How Not to Feed Your Kids to the Crocs: Vivarium del Caribe
Located about 30 minutes north of Cartagena, Colombia is a lush, intimate destination called Vivarium del Caribe that is an educational tour packed with plenty of alligators, crocodiles, fish, turtles, insects, snakes and other reptiles. It’s a very hands-on experience and fun for the whole family.
Enjoy the Tour
Upon arrival you’ll be met car-side by your personal tour guide who will accompany you the entire visit. Our guide only spoke Spanish, but knowing that our Spanish is limited, he did a great job of speaking slowly and “talking” with his hands to help us understand. I’ve heard that they also have English-speaking guides sometimes too.
The entrance to the reptile park has a small hand-painted sign, and a colorful cargo container painted with various reptile and amphibian scenes that doubles as an office. There’s a small table outside the container where you’ll pay your fee. I think it cost about $16mil COP per adult and $14 mil COP per child (approximately $6 and $5 USD, respectively).
From the entrance your guide will lead you on a designated walking tour through a series of exhibits. The guides are well educated about each exhibit and will provide great detail for each stop. Many of the exhibits include enclosed structures with terrariums and aquariums of insects, snakes, and fish, the main purpose of which is to educate you on the process of evolution.
Hold and Feed the Tortoises
One of the favorites was a small, open pen of baby tortoises that you can pick up and feed purple flowers. Then you are led into a big pen of large tortoises where you get to walk inside, staying on a wooden plank path, and feed the large tortoises with flowers hung on the end of a stick.
Learn to Feed Caimans and Crocodiles
The highlight of the visit was when we were led across a walking bridge to a platform in the center of a moat with over a hundred caiman alligators, and one crocodile. For a small fee ($5 mil...about $1.75 USD) we were given a bag filled with pieces of sausage. We got to feed the caimans by attaching the sausage to the end of a long string tied to a stick. Then we hung the stick over the edge of the railing and held on tight to the stick. We actually had to help our son hold onto the stick, because when the caiman decided to chomp, it is strong. There are some real benefits to living in a country with lax regulations…I’m pretty sure you couldn’t do this in the US! It was a hoot, we bought two bags of sausages because it was so fun.
We also got to touch and hold a small caiman that had his jaws taped up (thankfully). Plus, our guide showed us the life cycle of a caiman that included seeing the incubator where they were hatching eggs of caiman and tortoises. Finally, we got to observe the feeding of a very, very large crocodile, but we didn’t get to feed him ourselves (thankfully).
During the tour, you are reminded again and again of the difference between an alligator and a crocodile...but I still can’t remember.
Location: Zona norte, Kilómetro 15, vía Pontezuela (13.72 mi), Cartagena, Colombia 130007. Use their Facebook page below to obtain their latitude and longitude coordinates. From I-90 just north of COJOWA’s Zona norte campus, take the exit heading inland (east) towards Pontezuela and Bayunca. The latitudes and longitudes provided by their Facebook page are slightly passed their actual location, so look for a black sign on the north side of the road before you reach those coordinates.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vivariumdelcaribecartagena/. Like many locations in Colombia, they do not have a webpage.
Cost: Approximately $14-16mil COP. Bring cash, no credit cards accepted. Bring money for the entrance fee, to purchase the food for the alligators, and any snacks.
Bring: Water bottles, bug spray (there are tons of little gnats), and sunscreen.
Open: Everyday from 9am to 5pm. The place is generally a quiet place with few visitors. We only encountered one other group during our tour. And we saw a large tent area where they were having a birthday party.
Duration: We spent about 2 hours there.
Food: During the tour you are led to two areas of potential snacks. The first is a small area where there were a couple of vendors selling pre-packaged snacks. Then later there is a nice area inside a pen with a pond and ducks where we could have dined on fried empanadas, but they were a little fly-covered so we passed. If you do think you might get hungry, I would recommend you bring your own snacks and food to eat.
Megan’s blog: A friend of mine writes about her family’s experience as Expats in Cartagena and she includes posts on their trips, including one to the Vivarium. Be sure to take a look because she did a much better job at capturing photos of this place: https://leavingmainstreet.com/2017/10/30/vivarium-del-caribe/