Last Updated on April 18, 2023
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary was on my Belize bucket list since I’ve started planing my trip. If you’re wondering where to see jaguars in Belize, Cockscomb is the place to go.
The park is home to the most important population of jaguars in the world. Chances of spotting one are slight but sightings happen from time to time.
Keep on reading to learn more about the famed Jaguar Preserve and what to expect on the tour with Dtourz.
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Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Dtourz, as always all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.
About Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Cockscomb was declared a forest reserve in 1984 and became a wildlife sanctuary in 1986. The protected area was expanded along the years to reach 250 000 acres today.
Jaguars are not the only park’s inhabitants, pumas, ocelots, tapirs, birds, and reptiles live in the park. The sanctuary is also home to hundreds of different plant species and offers a diverse ecosystem.
One of the primary goals of the sanctuary is the conservation of the jaguar population in Belize, which has been threatened by habitat loss and hunting. The sanctuary also serves as a research center for the study of tropical ecosystems, and offers a number of educational programs and opportunities for visitors to learn about the local flora and fauna.
There are several hiking trails within the sanctuary, ranging from easy to challenging, and visitors can also enjoy swimming and tubing in the nearby rivers.
The sanctuary is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the dry season, from February to May, when the trails are less muddy and the wildlife is more active.
Getting to the Jaguar Preserve
You can visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary on your own but getting there without a car is difficult and you won’t have access to some of the trails and activities without a guide.
If you rent a car, make sure it’s a 4W, once at the park’s entrance you can hire a guide for the day. You can also stay at the campground.
You can also take the bus and get dropped off at the crossroad and try hitch hiking to the park, but I wouldn’t recommend it because the road to the park doens’t see a lot of traffic.
If you’re in Placencia, I highly recommend booking a tour with Dtourz, a small local company based in Placencia, run by Doyle, an expert in local flora and fauna.
Jaguar Preserve Tour
You start the tour with an easy hike through the jungle where you’ll get the chance to learn all about the history of the preserve and the use of many tree and plants. The trail is 2.5 kilometers long (1.5 miles) and is easy to hike.
You might spot some birds and mammals along the way. Jaguars, pumas, and ocelots are seen from time to time but chances of spotting them are pretty scarce.
The trail does a loop, once we finished the trek we had some delicious lunch near the visitor center.
After this is when the fun part begins. We left all our belongings inside the car, grabbed a tube and headed towards the river. Floating along the river, surrounded by the wilderness, gazing at the clouds, is an amazing experience. It’s also super fun, especially when you have no idea what you’re doing, like me (beware of branches and big rocks sticking out).
The next part is a short hike to a nice waterfall where we relaxed for a while, drinking water filtered by long tree roots, listening to the birds singing.
Then comes the highlight of the tour: the rock sliding. We slid on foamy rocks, following the river course for a while. It’s a unique experience, a bit scary also, but Doyle explained everything and for each slide, how to position yourself. I just loved it, it’s so much fun and not something you can do everywhere.
Doyle is the guide on most of the tours he organizes. He’s the only guide in Belize allowed to do the rock sliding part, and it’s by far the best part of the tour. He’s a great guide, funny, super knowledgeable about the forest and the plants. I really enjoyed this tour, from beginning to start everything was exciting and interesting. I’ve learned a lot and had a lot of fun.
Dtourz is based in Placencia and specializes in inland tours. Doyle is known for his Cockscomb tour (he also organizes night tours), but he also offers tours to Xunantunich (Maya ruins near the Guatemalan border) and the blue hole, Maya ruins in the Toledo district and tours to see the rare Scarlet Macaws from December to April. Check out his website for more info or his Facebook.
What to Pack for your Jaguar Preserve Tour
- comfortable shoes that can get wet
- an action camera
- biodegradable sunscreen
- natural mosquito repellent
- clothes to protect you from the sun
- a towel and a change of clothes
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