still be found in the CBWS, including the Chucil Baluum ceremonial site. During the colonial period, the area that is now the CBWS were heavily logged, and today, there are patches of thick secondary growth in the area that were formerly logged.

The highest point in the CBWS is Victoria Peak, itself a protected natural monument in Belize. The CBWS is composed of the drainage basins for two rivers, which, combined with more than 100 inches of annual rainfall, ensures that the entire area is incredibly bio-diverse. The CBWS is off-limits to vehicles, but there are numerous hiking trails throughout the sanctuary. There are also several marked hides that are ideal for spotting birds. 

If you’d like to explore the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary yourself, the best way to get there is with a rental vehicle from Barefoot Rentals and Services. Based in Placencia, Belize, Barefoot Rentals and Services specializes in attractions in the area, including the CBWS. Barefoot Rentals and Services can also help you book a guided tour of the CBWS.

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