Having exhausted Santa Cruz’s city attractions in one afternoon, I turned my attention to the Biocentro Güembé, a nature & swimming park around 30 minutes outside the city.
I woke late, around 9am after going to bed around 10pm – sleeping well and long, despite my epic naps the previous day, thus hopefully catching up some of the jet lag (that’s my excuse at least!) Paul, my Airbnb host offered to take me to the park for 50 bolivianos, so 10 minutes later we were on the road. He told me a fellow Airbnb-er Patricio had gone there earlier that morning, and gave me his description so I could track him down to share the taxi home. When I arrived at the park I clambered out of the car, paid my entry fee of 150 bolivianos and was given a map of the park. A tour of the park was beginning in 20 minutes, so I loitered around the entrance hall and butterfly breeding room for the tour.
Biocentro Güembé is a mixture of a conservation and leisure park, also housing a hotel and conference centre. The conservation side is provided by several different areas – including a butterfly house, where the eggs & pupae are collected & raised in the breeding room before being released back into the house. There is also an area for birds, (which reminded me of the Jurassic Park film with the cages for the pterodactyls!) a huge aviary with walkways and a viewing tower in the centre. Toucans, macaws, parakeets and peacocks mingle with each other, all having been rescued or donated to the park. Of course, it would be best to see these animals in the wild but the park emphasizes the educational aspect of Biocentro Güembé as well, with signs dotted around discouraging keeping animals as pets, advertising the benefits of recycling, and hopefully teaching visitors how to better care for their environment.
A Terrarium with creepy crawlies and an island inhabited by some rescued monkeys completed the set. The tour took us around all the areas apart from Monkey Island, which I found later, and dropped us back off by the main entrance. After the tour I went back to re-visit the bird & butterfly houses, spending more time watching and taking photos. By that time it was lunchtime, so at the park restaurant (no food is allowed inside) I chose a Bolivian dish from the menu – Majadito – which is a dish made of dried shredded meat (jerky), mixed with rice and some sort of sauce, served with a fried egg on top and fried plantain. It was tasty, and washed down with a strawberry juice I was satisfied. There were other fruit juices I hadn’t heard off but unfortunately they were out of stock so I settled with frutilla, known as fresa in Spain. Just one of those little differences in vocabulary that you’d find in English with sidewalk/pavement etc. Strange but it made me smile!
Leisure wise, the park had several well designed swimming pools, although they were doing maintenance work on a couple of them, and a lake for kayaking. Once I’d explored the nature side of the park I changed into my bikini and dipped my feet in the pool. It was there I noticed Patricio, who Paul had described perfectly. I went over to introduce myself, and although he was at first surprised to see me we were soon getting along famously. He had already made friends with a Santa Cruzeña (native of Santa Cruz) and her son, and said we could all share the ride back to town later on – perfect!
We chatted together, taking a dip in the cool waters of the pools and lounging in the waning sunshine. It was lovely to meet Patricio, who is originally from Chile, so now I have a contact there, and Sofía and Iván were really friendly and welcoming. I had hoped to see them again before I left Santa Cruz, but sadly didn’t have time. I am glad we spent a beautiful afternoon in Biocentro Güembé, and enjoyed a splendid break from the hectic Santa Cruz!
You can find more information on the Park’s website here.
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