Tours and Activities:
Temaiken, a Very Different ZooBetina BrecialeBetina Breciale
It was only a 35 minutes’ drive from the Federal District. Once in the parking, we were surprised by some huge letters on the grass announcing the name of the place: “Temaikèn”, a word deriving from the Tehuelche voices: “tem”, land, and “aikèn”, life.
As soon as we entered, we had a pleasant feeling. There is a strong reason to feel at ease: there are no cages in this “land of life”. The special areas were designed to manage the welfare of the species, which can move about as if they were in their natural environment. Various kinds of animals co-exist in certain spaces. “This way, we attempt to reproduce what happens in nature”, explains one of the park guides to some Spanish tourists.
In this park, inaugurated in July 2001, everything has been carefully thought so as to manage a respectful interaction between human beings and wildlife. The environment is wild and soft lounge music may be heard in some areas, without altering the balance of the place.
As there are no bars, the proximity between the animals and the audiece acquires new forms, without disregarding safety. For instance, a replica of the cougars cave may be visited in order to watch the felines through a large window. Likewise, we entered a dark underground Patagonian habitat and, behind an acrylic panel, we could discover a skunk, a peludo or a vizcacha as they digged their way through the ground. As we entered the meercats’ burrow, we approached them to an appropriate distance to take a picture of our smiling faces right next to these nice African carnivores.
Four Areas to Tour Around
This park gives shelter only to those animals the Temaikén Foundation has chosen to preserve, many of which are endangered species. This association fosters research and information about wildlife, paying special attention to the preservation of local species.
The park is divided into four large areas: “Africa”, “Asia”, “Local” and “Aquarium”. The first one shelters animals such as flamingoes, pelicans, black bucks, lemurs, hippopotamus and zebras. In the Asian area, tigers, bats and squirrels co-exist.
The region devoted to the Argentinian fauna has two areas: the Mesopotamian, which includes caimans, tapirs, capibara and tortoises; and the Patagonian, which recreates various environments from the Andes Mountain Range to the Atlantic Coast.
The aquarium is, without any doubt, one of the main attractions. As we enter this area, we can see the recreation of a rocky cliff in the Valdés Peninsula that gets deep into the tide area, an environment affected by weather changes. This sector features a close contact with fish and the water.
Our tour continued towards the fresh water area. To one side of the fish tank, visitors may observe the banks of a Mesopotamian river and to the other, its deep waters.
We also had a look at the invertebrates, small species that live at the bottom of the sea, such as octopuses and spider crabs.
As we crossed the tunnel, we accessed the salt water area. The fish tank permits a circular tour. The sea space has a lower and an upper level, whose light is generated from inside the fish tank. The glass roof enabled us to watch sharks and rays swimming a few meters away from our heads, one of the most impressive attractions in the park.
As well, with the purpose of educating and making visitors aware of the environment, Temaikén has two interactive centers, “Live Patagonia” and “The Water Tells Its Story”, a 360º cinema where we saw “The Ark of Life”, a multimedia experience also displayed in English.
Beyond the paint workshops and the green nursery for children, grown-ups may also attend lectures about pets or take part in unusual interactive experiences, such as feeding the bats.
At the end of the afternoon, we had a snack at the Criollo corner, where we combined mate with homemade pastries.
Temaikén keeps so many surprises that it is mandatory to spend an entire day there in order to make the most of it.