Mayflower National Park & Jaguar Reserve

Mayflower National Park & Jaguar Reserve

April 2023

Heading south, we drove to the Mayflower Bocawina National Park. A distance of around 100 kilometers that eventually took us two hours. The number of topes, or “bumps” as they are called here, took on Mexican proportions. There only had to be a bus stop in the middle of nowhere and you could be sure that there were a number of speed bumps before and after the bus stop.

Arriving at Mayflower Park, we were amply briefed by a friendly park employee. All too gladly he showed us the grassy area where we could spend the night and the not too “fancy” shower. But the shower was there and that was nice.


There are four hikes to do in the park, three of which we eventually did in a day and a half. By now the hottest time of the day had arrived, but we were tempted by the possibility of swimming at Antelope Falls. The trail to this waterfall was relatively short but went up steeply especially at the end, so we really had to earn the cool down.

During the afternoon coffee break, several toucans flew by and the howler monkeys made themselves heard again from a distance. It was wonderful to be back in the jungle again. A second hike we walked shortly before dark and were lucky enough to see and hear a howler monkey up close.

Howler Monkey

Hike number three would go past a number of other waterfalls, and since the entire route was 15 kilometers, we decided to set our alarm at 6 a.m. so we could leave early. The highlight of our circular hike was again the falls. The jungle is so dense that animals have plenty of opportunity to hide and we did not see many. A few colorful birds did show themselves at times, thankfully.

Indigo Bunting (Indigofink)
Crimson-collared Tanager (Flammentangare)
Morelets Seedeater (Schwarzbrustspelzer)

The first waterfall of the day was also the highest and the one with the most difficult approach. The waterfall bears the name “Big Drop Waterfall” and we wondered if this name was chosen because of the route to it or the number of meters the water falls down here. Through a narrow and very steep path, we sort of “dropped down” with the help of ropes. It took a while before we received our “reward”. A waterfall and a dip in the cool water. The same route with a difference 150 altimeters in altitude we also had to climb back up again, which brought back the sweat we had just managed to wash off.

Other waterfalls followed including the “Tears of the Jaguar Falls” and the “Upper and Lower Bocawina Falls”. At the “Lower Bocawina Falls” we did put on our swimwear again, because what could be better than lying down in cold water in the middle of the jungle and enjoying the sounds and views around you.

Our next destination was also in the middle of the jungle and is called the “Jaguar Reserve”. A number of jaguars are said to live in this area, but whether they are ever seen was a mystery to us. Jaguars are nocturnal so the chances of seeing them are relatively slim. Still, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the official name of the park, is worth visiting. There are a few hikes through the park and we were ready to put on our hiking shoes one more time.

We parked our car on a patch of grass that we were told was the helicopter landing spot. A strange place for a campsite, we thought. The 10 kilometers of gravel road winding through the jungle from the main road to the ranger station promised good things for tomorrow. A jaguar did not show itself just yet. However, we did pass a plane wreck that crashed here in the 1980s. In it was Dr. Rabinowitz,  an American who ensured that this became the first (and still only) Jaguar reserve in the world. Through many studies of the nature here and studying jaguars, he eventually convinced the Belizean government that this territory needs to be protected. By the way, all occupants survived the plane crash.


The alarm went off again at 6 a.m. and we noticed that we were getting better and better at getting up so early. Yesterday at supper we had made a plan to walk to the “Tiger Fern Waterfall”, but that plan was soon dismissed. We found out that at this popular trail, a tourist had died recently after she slipped and fell. Because of this, the government has decided that this hike can only be walked with a guide now. The guide would cost 70 US dollars and that for a trail of 3.5 kilometers. Since we found 20 euros per kilometer for a guide to be on the slightly expensive side, we sponteanouslyopted for the “Bamul loop” combined with the Wari trail and made it a nice hiking morning.

The highlight came about halfway along the route when we thought we spotted a Quetzal. The Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala and a bird we would love to see. This colorful bird though does not like to be seen and we had not expected to see it in Belize. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a different member of the trogon family, but the “Coloured Trogon” is a beautiful bird nevertheless and in the end that is what mattered for us.

With one more night in the border town of San Ignacio and after a week our visit to Belize was already over. The country is not big, but we got a fleeting impression in a short time. Lots of hiking in the jungle and of course the highlight was our snorkeling tour at the island of Caye Caulker.

What quickly became clear to us is that the locals seem to come from all over the world. The Chinese run the supermarkets, the Rastafarians brought their calm from Jamaica, and since the official language in the country is English, it seems to have also given the Indians an idea to trade in their crowded subcontinent for a more relaxed lifestyle. In between these exotics walk the Creoles and Mayan descendants with here and there a Mennonite traveling by horse and cart according to tradition. A mishmash of cultures that we really liked a lot.

Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, All Rights Reserved.

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