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Cockscomb Wild Life Refuge

Cockscomb Wild Life Refuge

I don’t know why the notion of booking my upcoming lodging check-in on the actually day I’m checking-out of another place is such a difficult concept for me to master. I made this mistake twice on my trip to Puerto Rico, and had promised myself to be more careful to avoid repeating the same careless error on this trip.

I woke up pondering how to spend my last day in Hopkins. I had yet to visit the Cockscomb Wild Life Refuge, which was on my list of places I wanted to explore—but, if I was leaving the following day, wouldn’t it be better to spend the day enjoying the beach, since the sun was shining, replacing what’s been overcast skies for these last couple of days? Would I get back to the States and be disappointed I hadn’t made it to a stop that was on my list?

I wasn’t going to come up with a decision, or get back to sleep, so I decided to start things off by going to the gym instead.

I was squatting on the bosu ball, trying to keep my balance and perfect form when I began to run through the days. What is today? My flight is on the 6th, my booking in Belize City is for the 5th. Today is the 3rd.  Dang it, I lost my balance and stepped off the bosu ball. I was missing a day—again!

Just to be safe, I confirmed on the app, my reservation was for the 5th, next I checked the AirBnB app, and yep, my check-out date was the 4th.  Plus side of my mistake, it resolved how I would spend my day, but first I had to finish my workout, and find out if I could extend my stay by a day.

After making arrangements for an extra night, refilling my water, packing some food, sun tan lotion, and bug spray—I drove the short distance to Cockscomb. I read about paying the entrance fee to the Mayan women in the building at the entrance of the road leading up to the park so I purchased my ticket, $10 BZE ($5 US), and drove the six miles on the dirt road to the parking lot and visitor center, where I met Fred, one of the park rangers. I told him I wanted to do the longest hike they had. He recommended the Tiger Fern trail that led to dual waterfalls. It was about a four mile hike round trip, and while it got a little steep in some parts, he said, it was well worth it.

It sounded good to me. As I put on my hiking boots, I asked him more about the snakes and wildlife in the park, such as the jaguars. He reassured me the odds of encountering either, were slim to none. But if bit by a snake, the proper course of action was to keep calm and walk back. No trying to suck out the venom, or applying any type of tourniquets.

I acknowledged his advice and headed out. As I hit the trail, my heart raced a little. Hiking in the jungle did present threats I never worried about in the Alps. My thoughts wondered to a conversation I had with my dad on the way to the airport about my summer plans of driving, camping, and hiking across the western portion of Canada. It will be a new challenge for me, where once again, the biggest threat to my life will likely come from nature. I’ve never done anything like that before, so I’ll be learning as I go. Of course the irony is, I’m more likely to contract lime disease than end up face to face with a bear.

I kept a good pace, looking out for moving roots, aka snakes. Eventually the terrain got steep. I saw a bench with a sign that read “Bench available every 10 minutes.” It made me wonder what kind of people might need to use it. Certainly not someone like me.

I only eased my pace to take a few slugs of water, but before I knew it, I had drank half my water. At this point, I’d passed a few benches, determined each time to keep up my pace and not take any rest. I was drenched in sweat and burning up. The canopy of the jungle offered shade from the sun, but also blocked out the breeze, and locked in the humidity.

Jungle Hiking Belize

Why had I done a leg workout before this hike? I spent the morning sweating on the gym floor. As my body heat continued to raise, it hit me—the real threat to my health was me. I was much more likely to drop from heat exhaustion or suffer a heat cramp—the way I was pushing myself, than end up getting bit by a snake.

But the things was, I was so happy to be out hiking. The trail was well cleared, challenging, and allowed me to bask in the immense size of the lush green vegetation. Plus, Fred mentioned when he recommended the route that I would first reach a peak before making my way down to the waterfalls. I’m all about racing to the top.

I made it to Victoria Peak, where the vegetation was more barren and the sun bared down on me, but the cool breeze hitting my sweaty body, offered some relief.

Victoria Peak Cockscomb Belize

Much more barren at the top
Much more barren at the top

After snapping a few pictures, I made the last 500m trek to the waterfall. The descent got tricky, but I could also hear the running water, which hurried me along. Five hundred meter never felt so long. I couldn’t wait to dip into the cool water that awaited.

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I made it to the first waterfall, where I wasted little time to strip down to my bathing suit and jump in. I submerged my head under, then floated for a while before swimming to the reach the rocks by the waterfall. The water felt even better than I’d imagined, it easily washed over the burning heat that had gotten a hold of me.

Cockscomb Wild Life Refuge Smaller Waterfall
Cockscomb Wild Life Refuge Smaller Waterfall

The only other people at the site was a couple who I later chatted with and discovered they were in Belize celebrating their 30th Wedding Anniversary. They left shortly after my arrival. I asked them about the second waterfall but they answered they hadn’t wondered from this spot. After their departure, I went exploring. Just a hop skip away was another and larger waterfall.

This time I was all alone, standing in awe of my good fortune and blessing. I was in the jungle, by a beautiful waterfall, in complete peace and solitude serenaded by the birds and the sound of waterfalls. I once again jumped in the water and swam around for a spell.

Admittedly, my mind played some tricks on me and I imagined a strange water monster coming from the depth of the pool to drag me under. I reasoned with myself and returned my thoughts to how incredibly special being here was. I prayed, gave thanks to the Lord, and relaxed.

Cockscomb Wild Life Refuge Larger Waterfall
Cockscomb Wild Life Refuge Larger Waterfall

As much as I wish I could have stayed there forever, I had to make my way back. I soaked by t-top in the water to help keep me cool on my return trip, wrapped-in around my neck and began my hike back. Being wet really helped, I didn’t get as hot on the way down.

I’m so grateful I had this experience—it’s one I’ll surely never forget!

Ever had a similar experience? Or what’s an experience you’ll never forger. Would love to hear it!

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