Cockscomb Nature Reserve is located in the Stann Creek district of Belize, in the eastern slopes of the Maya Mountain range. About 150 square miles of protected area was established in 1986 as the world’s only Jaguar sanctuary. Access to the reserve is down a rocky dirt road off the Southern Highway at Maya Center Village (about halfway between Hopkins and Placencia). The road in is long and rough but worth the time and suspension work to get to.
Extensive trails, river tubing, and a small but informative welcome center all add to the natural beauty that abounds in this robust rain forest reserve. Park fees are $10bzd for foreigners and $2.50bzd for nationals; when we went this past Sunday kids were free! Camping or bunk space in their cabins are available for an extra fee. There are showers, toilets, and a communal kitchen for use; solar powered lights and a refrigerator to store food.
Cockscomb has LOADS of trails choices; from short and easy nature loops to day-long and laborious climbs. I’ve done them all except Victoria Peak (which seems like a fantastic adventure but I’m hesitant to overnight in the deep untamed jungle). My top-pick, if you have just one day and can chose only a single trail to explore, is Tiger Fern. It’s a good and challenging hike (read my previous post about it here) with the payoff being a beautiful double waterfall! I thought Tiger Fern might be a bit too challenging for our young novice hikers so we picked the other waterfall trail; it’s labeled strenuous but it isn’t too far from the visitor center so I rolled the dice and hoped the boys would make the roundtrip without too much whining.
They were superstars and enjoyed climbing around the waterfall. A lovely little natural pool for wading and benches make the site inviting and restful. I recommend bringing along your own drinks and snacks and whenever I remember to, I bring a bottle of children’s Benadryl just in case of an unexpected allergic reaction to a bug bite or plant. I also suggest packing a change of clothes for when you return to the car after hiking; whether you’ve swam on your hike or not, you’ll probably be a bit damp and at least a little muddy– it feels wonderful to slip in to dry clothes and clean sandals for the long ride home.
Want to read more about Cockscomb Wildlife Reserve? Visit this site for loads of info, pictures, and maps.