We jumped on the short bus ride from Red Bank to Cockscomb Basin. Alice managed accidentally to piss off the bus conductor who was trying to help by taking our backpacks and put them at the back of the bus but Alice misheard and thought he wanted to put them under the bus and as we thought it was only a 10 minute drive she insisted that we would keep them on our backs. The conductor was already really flustered and eventually threw his hands up and told her to do whatever she wanted, and so she did. We didn’t realise that the bus was so packed and minutes later Alice had side swiped 7 people, nearly went flying down the aisle of the bus (which would have had a bowling ball like affect) and had also come to the realisation that the bus journey was triple our original anticipations. I luckily slotted into a small area in front of some seats out of the way and watched Alice flail about and desperately try not to hit anyone.
A few laughs and a flustered bus conductor later, we arrived at the Cockscomb intersection.
The Cockscomb park had accomodation facilities but no vendors or restaurants that we had become so reliant on making us delicious food. We grabbed some groceries from a nearby store, purchased our tickets and got the only mode of transport available to get you into the basin (around 6kms on a rough road), a taxi. $20USD got you a lift from the intersection to the park reception. At first this was very steep but as it was the only option, we accepted.
The Noisiest Little Bird in Cockscomb (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher) @ Cockscomb Wildlife Basin
Turned out our driver Snr. Lindo, used to work in the park as a monkey tracker. He tracked and recorded the Black Howler monkeys for 18 months and in his time had seen Jaguars, Fer De Lances ( super poisonous snake who’s fangs are 2 inches long and can cut through almost anything), boa constrictors and a huge range of other amazing creatures.
He told us stories about the park and as we drove in we saw our first animal! A brocket deer.
We checked into a rustic lodge room, chucked on our walking boots and headed for Lindo’s recommended trail – The Tiger Fern Trail. 6.7 kms of “difficult/strenuous” hiking to a look out over the basin and a waterfall. Easy.
Crickey, not easy. At one point we felt like this was our Everest. We are not in New Zealand anymore Toto! The tracks were slushy and difficult in places, and definitely not a moderate one hour walk to the falls. Just over an hour and about 60 litres of body fluids later, we reached the lookout over the basin. It was all worth it even if for the cool breeze sweeping over us at the top.
Cockscomb wildlife sanctuary is around 400 Square Km’s of protected land that was established in 1986. Its main purpose, to protect the Jaguar, and is now seen as a premier preservation site for the jaguars and has one of the highest concentrations of jaguars in the world. The basin was given the name “Cockscomb” due to the resemblance of the mountain range that the park is built around to a roosters comb.
We headed down to the waterfall, thinking it would be a short walk. Turned out to be a steep, near repelling, hike down the side of a mountain, to a beautiful natural waterfall with a blue pool that was too good to pass up. We striped off our hiking gear and jumped in to cool off. It was wonderful!
Tiger Fern Trail Waterfall @ Cockscomb Wildlife Basin
We made it back to camp without seeing a single animal, other than the incredible leaf cutter ants. These ants can carry up to 20 times their own body weight, but they also tend to get under foot. We tried our best to avoid them, mostly unsuccessfully.
I cooked whilst Alice nerded out with another traveller who had a bird book and a bigger lens, something I knew I couldn’t give her.
An early night, and even earlier morning. We woke to the sound of pouring rain, by this stage we had been damp for around 6 days now with nothing getting a proper chance to dry.
Despite the rain, we headed out on another walk, The Wari Loop. 5.5km morning walk, and the trail best known for birds and wildlife. Well, if you call getting eaten alive by mosquitos (through long sleeves, trousers and Deet) and spotting one “could possibly might not be” a single jaguar print “wildlife”, then we saw an abundance.
In fact. We saw more birds and wildlife back at camp kitchen where Alice and her new Bird Nerd bestie spent the morning walking around the garden with their telephoto lenses and comparing shots. I had another nap.
Green Honey Creeper in Blossom Tree @ Cockscomb Wildlife Basin
Leaf Cutter @ Cockscomb Wildlife Basin
Lindo then picked us up in his very old taxi and we waited at the junction for a bus. The buses in Belize are awesome. They are the old American school buses but are painted with their companies colours and are always really colourful and bright. This bus was a James Bus Line and all the fleet are striped in Caribbean colours green, orange and yellow. Some of the other buses were bright blues, purples, reds and even a couple pink and rainbow ones.
We caught our Rastafarian bus to Dangriga, grabbed some more of my favourite tiny amazing pies off a vendor who’s sister makes these pies every morning. Honestly, they are the best pies ever!
Then changed onto another rainbow bus to Belmopan, the bus then carried onto Belize City where instead of walking and crossing the infamous swing bridge-
“The Swing Bridge is a favorite hangout for hustlers looking to part tourists from their valuables. You are likely to be approached by seemingly friendly sorts with outstretched hands asking, ‘Where you from?’ Be advised that the chances of said encounter resulting in a mutually beneficial cultural exchange are slim to none.” (Lonely Planet).
…we took a Taxi the short 1km.
It was raining so we saw no hustlers out and about luckily. We then crammed ourselves onto a very packed ferry to our next destination – Caye Caulker. Island life, here we come.
Small wasps living next to our shower @ Cockscomb Wildlife Basin