Top Ten Belize Adventures

Track Jaguars at Cockscomb Basin
By Patti Lange & Chicki Mallan

The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best undisturbed nature centers in the country and easily one of the most beautiful. If you came to Belize to see luxuriant jungle, if you came to get close to the "skeeters" and all of God's creatures, and if you came to share sleeping space in a clapboard building with a bunch of strangers from all over the world who have the same interests as you, then you've come to the right place.

A large tract of approximately 155 square miles of forest was declared a forest reserve in 1984, and in 1986 the government of Belize set the region aside as a preserve for the largest cat in the Americas, the jaguar. The area is alive with wildlife, including the margay, ocelot, puma, jaguarundi, tapir, deer, paca, iguana, kinkajou, and armadillo (to name just a few), hundreds of bird species, and some unusual reptiles, including the red-eyed tree frog. And though you probably won't see the large cats roaming during the day (they hunt at night), it's exciting to see the large jaguar paw print; it's a real sign that the cat does indeed exercise ownership of this jungle. The peccary is said to be the jaguar's preferred diet, but, according to locals, the jaguar enjoys a love/hate relationship with the animal. Maya legend has it that the jaguar learned to climb trees to get away from the peccary because, as large and feared as the jaguar is, a group of the piglike peccaries can tear the great cat apart. The jaguar prefers to search from its tree branch for a single peccary.

Text © 2001 by Chicki Mallan & Patti Lange. Used by permission of Moon Handbooks. All rights reserved. Book is available through local bookstores and online booksellers.


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