Cartagena Aviary – Visitors Guide to the Colombian National Aviary

The Colombia National Aviary is located about 90 minutes south of Cartagena on the Island of Barú.  Spanning 7 hectares, you can see over 135 species and nearly 2,000 birds at the Cartagena Aviary.  It is extremely well done, and well worth the visit.  Although not the easiest place to get to, it also isn’t that difficult.  If you would like to see it for yourself, read on for a complete visitors guide to the Cartagena Aviary.

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Photo of a bird with black and red feathers and a long beak perched at the Cartagena Aviary.
This guy was just chilling waiting for people to come visit him at the National Aviary of Colombia outside Cartagena. Read on to learn how to plan your visit.

Why Should You Visit the Cartagena Aviary?

Colombia is famed for its biodiversity.  It is home to the most different types of native bird species.  At the National Colombia Aviary, you can see many of them as well as species native to other parts of the world.

There are a total of over 135 species and nearly 2,000 birds on the property.  The area is also very well done, with the birds for the most part in their natural habits.  There are several different habitats set up, and you’ll get to see lots of the birds up close and personal.

I can’t say I’ve been to many aviaries, but I can say that this one is as well done as just about any zoo I’ve ever been to.  It’s gorgeous and well cared for, and I really think it deserves to be one of the top attractions in Cartagena.  Particularly for nature lovers, it’s a must visit.

The only downside is you will spend most of a day getting there and back, and transportation isn’t the easiest (more on that below).  However, it is totally worth the trip.

We had been meaning to go out there since it opened a couple years ago and just not gotten around to it.  We were very impressed though, and I would encourage everyone who has the time to include it in your Cartagena itinerary.

Photo of two brightly colored birds, one scratching the other at the Colombian National Aviary.
These two love birds say you should come visit them at the Cartagena Aviary.

What to See at the Colombian National Aviary

Well, in short, a lot of birds.

As noted above, there are several habitats presented in the Cartagena Aviary.  Here is a quick run down of what you’ll see in each.

Tropical Rain Forest

You’ll arrive here first, and it’s truly impressive they set up this habitat in Cartagena.  You’ll walk through what looks like a cave before coming out beside a mock waterfall where you’ll be surrounded by birds in their natural habitat.

There are tons of species on display here.  We even caught a glimpse of a toucan.  With some food bins around the edges, the birds will fly right up around the boardwalk.  In this section, you’ll also get to see a Harpy Eagle, one of the rarest birds of prey that normally lives high up in the canopy of the Amazon Rainforest.  Finally, you get to enter a little pen with lots of small, and colorful tanager song birds.

Photo of a girl looking closely at a small parrot at the Colombian Aviary.
Susana made a new friend in this little guy who was all too happy posing for the camera.

Coastal Zone

Next, you’ll walk through several large areas emulating the mangrove forests of coastal habitats.  You will see different types of storks, ducks, and cormorants.  Particularly cool was the Jaibu, known in Spanish as the garzón soldado, or soldier stork, for its height and guard like standing pose.

You’ll also pass through a small non-coastal habitat where you’ll see some King Vultures, massive carrion birds.  They are pretty neat and intimidating looking birds with a black head and orange beak.

Then you’ll come to the flamingo pool.  There’s a big flock of flamingos you’ll see hanging out and squawking.  You’ll then continue through some more coastal habitats where you’ll see Herons, Kingfishers, and the very cool looking Scarlet Ibis.

Photo collage showing photos of coastal birds at the National Aviary of Colombia
Some of the birds you’ll see in the coastal exhibits of the Cartagena Aviary.

Desert

Next, there are a few small desert habitats.  Here you’ll get to see some more song birds and cardinals as well as some parakeets, and a woodpecker.

The Andean Condor

The Condor is Colombia’s national bird, and the largest flying bird in the world.  Its wingspan can reach over 10 feet.  A threatened species, there are thought to be only between 60 and 200 left in Colombia today.  They live in the rocky highlands of the Andes, and primarily live as vultures.

There is a male and female Condor at Cartagena’s Aviary.  They are really impressive birds.  Stick around for a few minutes and see if you can glimpse them open up their massive wings.

Photo of the Condor at the bird zoo in Cartagena
The Condors are very impressive and one of the highlights of the Aviary in Cartagena.

Emu

There is also an emu habitat.  Emus are neat, but also pretty weird and kind of creepy looking birds.  They will follow you around staring.  I’m not sure if it’s in a good way or bad way.

Lake

Finally, you’ll come upon a large lake meant to show the habitat for migratory birds.  You’ll see lots of ducks and other water birds hanging out, swimming, suntanning, or flying around.  It’s a nice piece of natural scenery.

Throughout the park, you’ll also see lots of ducks, peacocks, and even some iguanas strolling around freely.  For the most part, the pathway is shaded, and its neat to see so many of the animals have free range around the park.

Macaw Tower

At the very end there’s a big tower home to a lot of macaws.  There are the blue, green, and yellow ones, the red, yellow, and blue scarlet macaws, as well as the mostly green golden collared macaws.

They seem to consider themselves the kings of the place in their high tower, and they will let you know about it with lots of squawking.  Do watch out for falling reminders they think they’re cooler than you.

Photo of a macaw standing on a sign looking towards the camera
The macaws certainly seem to think they run things at the Cartagena Aviary.

Birds in Flight Presentation

There’s a small amphitheater just past the Condor habitat.  The park has two daily shows presented there.  They were scheduled for 11:30 and 3:30 when we visited (July 2019).  You can double check the times at the website.

