The Cuenca Zoo or more precisely, the Amaru Zoologico Bioparque is a unique zoo that is both physically challenging but a most wonderful experience.
I've been to many zoos all over the US including the San Diego and Cincinnati but never to one that is set up like the Cuenca Zoo. This is not your typical zoo because the cages are not so obvious, and the exhibits are built on the mountain side. So there is a lot of uphill walking. But if you just take your time, this is very doable for many. You don't need to be a world-class athlete, but if you're using a walker, cane or have bad knees, you might not get very far. Not only are the paths uphill, some you need to walk on boards to stay out of the mud and water. You can see my trail pictures to judge for yourself.
The zoo pretty much is all uphill and then when complete, a long walk back down. For many, the walk down can be tougher than the walk up. Unfortunately for us, we had a driver that was coming back to pick us up in 2 hours so that made the ending a little more rushed than we would have liked. I would allow 2 1/2 hours to do it all. That's taking pictures, reading the signs, etc. If you want to walk it slower and take rest breaks, give it 3 hours.
Not Your Normal Cages
What's most interesting in this zoo is that many of the animals don't seem to be caged. The zoos use of different kinds of fence and wiring make them look a little less confined. Most if not all of the animals are indigenous to Ecuador, and there are many educational signs in English. Towards the end, there are monkeys that are not caged. There're no signs, but they came out of the trees and near us when we walked by. Most likely thinking they were going to get some food. In fact, one of them climbed on my wife's arm. They have a very cool Andean bear (Spectacled bear) which is the last surviving bear species in South America.
Something I wished we did was take a picture of the map at the entrance so that we could have some idea of where we were at. They don't have any map pamphlets you can take so we didn't know if we were half way done or close to the end. The trails are well marked on where to go except on the way down. Since the up and down trails overlap, the arrows can be a little confusing. Just keep on the downward path and you'll be okay.
For other things to see and do around Cuenca, check out our Cuenca Living blog articles.
You also might want to visit this post: Cloud Forest, Above the Canopy in Canar, Ecuador.
You might also like to visit the Orchid Farm just outside of Cuenca.
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