Not the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park…the birds of prey in Ecuador and the world. If you like birds, zoos, or a different take on amusement parks, then Condor Park in Otavalo, Ecuador, is the place for you. And even if you’re not really into the standard, hush-hush, get-up-before-dawn bird watching activity, this is still the place for you. We loved it!
We arrived at 9:30am to an empty parking lot and some concern that the park wasn’t open. But shortly after we walked up to the gate, a park employee greeted us and took our money providing a little ticket as a receipt. The entrance is modest with a few Andean-style, thatched-roof buildings leading up a very wide, cobbled walkway. We walked up a slight incline to an educational display building with a large variety of signs, displays, and technical information on some of the species in the park. We also noticed that there was a food and beverage vendor, a playground, and restroom facilities all within 30 meters (100 feet) of the entrance.
As we meandered out of the display building and onto one of the paths towards the bird enclosures, we admired the well-groomed landscaping and easily navigable paths with clear, easy-to-read signage (in Spanish). The bird enclosures were large with a large amount of natural vegetation, perches, and shelters for each bird in the exhibit. And even so, the birds were easy to see and quite active and at times even noisy. It was quite fascinating to read about each bird, its habitat, and its protected or endangered status. I was surprised that so many of the birds of prey were so terribly endangered.
We walked slowly past each exhibit for almost 2 hours and then realized that the raptor exhibition was soon to begin. So we headed quickly in the direction, following the well-marked paths to the area just before the entrance of the amphitheater. There was a very charming observation area for containing the birds used in the exhibition where the birds were not caged, but instead tethered with much room to roam and each had a shelter and a perch. It was exciting to be within a few feet of some of the most endangered and symbolic birds of prey on the planet with no fence and no bars.
On the opposite side from the observation area, there was an enclosure with large cages containing an assortment of smaller raptors and owls. Many of these birds also participate in the exhibition at certain times. There was definitely an atmosphere that radiated good care and a positive connection between the handlers and the birds. We made our way to the amphitheater in anticipation of an interesting show.
As we looked at the expansive views over the short amphitheater wall, a raptor squawked argumentatively behind us. We turned to look and a trainer walked in with a small, black raptor on his heavily gloved hand. The raptor was carrying on and flapping its wings as if in protest. The trainer welcomed us and joked at the bird’s protests, while explaining the park’s mission and goals. Then, as if rehearsed, he released the raptor who flew to a spot on the short wall and quietly looked at the trainer in disgust. With more humor, the trainer explained more about the raptors and the essence of how the park obtained them including their rehabilitation when possible.
A second trainer help collect and exchange the various raptors in the exhibition to allow for a smooth transition between birds. One of the most exciting parts of the show was when one of the large hawks decided not to come back from his demonstration flight. The trainers explained that this happened sometimes, however the birds normally came back after they have exercised their right to fly for as long as they deemed necessary, regardless of how many times the trainers called them back. This hawk flew around for the entire show and even had a little in-air dispute with a Kestrel falcon that was not part of the parks collection. One of the best parts of the show was when we were allowed to hold a Kestrel falcon on our gloved hand. It was amazing to be so close to such an incredibly beautiful bird of prey, even if he was super tiny – about 8 inches tall.
After the conclusion of the raptor show, we cruised by each of the owl exhibits. The signage warned us to be quiet since owls are nocturnal, however there were more owls awake then asleep. Overall, this was a fascinating 4 hours of walking, viewing, and getting to interact with some of the world’s most important and incredible birds of prey. Well worth it in my opinion and experience.
The Condor Park is located on hill Pucará de Curyloma approximately 10 minutes from Otavalo at 2,800 meters (9186 feet) above sea level. The park is situated between the Imbabura Volcano, Cotacachi Volcano, the town of Otavalo and Cotacachi. The park is owned by a Dutch non-profit foundation whose mission is to protect, rescue, rehabilitate and re-introduce (if possible) birds of prey including the very threatened Andean Condor. In addition, the parks aims to increase awareness and environmental education for the Andean Condor, owls, raptors and their habitat.
The Condor Park is open Wednesday to Sunday and holidays from 9:30am to 5:00pm with raptor exhibitions in the amphitheater at 11:30am and 3:30pm. The cost was $4.50 per adult but it was not clearly posted, so I’m not sure if there are discounts for children or seniors. Weather can vary greatly and rain may postpone or cancel the raptor exhibition. We recommend getting there as close to 9:30am as possible because the birds are more lively and the weather is usually better. Be prepared to speak and understand Spanish, since there were no English speaking employees that we came across when we went. No pets are allowed at this park (sorry Niele).
There are many, many sites that have information on the Condor Park and we have included our favorites below. Or you can contact the park directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or +593-98-431-1769, however, we found that they don’t answer their phone all the time. Most taxis know exactly how to get there, but if you are driving yourself or walking, there are excellent directions at www.otavalo.travel.
Parque Condor (official site): http://www.parquecondor.com/
Otavalo Travel site: http://www.otavalo.travel/en/travel-otavalo-ecuador/condor-park.html
South America Travel site: http://www.visitecuadorandsouthamerica.com/reasons-to-visit-parque-condor/
Lynn, Bob and Niele