Definitely plan your visit so you can see the presentation!  It is done in both Spanish and English, and you get to see a number of different birds and learn more about them. 

They brought out about a dozen species, each with their own little show.  The highlights for me were the presentations of a hawk catching a mock prey on a string and a demonstration of another species of hawk that has long legs to reach into the nests of other birds.

You definitely should not miss the presentation, even if you have to skip ahead or double back to see it.  It was very well done and informative.

Photos showing the trainers with birds at the presentation at the Colombia bird zoo.
Some photos from the “Birds in Flight” presentation at the Colombian National Aviary, not to be missed during your visit.

How to Get to the Cartagena Aviary?

Transportation to the Cartagena Aviary is not the easiest, but it’s not really that hard either.  You have a few options for how to get to the Cartagena Aviary.  See the 3 main options below.

Option 1:  Go with a Tour

Most tour agencies operating in Cartagena have tours that include transportation and admission to the aviary.  We asked around and could not find any that included just the aviary.  They all included a visit to the aviary in the morning and lunch and a couple hours at Playa Blanca in the afternoon.

This day trip to the aviary and Playa Blanca can be arranged with tour agents in the street in Cartagena or by contacting tour agencies directly.  They should cost in the neighborhood of 120,000-150,000 pesos.  You may be able to negotiate a bit there, but that gives you an idea of where to start.

Tours that can be booked online:

You can also arrange and pay for tours before hand online through Viator, although they are likely to be more expensive than what you can get once in Cartagena.  Here are 3 options:

Option 2:  Take the Bus+Collective Taxi or Motorcycle Taxi (cheapest)

This is the budget way of getting to the Cartagena Aviary.  While it takes a bit longer, it’s certainly the cheapest.  You have to first arrive to the town of Pasacaballos south of Cartagena before getting transportation to the aviary.

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Take the Pasacaballos bus.
    • You’ll see the name at the top of the windshield.
    • You can get it where you will see buses stop around the curve just across from the wall at the entrance of the Centro across from the India Catalina.  It can also be picked up along the waterfront in Cabrero.
    • Cost is 2,500 pesos (July 2019)
    • It should take approximately an hour depending on traffic and how many people are getting on and off.  You’ll go by the industrial area of Cartagena before arriving in town.
  • Take a collective taxi (colectivo) or mototaxi to the aviary.
    • You can get them a couple blocks past the main plaza in Pasacaballos.  If in doubt, ask the sparing (the guy who collects the money) to let you know where to get out.
    • colectivo should cost 8,000 pesos and will take 4 people.  They actually charged us 10,000 each to take the two of us alone, which we were fine with.
    • A mototaxi should cost 10,000 pesos.
    • Arrange the time they should come back and pick you up (get their number if you can call or whatsapp them).

You can also get the Pasacaballos bus in Ceballos, a crossroads near the neighborhood of Bosque.  The Transcaribe X102 bus passes by Ceballos and can be gotten at the Centro Uno and Bazurto stations.  There are also collective taxis from Ceballos to Pasacaballos.

Option 3:  Hire a Taxi

The official fare for a taxi from Centro to Playa Blanca (just after the aviary) is 81,000 pesos one way.  Expect taxis to want to charge 80-100,000, although you may be able to negotiate.

The best approach would be to negotiate a taxi to take you, wait for you while you visit, and bring you back.  The official rate for waiting is 27,000 pesos an hour.  It’ll take 2-3 hours to see the aviary.  Based on that, I’d shoot for something in the neighborhood 250-300,000 pesos.

That actually compares quite favorably to the private tour above if you can do without a bilingual guide, and if you’re going in a group of 3 or 4, it’s a better deal than the larger tours as well.

Photo of a bird with yellow and black feathers at the Cartagena bird zoo.
See below entry fee and other info to plan your visit to the National Aviary in Cartagena.

Visitor Information

Cost of Admission to the Cartagena Aviary (last updated July 2019):

  • Colombian Nationals and Residents:  40,000 pesos
  • Colombian National Students and Children Under 12:  35,000 pesos
  • Foreign Nationals:  60,000 pesos
  • Foreign National Students and Children:  50,000 pesos

Cartagena Aviary Hours of Operation:

  • Open 7 days a week
  • 9 am-5 pm (last tickets sold at 4 pm)
  • Birds in Flight Show Times:  11:30 am and 3:30 pm

Confirm latest prices and hours at the Cartagena Aviary website.

Tips and Recommendations for Visiting the Cartagena Aviary

  • Our friend that works at the aviary tipped us off that it’s best to go in the morning.  The birds are less active in the hotter afternoon.
  • The mosquitos were bad in some areas, but there is a sign asking you not to put on bug spray so as not to hurt the birds.  Pants or looking into repellents that are not harmful to animals may be a good idea.
  • Estimated time: 2-3 hours.
  • Be sure you have your return transportation arranged.  It may be possible to find mototaxis on the road, but best not to count on it.
  • Bring along water, as it does get very hot.
  • There are 2 small cafeterias that sell drinks, snacks, and ice cream.  There is also a restaurant (chicken, go figure) that is open only on weekends.
Photo of a blue and yellow macaw at the Cartagena Aviario
Hope this helped you plan your visit to the Cartagena Aviary.

There you have it, a complete guide to visiting the Colombian National Aviary outside of Cartagena.  I highly encourage you to find the time to visit.  If you do decide to go, I hope this guide helped you plan your trip, and I’d love to hear how you liked it in the comments below.

Cheers and Happy Exploring!

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