If you’ve been following Dragon’s adventures, then you know that the longest trip of Dragon’s career thus far has been a three month long backpacking adventure across Central America with Dragonrider Ashley. Not long ago we divulged the secrets of swimming with sharks in Belize. But before folding his wings and flying off to another faraway land, Dragon also ventured deep into the Belizean jungle where the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Reserve awaited him with these top ten jungle experiences.
1. Off Road Ride into Jungle
Sometimes a dragon needs to rest his wings, and there’s no better way to ride in style than being towed from the back of a 4 x 4 deep into the heart of the Belize jungle. Off to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary we go. This’ll be our first time at a jaguar reserve.
2. Jaguar Crossings
Ah, our first piece of evidence. All cats love a good scratching post. Dragon would like to remind everyone that he knows nothing about that, however, because he is, in fact, a dragon and not a cat (despite the silly rumors). But if he were a cat (totally not), he’s sure that a tree like this one would do just nicely. The jaguars sure seem to think so. Notice the deep grooves left on the bark after all the nail sharpening sessions that frequent this area of the jungle. Though it’s hard to spot them (tip: search at night or early morning), an estimated 200 jaguars live in this jaguar reserve.
3. Blue Morpho Butterfly
These sapphire beauties flutter throughout the jungle like something out of a fairytale. Fun fact — the vibrant, metallic coloring actually results from iridescence and the specific nanostructures on the wings rather than from pigmentation, a quality that’s led to their study in the development of biomimetic fabrics, dye-free paints, and anticounterfeit currency technology.
“These are all over the jungle and so magical!” -Dragonrider Ashley
4. Leaf Cutter Ants
These little guys are fun to spot along the forest floor because they march in single file carrying a trail of colorful leaves held high above their heads. It’s a common misconception that the ants eat these leaves, but they do not. They bring the plants back to their home where they tuck them into underground tunnels and use them to harvest fungus, the real food source for the ants. Forward march!
5. Tree Hugger
In the jungle, trees reign supreme. Some grow as tall as 150 feet. As a tiny human, it’s easy to feel humbled in their presence. It’s not as easy to hug your new green friend. But we shall try.
“While Venturing through the Belize jungle, we set out to hug the biggest tree we could find. Many trails later we settled on this big guy.” -Dragonrider Ashley
6. The View From the Top
After hours of hiking, Mother Nature rewards you with views such as this one. That’s Victoria Peak in the distance. At 3,675 feet tall, it’s the second highest mountain in Belize. And it is a beauty.
7. Paca Gibnut
This little guy is a Paca. Or a Gibnut, as he’s called in Belize. And who doesn’t have fun saying Gibnut? C’mon now. Gibnut, Gibnut, Gibnut. Just try saying that without smiling. Yep. We love this little dude.
Okay, so maybe we don’t love tarantulas quite as much. But it is kinda neat that they are so abundant all over the jungle. Right? This one told me that his name is Teddy. And Teddy the Tarantula had never seen a dragon before either, so he was just as surprised as we were that day.
9. Belize Jungle Plane Wreck Trail
One of the trails at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary leads to the site of an old plane crash. Now overgrown with shrubs, the plane originally crashed over 33 years ago after having problems during take-off. Now it sits in disrepair, eerily beckoning hikers into the jungle to explore the excitement of its tattered ruins.
10. Tiger Fern Double Waterfall
Perhaps the most rewarding hike at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary follows the trail leading to a beautiful double waterfall past the end of the Tiger Fern Trail. The 3 km Waterfall Trail is a bit strenuous but well worth the effort. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. (They love to gossip.)
Want this Experience?
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Reserve
Hours of Operation:
Entrance fees cost BZ $2.50 for Belize Nationals or BZ $10.00 for Non-Nationals. In US dollars, the latter converts to only about US $5 to gain access to the park and its trails.
For an optional overnight stay at the sanctuary, fees range from just US $10 for a campground site to approximately US $82 for a room in a cabin.
Here’s the breakdown:
Campgrounds (with access to toilets and showers) –
- Price: US $10.00=BZ $20.00 per person per night
A Room in a Rustic Cabin (4 rooms in each cabin, with 2 beds to a room; bathrooms are shared) –
- Price: US $20.00=BZ $40.00 per room per night
A Room in a Dormitory (it sleeps 30 in 5 separate rooms, bathrooms are shared, with cold water showers and flush toilets) –
- Price: US $20.00=BZ $40.00 per person per night
Private Cabin (sleeps a maximum of 6 people, private bathroom has cold shower and composting toilet) –
- Price: US $54.50=BZ $109.00 per night for entire cabin for 1 (Add US $5 per additional person)
A Room in the White House (3 bed/2 bath house with full kitchen, stove, fridge, screened verandah, flush toilets, and cold-water showers) –
- Price: US $81.75=BZ $163.50 per night per room (or US $150.00=BZ $300.00 per night for the entire house)
Mujan Naj (Birdhouse) (their newest cabin, screened living area, sleeps up to 4 in 2 bedrooms, private bathroom with flush toilet and cold shower) –
- Price: US $81.75 =BZ $163.50 per night
The sanctuary lies off the Southern Highway about 20 miles south of Dangriga. Once you leave the highway at Maya Center Village, you have to navigate six remaining miles down a rough, bumpy, unpaved road before you’ll finally arrive at the jaguar reserve. For this reason, most recommend taking a 4×4. You can rent one in the village or hire a local to give you a ride. Alternatively, you can take public transportation into Maya Center Village and then hike into the sanctuary, but it’s about a two hour walk. Buses leaving from Belize City and Dangriga Town enroute to Punta Gorda Town will stop at Maya Center Village if requested. Flights are also available from Belize City to Dangriga Town through Maya Island Air or Tropic Air and take only 20 minutes. You’ll still have to take a bus, taxi, or hire a local to get you to Maya Center Village from Dangriga though. Decisions, decisions.
There are fourteen total trails awaiting exploration at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Reserve, and they vary in level of difficulty.
- River Path (0.5 km)
- Curassow Trail (0.4 km)
- Rubber Tree Trail (0.3 km)
- Green Knowledge Trail (1.0 km)
- Wari Loop (3.7 km)
- Gibnut Loop (1.5 km)
- Tinamou Loop (1.0 km)
- Plane Wreck Trail (0.5 km)
- Antelope Trail (3.0 km)
- Waterfall Trail (3.0 km)
- Ben’s Bluff Trail (3.2 km)
- Tiger Fern Trail (2.0 km)
- Outlier Trail (14.0 km)
- Victoria Peak Trail (42.0 km) (4 day hike only offered certain times of the year, requires permit)
Don’t come expecting to see jaguars (you most likely won’t). But the jungle is alive with so many other creatures and fascinations that it’d be a shame to pass this place up.
All images were taken by © Ashley Churchill for Adventure Dragon. Please do not copy or reproduce without permission. It makes dragons sad. And nobody likes a sad dragon. Except for maybe sad people. Away with you, you poopy pirate.