Water Falls and Zoo

Waterfall by hot springs (waterfall is not hot), feeds washing stations.

Baños doesn’t have a lot of touristy things to do but one is the waterfall tour. For $5 each plus $2 entrance fee each at the Pailon de Diablo Park, and $2 each if you go on the tram car, or more if you do the ziplines, we went on a newer Chiva bus to see several waterfalls.

Before we started the tour, there was a very joyous lady playing some type of metal instrument with beautiful meditation music. Take a listen. Of course we gave her a donation for starting our day off so nicely.

The first waterfall went over the road. Then we walked a short distance to see the head in the rock formation overhead. Didn’t catch the name of it.

There were two zipline concessions, starting at $10 per person, a bargain compared to most places. We aren’t into “adrenaline” activities so we just watched and took photos. Trouble uploading videos so click here to see the various zipline activities (guess which one is called the “Bats”) and waterfalls.

At one place we rode a tram car with about 10 other people across a valley and back. Took about 5 minutes for $2 per head but it was fun.

The highlight of the tour was Pailon de Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron). We walked a short way to see the waterfall and over a couple of bridges. The waterfall is about 260’ tall and the area is beautiful. It is a little bit of a hike to see it but not bad.

The Eco Zoológico San Martín is walking distance from our apartment so we went to it. It is  only fair as a zoo but we did enjoy seeing all of the birds. Their website is actually the best way to see the animals!

Bears having a discussion about who will get a certain spot in their enclosure.

There are two bears and one is definitely the alpha. It had been just walking around but when it got within about 20’ of the other bear which I thought had been napping, the second bear got up and complained. They were vocal but not violent. The second bear gave up and let the first one have the spot it had been in.

On the male, the ball of feathers is much larger. See the grey “mass” on the right side of his head?

While there were some beautiful parrot type birds that you can see on the website, the most unusual animals were the C0peton Mallards. Who knows why they have the funny ball of feathers on their heads!?

Of course there were monkeys but they were behind glass so our pictures aren’t very good. Sadly.

Mindo Bird Watching

7 birds (2 species). One bird is on a branch

One of the highlights of the Quito area was a very small bird watching place in Mindo after our hike.  The place is called either Jardin el Decanyo or Jardin el Descanso, I have seen both names. The owner of the property had originally bought the property which was treeless and made an area into a soccer field, complete with picnic tables, grills, etc. And then the bird watching bug bit him.

He planted hundreds (or more) trees and bushes where the soccer field used to be. It is now jungle like and the birds LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. Sitting on his covered porch we saw 6-8 hummingbirds at each of 4 or 5 feeders. We saw 3 or 4 species of hummingbirds but he has identified over 100. We also saw some tangers and a swooping visit by some type of hawk. When the hawk swoops by, everyone hides for a few minutes and then return.

Here are a couple of fun Google animations from our time the garden. One is pictures mostly at a feeder and the other is a very pretty bird-watch closely and he will stick out his tongue.

It was heartwarming to see what one person can do to change the world. He charges a nominal $4 per person to watch the birds and if you are so inclined, he rents out rooms for overnighters. When we return to Durango I had already been thinking about doing some landscaping on the second lot that we rent which is now just grass. I will think more on this when the time gets closer.

Bioparque Ukumarí

Bioparque Ukumarí is basically a very nice zoo. I read reviews that said it wasn’t a zoo but in my book it is.  The habitats are some of the nicest we have seen. I could post my pictures but honestly, go to their website and you will see better pictures than we could take.

One fun thing at the park is that you can have your picture taken against a video of a lion and they post it on Facebook. At the time I couldn’t find ours online but amazingly, I found it today in less than 5 minutes!


Jardin plaza dominated by church made mid 20th century using hand carved stones

By the time we left Medellin, we were ready for small laid back towns. We’d heard good things about Jardin and they were true. Primarily an agriculture area, there is some tourism. Very few expats live here, about 30-40 according to our guide. Compare that to Boquete which is about the same size and has 1000-2000 expats! We got lots of chances to practice our Spanish, especially since we staying in an Airbnb home of a young couple and an almost 3 year old who spoke very, very little English.

