Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve – Belize & Tikal, Guatemala (2 of 5)

My friend Dave and I spent one night and one day in the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve, a large tract of semi-deciduous moist forest (the only true ‘rainforest’ in Belize is in the extreme south of the Toldeo District, but unless you’re a botanist, you won’t notice the difference).

We arrived just after sunset and sat outside our cinderblock hut (US$6 each for the night) and listened to the cacophony of insects and birds as the skies darkened. We tried to get to sleep early, but Dave was creeped out by the sight of two large tarantulas that scurried into cracks when we entered the hut. Luckily, I had a portable mosquito net that sat atop my bed and covered me completely ($45 from Long Road Travel Supplies, worth every penny), but Dave, a true arachnaphobe, had to huddle beneath his sheet. He wore a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and even his boots, so fearful was he of the hand-sized spiders. He sweated miserably through the still, hot night, before waking me well before any sign of dawn.


Dave wades in a shallow river.

As the sun rose, we trekked through the myriad jungle trails, spotting numerous hummingbirds, parrots, and even a keel-billed toucan. Even as the sun rose high and hot in the sky, very little direct sunlight reached the forest floor. We followed a trail to a small, lovely waterfall, and swam in the cool water at its base. We followed it to a shallow, slow-moving river, as clear as vodka, rippling across a firm sand bottom, and we shed our boots and waded several hundred yards downstream. We heard a thrashing sound, followed by a series of eerie screeches, coming from high within a cohune palm that hang over the river � an oropendela, a large, exotic black bird. Iguanas and basilisk lizards basked in the sun along the bank as we waded. We searched the damp shoreline for jaguar tracks, but found none. We waded for an hour, then returned to the trails and continued through the jungle, where we saw another large tarantula underneath a log. Dave was more comfortable this time, since he wasn’t sharing a small hut with it.

We would have liked to continue to explore the reserve, but we hadn’t brought any food with us, and there is no food or water within the park – you have to bring in everything yourself. At noon we left the park and caught a bus to Placencia.