Mismaloya is known for the famous Barceló La Jolla de Mismaloya, but the area which could arguably be one of the most beautiful in all of Mexico with its lush mountains that drop down into turquoise oceans has another jewel, the zoo.
Feeding Time at the Zoo –
Feeding a pink flamingo is not your every day event, unless you happen to be at the Puerto Vallarta zoo. Located in a jungled canyon behind Mismaloya, the south-of-Vallarta fishing village made famous as the site for the filming of Night of the Iguana back in the 1960s (we’ll get to that in a later post), the Zoologica de Vallarta is a surprisingly large and well-organized facility with plenty of animals to entertain you and the kids. And there are, along with the usual suspects—lions, tigers, monkeys, hippos, and bears—plenty of critters, especially birds, native to the area. So along with your basic animal buzz, a trip here offers a chance to meet some of the four-footed and/or winged locals who were here long before us.
And to feed them. Up north of the border, fear of litigation and/or some (possibly) misguided notion of nutri-political correctness has made feeding zoo animals a rare thing. Not in Mexico. Here, at the Puerto Vallarta Zoo, you can buy nutritionally balanced treats—carrots, healthy crackers, vitamin-enhanced pellets for the birds—and feed not only flamingos but goats, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, who twist their heads sideways, open their big ugly mouths, and display teeth with serious need of cleaning, waiting for the carrot to arrive. Possibly most exciting or frightening of all to feed are the emus and ostriches. These two species of birds are large, imposing, and ugly as hell, with big beaks and long, muscular necks with which to drive those beaks into your hand.
Or so it would seem. But no, they peck carefully, jackhammering with finesse as they precisely pluck the treats from your palm. The flamingos, too, might be scary, as those big, hooked black beaks come swooping in for a landing in your hand, except that they turn their beaks and arrive at an angle, scooping up the bird pellets with the side of the beak, and in doing so revealing the unusual serrated edges of their beaks.
On a recent field trip my daughter and her sixth grade class, and some other folks, had a chance to feed the critters. It was a little intimidating at times, but loads of fun. It’s springtime, which is the season of love among the animals. At the zoo, this was most evident among the birds, especially the peacocks. There are a number of them at the zoo, the boys were doing their splendid best to impress the girls with their over-the-top displays.
Mismaloya and the zoo lie 15 minutes south of Old Town Vallarta off Hwy 200, the coastal road. Entrance to the zoo is $10 US, $5 for kids under 12, and well worth it. It’s open 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm. And if you go be sure and buy some treats for the animals. Hand feeding a giraffe is loads of fun.
A word of warning: like many zoos, this one has a number of undersized cages and enclosures for some very large animals, which can be upsetting.
Justin Henderson is the author of nine books on architecture and interior design, travel guides to Costa Rica, Los Angeles, and the Caribbean, and seven murder mysteries featuring amateur sleuth Lucy Ripken. His surfing style is much like his writing, playful, smooth and easy on the eyes.