Eco-Lite: Birds Of Eden, South Africa


This is the most amazing walk-in aviary I have ever seen, I can’t even find the words to describe it!  Heaven on earth doesn’t do it justice.  I could have easily moved in here and pitched a tent!  Hundreds of birds fly freely in this man-made rainforest environment free from predators and fear of any kind.  What struck me most was how well the various species get along and I watched in amazement as turacos and conures shared fruit side by side.

The unique two hectare dome (the World’s largest) spans over a gorge of indigenous forest. The sanctuary has its own mysterious ruin, which incorporates a walk-behind waterfall. Another feature is its amphitheatre, which has the ability to seat over 200 visitors. Like Monkeyland, the popular primate sanctuary next-door, Birds of Eden boasts its own canopy walk, while shorter than the 128m bridge at Monkeyland, it hangs above the clouds. The decision to develop Birds of Eden stems from the need to create a safe environment in which to release a large collection of free-flight African birds, miniature monkeys and the sanctuary also enables bird owners to apply to release their pet birds into the sanctuary, after undergoing rehabilitation.

Birds of Eden can be reached by car from either Cape Town (long drive) or Port Elizabeth.  You can get to South Africa using airline miles.


1. The area of the bird park is 2,3 hectare (23,000sq meters).

2. The structure comprises 27 masts of varying heights, between 34 meters and 2 meters.

3. While the tallest mast is only 34 meters high, the highest point of the dome above the ground is
50m as the canyon breaks away.

4. The masts are linked by a series of cables which are anchored to specially constructed
underground “plugs”, there are several 100 kilometres of cable used to create a grid of cable onto which, the bird mesh will rest.

5. The bird mesh has an area of 3,2 hectares and weighs 80 tonnes.

6 The sanctuary is the biggest single free flight aviary in the World.

7. Birds of Eden opened the 15th of December 2005 and can be contacted on

8. There are several special features about Birds of Eden;

• There is a walk behind waterfall

• The birds are in free flight – there are no cages.

• There is an amphitheatre, which can seat 200 people.

• The sanctuary is wheelchair friendly.

• There are 1,2kms of walkways of which 900m is elevated.

• 70% of the area of the dome encapsulates pristine indigenous forest.

• The main dam is bustling with koi fish.

• Birds of Eden incorporates several dams, the largest has an island lunch-deck with plenty of seating – light meals are served here.

• The snack bar and restaurant in Birds of Eden are both outsourced and comprises of 4 options for seating,

1) in the forest at the snack bar,
2) outside the forest near the snack bar
3) On the lunch-deck at the main dam
4) on the bank of the main dam.

• There are approximately 3,000 birds in the aviary, comprising over 220 species, note that these numbers increase constantly.

• The masts is made of wire mesh. It is painted green for a more natural ‘look’. 10 tons of paint (10,000 litres) was required to complete this paint job.

• The river running over the waterfall and through the length of the bird park (200m) is pumped back in a closed system. There is therefore no pollution of any water sources in the sanctuary.

For more information about Birds of Eden and details on how to get there, please visit their website.

* Originally published on our parent website Feathered And Free.

Join me on a wander through the magnificent Birds of Eden and enjoy my photos of these wonderful birds!

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Do plan on having a meal here but don’t be surprised if the birds invite themselves to your lunch!  It’s all part of the fun!

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Eco-Lite: Wild Parrots In Brooklyn, New York


Eco-tourism in New York?  Even an eco-lite mini trip?  You may be surprised that a colony of immigrant Quaker Parrots (originally from Brazil and Argentina) are thriving in Brooklyn, New York!  So whether you live in New York or are just passing through and have some time to spare, why not connect with these intelligent, playful little parrots?


New York has 3 major airports and you can get there on any major airline alliance.  Going on the basis that anyone who is interested in this excursion is already in New York, I am going to concentrate on how to get there on public transport.  If you can be there on the first Saturday of a month, you can join the Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari run by Brooklyn Parrots.  Otherwise, you can just get to Brooklyn College.

Brooklyn College is easy to get to via public transportation. From Manhattan, take the Number 2 (7th Avenue IRT) southbound express to the end of the line. Walk one block Southwest on Hillel Street past Starbucks, and look for the main Brooklyn College gate.

The tour begins at the entrance at 11:00 AM sharp. Please give yourself extra time because the MTA is doing construction on their lines during weekends. Driving instructions are at Brooklyn College’s main Web site. Parking is easy to come by in the neighborhood. NOTE: the entrance to Brooklyn College has relocated due to construction. The new temporary entrance is a few steps to the north along Campus Road – we’ll meet there.




If you are doing the tour, it probably lasts a couple of hours.  This is a good amount of time to spend even if you go on your own.  The parrots can be easily spotted in the lights around the football field.  According to Brooklyn Parrots, you need photo ID to enter the campus.


