I’ve been spending some time down in the jungle over the past few days, getting to know Mocoa (the capital of Putumayo department) and it’s surrounding jungles and waterfalls. It’s remarkable that in just 12 hours on a night bus from the Andean chill of the ‘refrigerator’ (as people often call Bogota) you can reach the humid green of the Amazon basin: monkeys, macaws, jungle and ‘falls…all just a night-bus away! Anyway, I digress: one of the highlights of the trip has been a visit to the Paway Centro Ecoturistico Amazónico…
This center lies just about 5km from my hostel (Casa del Rio), which itself is only just outside Mocoa: take the Villagarzon road on any colectivo and jump out when you see the Paway sign just before a bridge over a large river. From there it’s a 15 minute hike along jungley river banks until you arrive (one steep uphill at the end, and pretty muddy: dress accordingly). Once you’re at the gate, ring the bell (actually it’s a hollow metal object on string with a metal bar to bang it with), pay your 4.000COP entry fee/donation and enjoy!
I’ve gotten ahead of myself: what is the Paway Centro Ecoturistico Amazónico, right? Well, the center exists to allow visitors to experience some of the wonders of the Amazon and its wildlife at close quarters, as well as to educate them in conservation, ecology and sustainable development. It also serves as home to many rescued animals and birds, a number of which are being rehabilitated for an eventual return to the Colombian wild.
There are macaws, various species of parrot (one of whom has ‘quiere cacao’ down to a tee!), a variety of small and large monkeys and forest-dwelling mammals…as well as the young star of the show, Chonta the Woolly Monkey, who, although too familiar with humans to be rehabilitated, is an affectionate, woolly bungle of joy, and will proceed to swing on you, sit on your head, groom you, and generally make an adorable nuisance of herself!
There is also a fantastic butterfly house and a lab where Amazon butterflies are studied and bred; you can observe the fully grown specimens in all their multicolored glory, as well as inspecting the cocoons, pupae and larvae of the variety of species bred here. Along with the mammals and butterflies there is also a little pond for several Amazonian turtles, who make an especially sweet addition to the menagerie assembled here. Also (just one more!) there is a massive treehouse and several cabins where it is possible to stay, surrounded by wildlife; just don’t let Chonta in, I don’t imagine she’d make a good roommate!
I would highly recommend a visit to Mocoa, if not just for the waterfalls and jungle, then for the Paway Centro Ecoturistico Amazónico, and the chance to interact and help protect arguably Colombia’s most essential patrimony: it’s fantastic and varied wildlife.