How much fun is it to get off a cruise ship at the Port of Cartagena and walk into a mini zoo! We are so used to walking single file into the duty-free terminals with the same bottles of alcohol, Tortuga Rum cakes and trinkets made by local craftspeople (which I encourage you to support). At Cartagena de Indias, you walk along the path towards the exit where you find yourself in a small zoo, trying to figure out how you are now face-to-face with parrots, flamingos, peacocks iguanas and howler monkeys!
Officially known as the Aviario Nacional Baru Cartagena de Indias, Bolivar Colombia, the zoo is about 1,000sqm of pure fun. The birds appear to be free to come and go as they please. They are being fed in a tropical environment, and nesting boxes are visible in the trees. They squawked as new groups of tourists arrived, mouths open (careful!), and the birds were not afraid to walk right up to a tourist for a selfie! You can’t help but smile!
The zoo is free to enter and located on the grounds of the Port of Cartagena. There is a natural beauty to this haven as you wander along the path and listen to the howler monkeys, watch the birds put on a show, be in awe of the beauty of the flamingos, and admire the amazing colours of the peacocks. The birds appear tame yet maintain a sense of natural wildness about them so don’t take their antics for granted. I felt like a kid in a candy store as I raced through the zoo to see all the exotic animals, then returned to the beginning to fully appreciate this great exhibit.
According to the Puerto de Cartagena, the wooden material used to build to zoo was part of the refurbishment of the cruise ship terminal. The zoo is a natural oasis within a modern cruise port. They created this port oasis to reinforce the country’s commitment to the environment, to safeguard certain animal species, and as a beautiful attraction for visitors showcasing the natural flora and fauna of Cartagena. The initiative won the Organization of American States (OAS) First Americas Maritime Award as a Sustainable Tourist Destination Port.
One of the birds tip-toed over towards me and I didn’t know whether to stay perfectly still and encourage him or whip out my phone for that perfect memory, so I did a bit of both. What a moment! Their colours are so vibrant that the whole experience didn’t seem real. The birds are very curious, and like to nibble on phones, shoelaces, buttons, necklaces and noses! They would also win a staring contest hands down!
This sad-sack was woken up from his sleep and didn’t seem impressed by our excited group!
Cruise ships offer many excursions to choose from. I could easily have spent the day with my new feathered-friends, and enjoyed the beauty of this hidden treasure. Keep in mind that taking photos with a Macaw or Toucan on your shoulder is free, versus what you might pay for that ‘unique experience’ in town. Other animals, such as deer, are part of the zoo, but I was taken in by the birds! I did find an ant eater sound asleep, so I gave him his space. There is also a replica emerald mine within the zoo, which I will save for next time.
What an incredible experience and hats off to the Colombian government for showcasing their unique wildlife, vegetation and emeralds. I was thrilled to find this piece of paradise as it would have been a shame to miss the experience!
Until next time….