There is some controversy with the parrots’ presence in Brooklyn.  They are not native to the area, they are immigrants and not by their choice.  Brooklyn Parrots and  History detectives suggests they have been there since the early 60’s.  Even Oprah (or at least one of her bloggers) has taken an interest in them!   The value to conservation here isn’t the traditional financial support by purchasing a ticket or reading scientific descriptions in a well-laid out zoo.  The value is in taking the opportunity to see a species of bird that you normally would have to travel 1000’s of miles to see, observing their behaviour, watching them nesting and just appreciating them for the wonderful little creatures they are!  There are occasional campaigns to kill them usually by power companies so once you learn to appreciate them, you will be more likely to defend them when they are in danger.  Some power companies have stopped killing them.  They aren’t hurting anyone and have earned their right to live!


There is no shortage of hotels in New York and virtually all chain hotels have many properties although not necessarily in Brooklyn.  I did a search on to find locations that are less than 5 miles from Brooklyn College, even though I know full well that most people visiting New York will be staying in Manhattan.  Honestly, that’s what I would be doing as it’s easy to commute to Brooklyn by subway.  Just in case someone might be going for an event at Brooklyn College, here’s a few I found.


5 Properties in Brooklyn ranging from 32000-36000.


Comfort Inn, Brooklyn Cruise Terminal – 25000 points.

Union Hotel – 25000 points.


HIX Brooklyn – 25000 points

HIX Brooklyn Downtown – 20000 points.

Indigo Brooklyn – 40000 points.


Fairfield Inn & Suites Brooklyn – 40000 points.


I took these photos back in 2007 when I was there with a P&S.  It shows how they build nests in the lights of the football field.  There are MUCH better photos on Brooklyn Parrots blog.

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Eco-Lite: Emilio Goeldi Museum and Zoo, Belem

Welcome to our next Eco-Lite Mini-Trip which features the Emilio Goeldi Museum and Zoo in Belem, Brazil.  You may find yourself in Belem before or after a visit to the Amazon region and this is a great place to spend a morning getting to see some gorgeous birds close up and be better prepared to identify them in the wild.


Their website is in Portuguese and I didn’t like the way Google Translate was handling it so I grabbed some information off Wikipedia.

The Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi is a Brazilian research institution and museum located in the city of Belém, state of Pará. It was founded in 1866 by Domingos Soares Ferreira Penna as the Pará Museum of Natural History and Ethnography, and was later named in honor of Swiss naturalist Émil August Goeldi, who reorganized the institution and was its director from 1894 to 1905. It is open to the public from 9:00 to 17:00 h, daily except Mondays.

The institution has the mission of researching, cataloging and analyzing the biological and sociocultural diversity of the Amazon Basin, contributing to its cultural memory and its regional development. It has also the aim of increasing public awareness of science in the Amazon by means of its museums, botanical garden, zoological park, etc.

The Museum maintains a scientific research station in the high Amazon forest (Estação Científica Ferreira Penna), which was inaugurated in 1993, with 330 km² in the Caxiuanã National Forest, municipality of Melgaço, Pará.


It’s pretty much in the middle of Belem.  We were staying at the Crowne Plaza and took a bus but taxis aren’t too expensive.  Figure on $10 from most major hotels.

Location of Emilio Goeldi Museum and Zoo


A bargain R$ 2.00 which is around $1 USD.


We spend several hours in here as I was trying to get better photos of the birds I had seen in the wild.  There are also some Green-wing Macaws free-flying around the grounds.  The aviaries are large and well planted and it’s worth just sitting and relaxing and watching the various birds.  There are several Golden Conures, many of whom were rescued from poachers.  The grounds are beautiful and a pleasure to walk around.


They have several projects going on which you can read about on their website.  The Museum maintains a scientific research station in the high Amazon forest (Estação Científica Ferreira Penna), which was inaugurated in 1993, with 330 km² in the Caxiuanã National Forest, municipality of Melgaço, Pará.



Crowne Plaza Belem – 20,000 points.  We stayed here, it’s a good mid-range property with a good central location.  Breakfast buffet is excellent.  I have seen this hotel on Pointbreaks for 5000 points a couple times so keep checking!

Holiday Inn Express Belem-Ananindeua – Not yet open but I suspect it will be either 10,000 – 15,000 points.  Location is terrible, I would choose the Crowne Plaza anyways.


Hilton Belem – 30,000 points.  Location is excellent, right across the street from Praca Republica which has flocks of wild parrots visiting in the mornings and afternoons.


Radisson Hotel Maiorana Belem – 44,000 points.  Don’t forget that credit card holders get 1 award night free when two or more award nights are booked!  Location is good, central and walking distance to Praca Republica.


