Cockscomb Basin Wildlife SanctuaryLocation: Maya Center Village, approximately 20 miles down the Southern Highway after the turn-off from the Hummingbird Highway. From there, travel approximately 6 miles down the unpaved access road to the park headquarters.
Open: 8 A.M.-4 P.M. year-round. Entrance fee BZD 10/USD 5 per person, payable at the Maya Center Village Women's Center (the building next to the sign above).
Where to stay: several hotels are available in Hopkins and Dangriga, both about 25 minutes away, or in Placencia, about half an hour to the south. Or stay in a cabin or dormitory room inside the park. Most hotels in Hopkins, Dangriga, and Placencia offer guided tours of the reserve, or you can hire a guide at Maya Center Village.
Special notes: the access road to the park is unpaved and in rough shape. 4WD is recommended at all times, and is pretty much required during the rainy season. No food is available in the park, except for some trail mix at the park headquarters, so either pack a lunch or plan to eat outside the park. If you forget to pay the fee at Maya Center Village, the ranger at the park headquarters will sometimes let you purchase tickets there, but don't rely on being able to do this. Carry a rain jacket, waterproof pants, and sturdy hiking shoes.
We started off from our hotel shortly before 8, on a bit of a dreary, rainy morning. After purchasing our tickets at Maya Center, we started out on the bumpy, 20-minute drive to the park headquarters. The "headquarters" is really just a small cluster of buildings with restrooms, a small shop to buy books or rain jackets if you forgot one, a couple of jaguar statues to pose with, and a small museum about the jaguar.
here. You can also buy a map for BZD 5 at the store at the headquarters. Trails are available for a variety of skill levels, from (relatively) easy nature walks, to the multi-day, very strenuous trip to the top of Victoria Peak.
The ranger suggested that we could follow the Victoria Peak Path for about a mile to a river overlook, which also doubled as the primary trail for wildlife viewing in the park. And so we set off as the rain really began to pick up again. Unfortunately, not even a 1/4 mile from the headquarters, we ran into a roadblock of sorts - a creek crossing that had been flooded with better than 3 feet of fast running water, which made the trail impossible. So, we turned around and decided to follow the ranger's second suggestion, which was to follow Ben's Bluff Trail up to the waterfall.
As the map shows, there are two ways of getting to the waterfall - the direct way down the Curassow Trail to the Ben's Bluff trail (the upper portion of the Currasow Trail is a bit steep), or you can circle around the the River Path, Rubber Tree, and Currasow Trails back to the start of Ben's Bluff Trail. We chose the latter, mainly because we had plenty of time to kill. The trail started off easy enough, with some good jungle scenery.
I didn't get a lot of pictures on the way up to the falls since I wanted enough time to actually get to the falls, but did manage a few on the way down. Some people might question why you would go to the rain forest during the rainy season, but in my opinion, the unique beauty of the forest is enhanced when you see it as it should be - drenched in the rain.
And with that, it was time to head back, with lunchtime rapidly approaching. Even though we didn't see any jaguars on this visit - seeing one is very much the exception rather than the rule - our morning in the sanctuary was definitely the highlight of our trip to Belize, and well worth the wet shoes.