A Surprising Find: Aviario Nacional de Colombia (National Aviary of Colombia)
Nestled on seven hectares on the peninsula of Barú, just 45-60 minutes southwest of Cartagena, Colombia, is the Aviario Nacional de Colombia, or the National Aviary of Colombia. It is such a pleasant find after having to experience the traffic and grit of the port, and oil and gas refinery areas on your trek there. The aviary itself is beautiful, well-planned, and spotlessly maintained.
Tour the Grounds at Your Own Pace
The aviary’s display consists of six different environments including tropical rainforest, coast, desert, lakes, birds of prey, and the emu area, which are connected by a clear and easy-to-follow walking path. The tour through the aviary is self-guided; however, they do hold birds in flight demonstrations twice daily in their arena.
Bring a Camera
We each brought cameras and cell phones and nearly drained the batteries on all of them with the number of photographs and videos we captured. In the first exhibit alone my son almost filled the memory on his phone because he just could not get over all of the unique birds. We learned that if you simply stood still and took in the environment you would start to notice birds that you did not in your first glance. They are fantastically brightly colored with odd feather poofs, oddly large feet, or extended bills. Macaws and parrots grace a large open-air perch at the entrance and entertain you with their calls and antics from the beginning. Peacocks are so plentiful among the grounds, we even had the unique pleasure of watching a male peacock display and shimmy his full feathers to a group of clearly uninterested female peahens.
The mangrove lagoon filled with flamingos aplenty was a great place to stop and enjoy the view, even with the sulphur smell from the degrading mangrove leaves. The scarlet ibis was a shock of red-orange color. The condors were huge, ugly birds up close. The woodpeckers were a hoot to watch as they decimated a tree. Emus are also huge birds, but they have great coats of flowing feathers. A grey crowned crane took a special interest in my husband and we were not sure if it was amorous or in attack mode.
Enjoy the Peace and Tranquility of the Grounds
We visited on a Saturday in March and the aviary was nearly empty. It is a little difficult to judge the amount of people you may find inside as it appears that many are transported by taxi or tour bus, and thus there are not many cars in the parking lot. However, the grounds are large enough that they could accommodate plenty of people.
Given that the aviary is inland, it is hot. I recommend arriving early in the day and wearing appropriate clothing, hats, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen. Plus, we covered ourselves in bug spray. We didn’t encounter too many mosquitos but the area appears to be designed to flood during the rainy season, so I’m sure there are plenty of those little buggers at times.
The best way to learn about the aviary is through their Facebook page as I have never been able to get their website to work. The aviary is open every day from 9am to 5pm, with the last entry at 4pm. It will take about 2 to 2.5 hours to traverse the entire grounds. The cost to enter is $40,000 Colombian pesos (COP), which is about $14 USD, for adults and $35,000 COP (about $12 USD) for children between the ages of 2 and 12. Plus, and there is a $10,000 COP (about $3.50 USD) fee to park. Outside food and beverages are not allowed; however, we brought water bottles which they did not seem to mind. Good food can be found in a separate building at the entrance which houses a Kokoriko and Mimos (chain restaurants). We filled up with various chicken meals from Kokorikos, plus ice cream delights from Mimos at the end of our visit.
My kids truly enjoyed this place, and told us that numerous times. It is definitely one we will keep on our list of places to take guests when they visit.
Location: Approximately 45-60 minutes southwest of Cartagena, Colombia by car on the peninsula of Barú (some will call it an island, but don’t be confused, it’s a peninsula, you can drive there).
Temperature: Hot. Bring hats, sunglasses, appropriate clothing, and sunscreen. Arrive early in the day.
Mosquitos: Likely yes. Bring bug spray.
Bring a camera: Yes, definitely.
Hours of operation: Every day from 9am to 5pm.
Cost: $10mil to park, $40mil for adult entry, $35mil for child entry (all Colombian pesos).
Available food: Kokoriko and Mimos. Plus, two small coffee shops/beverage stops throughout the park.