We spent 12 days in Jardin, a small town with a population of under 10,000  and during that time we did a lot of walking, a horse back ride, rode the Gurracha and saw the Cock of the Rock birds.

Jardin is a very vibrant town with a good sized plaza and a large church built early in the 20th century. It doesn’t seem to matter what day or the time of day, there are almost always tons of people in the plaza…sitting, walking, talking, drinking. We quite enjoyed just walking around the town. There is a very laid back feeling of times long gone in most US cities and towns; people standing outside chatting in the evenings. Very community oriented.

Horse waiting for its rider

The altitude of Jardin is about one mile above sea level. This town has a very busy plaza, no stop signs/stop lights, and it is not uncommon to see horses walking or being led down the street.

The horse back ride in the mountains was amazing and very scary for me. The horses were well trained and it was just Dan, myself, and the guide. But the trail was sometimes muddy up to the horses’ knees, uneven, and often along the very edge of the mountain which dropped off at about 160 degree angle.

The views were amazing! Coffee and bananas and plantains are grown on these steep mountains and everything is green, green, green. And we saw a lot of butterflies, even more than we saw when we went to butterfly exhibits in different towns!

Our ride, 100,000 pesos each ($33 each) included a lunch. We had opted for the vegetarian lunch which was carried in the saddlebags. It was rice, avocado, fried plantain, and a hard boiled egg, all wrapped in a fresh plantain leaf, and tied with string. It was very tasty and I am sure that the leaves were composted or fed to some animal that night.


Dan walked through a cave and behind a waterfall but I opted to rest instead. While we were sitting for lunch, there was a cow that was VERY friendly. We kept shooing her away but she wanted to be with us. Maybe she was lonely.

It was about a 3-4 hour ride plus transportation to and from the town to the place up the mountain with the horses. We got our money’s worth for sure!

The Garrucha is a hand made cart that goes from one end of town up the mountain via a cable. Built in 1995, the round trip is just over $2 per person and you can spend as much time on the mountain as you want. The views from the mountain are incredible although you can’t see a lot through the slots as you go up or down in the Garrucha. It is obvious that the person translating or printing the signs is not an English speaker. Check out the views and signs here.

Check out the English explanation; obvious it wasn't translated by a native English speaker

The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock or Tunki is an impressive, odd looking bird, widely considered the national bird of Peru. It has a rounded crest on the head of the male and is bright red on the upper part of the body with grey and black on the lower half. We went to a private reserve where we saw at least 3 males (no females) who were very territorial and loud. Here are some pictures of the Tunki as well as some other birds we saw at the reserve. There is also a short video so you can hear them.

Cock of the Rock

We did another tour in Jardin, this one by car where we went to various places near Jardin. It was a laid back tour with just us and the guide.

Dan and Lindie

Zoo Ave

Zoo Ave is not your ordinary zoo. It is devoted to animals that need rehabilitation or can’t survive in their natural habitat. Their most famous animal is Grecia, a toucan whose beak had been damaged by maltreatment. With the upper part of her beak missing, there is no way she could pick up food and eat. A prosthetic beak allows her to function!

None of the other animals had obvious issues although one owl seemed to have a wing that didn’t fold up properly.

There were all kinds of animals. Lots of birds, including the beautiful parrots, ocelots, several types of monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles, caimans, one boa constrictor, tapirs, etc. It was interesting to see how many of a given animal had been returned to the wild.

It took 3 hours to tour the zoo so there was lots and lots to see. You can see all of the pictures by clicking here. (Let me know if you have any problems viewing the pictures.)

Green Heron – Isletas de Granada – Nicaragua

Range: North America and Central America into Colombia
Habitat: Search for fish and amphibians along water edges
Size: 16″-18″ long; 25″-27″ wingspan