Talking with Birds at Biocentro Güembe in East Bolivia

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Biocentro Güembe is a refugio for all kinds of animals.

“As long as they are vegetarian,” Carlos tells me. “We don’t accept animals that eat meat.”

Years ago, owner Carlos stood at a crossing in his life and decided to breed butterflies. He figured that people would be willing to pay to see butterflies and the breeding center. People around him laughed at the idea. How wrong they were. Today Biocentro Güembe is a 24-hectare recreational park of which the butterfly dome and breeding center – impressive as it is – takes only a corner.

We are rough campers. We are improvisers on where we sleep and don’t particularly care for comfortable places or secured surroundings. That we ended up at this campsite-cum-bungalow park-cum-animal rescue center-cum-recreation park was a bit odd to begin with. It was a result of a friend of a friend who exclaimed, “You have to go there! It’s beautiful! I’ll take you there. I know the owner.” As it goes in these kind of situations we tend to not argue and just go with the flow and see where we’ll end up. Who knows, it may be a nice place.

And so it happened. The campsite was temporarily closed yet Pablo, Carlos’ son, said we could (and should) stay and enjoy. Still, initially we were not even sure that this was what we wanted. We and staying in a recreational park? Wasn’t that being in a place with lots of people and thus lots of noise and blaring loudspeakers? I have to admit, we were a bit reluctant but didn’t feel we couldn’t say anymore, “Neah, we don’t really care for this place.”

Fortunately so! Seldom, if ever, have we seen such a professional, diverse, pleasant place as this offering such a perfect mix of ways to relax, exercise and learn. The park has something for everybody in the family: From toddlers, to teenagers who don’t want to do anything, to kids who love studying animals or learning about life and the planet. And when kids have fun, parents are generally okay too.

There is a well-set up natural history museum + there is a monkey island (3 species), beehive, ant and termite farm (temporarily under renovation), a turtle place, the butterfly farm and a huge bird dome. The ants and termites intrigued me. I asked Carlos what the purpose is of those.
“I want people to learn not to be afraid of insects. That’s why we have the bees too, a type that doesn’t sting. So people learn to be around insects without frantically waving arms and panicking,” he said.

Brilliant, isn’t it.

But what I love most is the bird dome. 2400 square meters, 30 meters high and a watch tower protruding from the ceiling for vast views. Some 120 birds (20 species) live here, among which macaws, parrots, toucans and peacocks. They were either dumped by their owner or caught in illegal trafficking. Lots of birds are used to people and some of them approach us at touching distance. One in particular – of which I don’t know the name of the species, I had never seen it before – just sat for ages next to me, turning its head as I whispered to it. Later Carlos told me it sometimes hops in front of the door, preventing people from leaving!

What if you don’t like animals?
Well you go for a walk. I did daily, through forest trails or around 3 lakes and 10 natural swimming pool. It’s just beautiful. Or you exercise at the gymnasium. Or you stretch out on one of the many easy chairs, take a dip in the pool, drink a beer at the bar, enjoy lunch.

All this in the most beautiful setting of fields and forest. Lots of maintenance on gardening, I bet. And in between are some wonderful pieces of art and fountains. We were enchanted! We were in Santa Cruz to get some work done on the car. It took longer than planned – what’s new – but we didn’t mind. Since it was Carnival and everything was closed for a couple of days we had lots of time to explore and enjoy.  Although it did rain for 3 days… Every day there were new discoveries.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you. If you happen to be traveling in Bolivia and want to at last photograph a macaw from up close, or just relax or do/see any of the above-mentioned things, you now know where to go.

For more on Sightseeing & Activities, check out these articles:

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Thank you for your support — Karin-Marijke & Coen

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