By Susan Schenck
The Cuenca Zoo may be one of Cuenca’s least advertised and most overlooked amusements. I lived here over four years before I discovered it.
Any cab driver should know how to find the zoo, which is across from Hospital del Rio. But if you feel like taking a nice long walk, just head southeast on 12 de Abril, past Parque Paraíso a few miles, until you arrive at Hospital del Rio (the second hospital you’ll encounter). The zoo entrance is uphill, across the street from the hospital. It’s about six miles from Ortorongo Plaza.
You might want to take a walking stick, as the terrain, once you’re inside the zoo, is rugged and natural—no flat sidewalks here. It can be slippery if it starts to rain.
The cost is $4 and well worth it. You can also get a year pass for $25 ($50 for a group of four people). Backpacks must be checked in, so you may want to bring a lightweight purse or hip pack for your cash. You’ll also need it when you get to the restaurant, which is about halfway.
You’ll walk about a little more than a mile around the zoo, the path winding and twisting, as you see animals in their natural habitat. The six categories are Andean, birds, forest, jungle, Galapagos, and exotic (which includes six lions that you can see being fed around 1 p.m.). All sorts of animals include wild boars that race up to you in hopes of being fed apples or something, large colorful parrots (some outside cages), peacocks (one albino), turtles, pumas, alpacas, llamas, condors, deer, and more. An island full of monkeys interested me the most—and some of these little monkeys were wild, capitalizing on the free food.
The view of the city (since the zoo is on a bluff 500 feet over Cuenca) is even more expansive and breathtaking than from Turi.
The exact address is: Autopista Cuenca—Azogues Km 10 ½ (frente al Hospital del Rio); 07-421-3982, 099-568-1677, and 099-378-1679. Hours are 9-5 Tuesday through Friday and 10-5 Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. Mondays (and December 24 and 25).
Photo captions: The author and a feathered friend; The zoo view; Photo Credit: Nate Resnick, nateinecuador.com
Susan Schenck is the author of several books, including Expats in
Cuenca: The Magic & The Madness and The Quilotoa Loop: Ecuador’s
Hidden Treasure. She also gives raw food classes and health/weight loss coaching. She can be contacted at LiveFoodFactor@Yahoo.com