Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary aka Jaguar Reserve

Belize Travel Blog

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Our first stop was CBWS in Stann Creek District of southern Belize. This is the world's first Jaguar sanctuary.
One of the most overlooked sites/sights in Belize is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS), also known as the Jaguar Reserve.  This is the world's first protected area designed specifically for the conservation of Jaguars.  I remember vividly my first trip to the Jaguar Reserve, for an In-Service Training for the Environmental Education Coordinators during my tour as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2001-'03.  On a night hike, guided by our Associate Peace Corps Director Matt Miller (RPCV Belize '89-91 and long-time resident), I was convinced by Matt that a Pauraque could be hypnotized by a flashlight and caught if approached with sufficient stealth.  A Pauraque is a nocturnal bird closely related to the Nighthawk or Whippoorwill, all in the nightjar family.
Hiking Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
  They are more terrestrial than other species in their family, and can therefore be approached more easily.  That night I felt like I should be part of an Animal Planet show, because as Matt shone his light and the rest of the group looked on, I snuck up and caught the little sucker (as carefully as possible, and quickly controlled it without harming it) and showed off the bird to the impressed onlookers.  Matt was jumping up and down and shouting "wicked! wicked!".  Apparently, he had only ever heard that it could be done but had never seen it attempted or attempted it himself.  I was pretty stoked, and that memory has stuck with me to this day.

So upon revisiting CBWS for the first time in 4 years, I told that very story to my parents as we took a our first hike, which coincidentally, was in the late evening, approaching dusk.
A Social Flycatcher feeding its chicks.
  I didn't try catching any birds by hand this time, but was successful catching some on camera.  I was pretty happy about the Social Flycatcher picture that I caught.  On our way back we saw Javelinas too.

The Jaguar Reserve is one of the best places in Belize to spend a few days if you are interested in jungle hikes and looking for Central American terrestrial wildlife.  They have a range of ammenities for overnight stays, from bunk rooms to small cabins to a house.  The prices are affordable.  If you travel with a tent you can camp as well.  There is only one restaurant nearby, and that is more than 3 miles from the headquarters, so you need to pack in any food you want unless you have your own transportation.  A community kitchen, eating space, and showers/restrooms are available for the bunkers and cabin dwellers.  The house features its own kitchen, refrigeration, and bathroom.

Our 3 night stay allowed us sufficient time to explore the park.  We hiked twice a day and rested during the heat of the afternoon.  Each morning we awoke with the roar of the resident howler monkeys and set out before sunrise.  In the evenings we set out an hour or hour and a half before sunset.  Not only is that the coolest time for hiking, but it is also the hours of peak activity for wildlife.  Dawn and dusk are the best times to see monkeys, birds, jaguars and other cats, peccaries, otters, other mammals, and of course, snakes!
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Our first stop was CBWS in Stann C…
Our first stop was CBWS in Stann …
Hiking Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sa…
Hiking Cockscomb Basin Wildlife S…
A Social Flycatcher feeding its ch…
A Social Flycatcher feeding its c…