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.

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!

Doradal and Hacienda Napoles

We decided to go to Doradal because it was the closest town to Villa de Leyva in the direction of Medellin that had some interesting things to do. When I chose the town, I didn’t think about the altitude…an oversight on my part. The town is very busy, not too big, but very noisy, and very hot.

The thing about towns in the mountains is that the altitude can vary greatly within just a few miles.  Lower altitudes definitely mean hotter weather. And it seems that deep valleys may a bit warmer than more shallow ones that may have better windflow. That’s Dan’s theory anyway.

We went to the Hacienda Napoles which is now a nice theme park/zoo but was previously owned by Pablo Escobar. After his death, the government took over the property which lay vacant for a number of years. Now the government rents the land to the theme park who has done a nice job of exhibiting animals that Escobar had brought in (often illegally). For example, hippopotamus is not native to South America but he brought 4 into the country. There are now about 40 in the park and 20 or so still in the wild.

I liked the whimsical statues scattered within the park which is about 7.7 square miles in size. There are some examples in the gallery below. I also liked the way that safety improvements often looked “natural”. For example, the bridges look like they have ropes holding poles together but they are actually pipes and poles made to look more rustic. Or edging that looks like bamboo stalks but are really just pipes.

We didn’t go to the water park section because we were just too hot. I know that doesn’t make sense but in the morning when we bought tickets we were thinking about costs and later we were so hot we weren’t really thinking well.

The people in Doradal were very nice but there was loud music playing until after midnight every night and the room, while air conditioned, just wasn’t that comfortable so we only stayed 2 nights and then headed to Guatapé before going to Medellin to meet up with our friends from Boquete, Lesia and Jim Thompson. If we got near that area again, we’d like to go to Rio Claro (Clear River)…if we ever go to this area again that is.


Raquel’s Ark and Cat House

Raquel has a wicked sense of humor. The cats include a jaguar and house cats. She used to have a margay but it died.

This is a small rescue center in Vulcan, Panama. The animals currently include chickens (Raquel is vegetarian), a jaguar, an owl, two-toed sloths, baby howler monkeys, a tayra (member of the weasel family), raccoons, white-nosed coati, a weasel and some house cats. Continue reading “Raquel’s Ark and Cat House”

Mona The Marmoset, RIP

I’m really saddened to report that Mona the Marmoset died in less than a day after she appeared to be ill. On Saturday I spent much of the day keeping an eye on her as she spent a lot of time running around the sitting area in the den of the main house. It was not uncommon for her to come into the house and she would climb on the bookshelves and up the casing of the door or just run around the floor. In retrospect she might have been a little less active than normal but not much. I sat and used our laptop and watched her from time to time.

Sunday, unbeknownst to me, she took a quick turn downhill and died. I had missed her for a couple of days and found out this morning (Wednesday) that she had died and been buried at the farm.

Her age was estimated to be 12 years and if you remember my prior post, that is the life expectancy of this breed. In spite of the fact that there are still 13 horses, 5 dogs, 2-3 cats, untold number of chickens/roosters, and a 3 year old and a 4 year old, the farm is quieter without her shrill calls andit has lost a bit of its character as well. It was fun to watch her run around and do back flips in her cage or run across the rafters of the covered patio. I’m surprisingly saddened and touched by her passing.

The top picture is one Dan captured of her one day looking at the computer. Here are some of my other favorites. And here is a video of her running around in her cage. Listen closely for her shrill voice.

Mona the Mono

If you know any Spanish you know that nouns are feminine (ending in “a”) or masculine (ending in “o”). The Spanish word for “monkey” is “mono” so “Mona” is a great name for this female primate.

Mona is a Common Marmoset which is indigenous to Brazil. She is owned by the owners of Finca Soley who rent the property out to Isa and Milton. Marmots are small and weigh about 9 ounces. More general info here.

Mona lives in a mesh cage about 6 feet wide, 8 feet tall and 4 feet deep She is allowed to run free around the patio (she is not supposed to go into the house but has been known to do so), roof, gutters, etc. during the day.

Mona appears to be healthy and happy in her “old” age of 12. She frequently races around in the cage, jumping from perch to perch with ease, even doing back flips. Her agility and accuracy are really amazing to watch.

She eats fruit that the caretaker provides and bugs that she finds while she is out and about.

Very territorial, once when one of the dogs chased one of the cats up a post where Mona was sitting, Mona promptly chased the cat down! It happened so fast I didn’t see it but Dan told me about it.

Mona’s voice can be pleasant or extremely high pitched and shrill but fortunately she doesn’t have a lot to say. You can hear her voice in the first 3 seconds of this video.

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.)

Monkeys-Los Monos

We only saw one lone monkey scurry down a branch in the shadows of a tree in Costa Rica but in Nicaragua we saw a number of them…2 kinds.

The first group was on the Islet Tour in Lake Nicaragua near Granada. There are 365 islets (big enough for at least a house if not more) formed from the eruption of a volcano long ago. One of those islets has 4 spider monkeys.

The monkeys are quite used to tourists in the boats coming and feeding them so they are easy to see. We did an afternoon tour so they weren’t hungry (and we didn’t know to bring fruit for them anyway) but I understand that during morning tours they are even more visible.

The second group was at Charo Verde Reserve on Ometepe Island. Those were Howler monkeys and I’m not sure how many we saw, at least a half dozen. They were above us in the mango trees, taking a bite out of the fruit and throwing it down to the ground (reminded me of the squirrels and our peach trees at the house in San Antonio.

The monkey we have seen the most of is Mona the Common Marmoset at Finca Soley. She gets her own posting as soon as I get a good video of her activity.

Golden-Mantled Howlers in a Mango Tree

What howler? Look left of center and see the two tone brown? That is a howler monkey.

We are walking a trail to the beach at Charco Verde Park on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua when I see that a few mangoes are dropping out of the tree. Otherwise there are no sounds, at first. Then I hear movement to one side, high in the tree. We crane our necks around until we finally see a howler monkey. Eventually I see at least eight. There could have been more, but most of them were taking a siesta and it was easy for them to blend in. Their deep voices can be heard up to 3 miles away.

Range: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala
Weight: Males up to 21.8 lbs. Females up to 16.8 lbs.
Height: Males – 20″ to 26.6″; females – 18.9″ to 24.9″
Prehensile tail: 21.5″ to 25.8″
Social structure: live in groups of 10-20 individuals and at puberty leave the group to join another