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Eco-Lite: Sao Paulo Zoo

Welcome to this week’s Eco-Lite mini-trip, Sao Paulo Zoo!  Brazil is a hotspot for eco-tourism but most people will spend a night or two in Sao Paulo when transferring back and forth between more interesting places such as the Pantanal, Iguacu Falls, the Amazon, the Cerrado, Chapada, Atlantic Rainforest, Cristalino, etc.  Or you may find yourself here on a business trip and have time to spare.  So why not get a close up view of some beautiful Brazilian birds and animals?



Translated from their website which is only in Portuguese:  Few experiences are as significant for adults and children as well as a visit to the Zoo. Appreciate the diversity of fauna creates a powerful bond and universal nature. Approximately 10% of the world population visit a zoo or aquarium each year. Since opening in 1958, the São Paulo Zoo has received over 85 million visitors.

Located in an area of ​​824.529 m² of Atlantic Forest, the park houses the headwaters of the historic stream of Ipiranga, whose waters form a lake that receives copies of birds of various species, and migratory birds. As the lake, the forest shelters native animals living free, forming parallel wonderful wildlife.

Through the display of more than 3,000 animals, represented by species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates, the São Paulo Zoo promotes public awareness of the various forms of life on Earth.


Zoológico de São Paulo
Avenida Miguel Estéfano, 4241
Água Funda – São Paulo – SP – CEP 04301-905
Fone: (11) 5073-0811 / Fax: (11) 5058-0564

For tourists the best way is by taxi if you can afford it or by bus if you are on a budget.  Being a budget traveler, we took the metro to Jabaquara Station, then took their bus direct to the zoo.  When you exit the metro, look for a kiosk selling bus/entry combo tickets.  They take credit cards.

Location Sao Paulo Zoo


FROM 01/01/2013:   Ticket Zoo  (add around R $ 10.00 if you use their bus)

  •      Adults and children over 12 years – R $ 18.00
  •      Children 5 to 12 years – R $ 7.00
  •      Children under 4 years – Free
  •      People with disabilities – Free
  •      Seniors (Over 60 years), students and teachers of the State Public Networks and Municipal Education – £ 9.00 (half price)


It’s quite a large zoo and you could easily spend a day there.  We were there on the last day of our trip before we left to fly home and wanted to have time for shopping so just stayed a couple hours and concentrated on the birds.  They have a full list of animals on their website (in Portuguese).  This zoo is an excellent place to bring children to help them learn more about Brazil’s birds and animals!


Until recently, the Sao Paulo Zoo was involved with the conservation of the rare and endangered Spix’s Macaw but this program has now been transferred up in the state of Bahia.  Here is what their website says about conservation (I used Google Translate).

Conservation of Threatened Animals

Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world, with an approximate area of ​​8.5 million km ² dispute with Indonesia and the title of first place in the world’s biodiversity. It is estimated that Brazil should have around 1.8 million species, but unfortunately only 10% know that. Considering the species that we have identified, according to the Ministry of Environment, 618 animals are listed in a category of threat (critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable) and nine other extinct or extinct in the wild. In the case of vertebrates, it is estimated that 7% of Brazilian species are under some extinction.

The increase in deforestation, fragmentation of our forests and the wildlife trade have very high number of species under severe threat of extinction. It is estimated that soon many may disappear altogether, especially endemic (those species that only live in a small and specific region of the planet). Because of this, the extinction is one of the most dramatic environmental problems of this new century, becoming a priority issue in national and international political agendas, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Guidelines for the Conservation Project and Restoration of Biodiversity in the State of São Paulo (BIOTA / FAPESP). More than ever, we need to know the existing biodiversity, to identify the main factors that threaten and establish priorities for action.

The Zoological Park of São Paulo’s mission is to keep in captivity a collection of live animals from different parts of the world not only for education and recreation of the public, as well as for carrying out scientific research to better understand the animals. The institution now performs work focused on the reproduction of some endangered species, and plays an important role in the conservation of these species, the dissemination of knowledge through scientific papers and conferences and environmental education projects.

The conservation of species in captivity, also called ex-situ, ie outside of the natural environment is one of the strategies to help preserve the animals that are threatened with extinction. Individuals bred in captivity can be released into the wild to increase conservation efforts of the species in its natural environment. Captive populations can reduce the need to remove individuals from nature to serve as pets (pets), and also for purposes of scientific research. These animals can also be placed on display as a strong strategy for educating the public about the need to conserve the species.

You want to help get these animals the sad list of endangered species? So help us take care of them, do not buy animals at fairs or roads – surely they were taken from nature. Report it to the police if you find someone selling them. Go to parks and ecological stations, where there are many animals in the wild and are very easy to be observed, or may know a little about the rich fauna of our Brazil in Sao Paulo Zoo.

Angelica Midori Sugieda – SP ZOO


Sao Paulo is one of the world’s major cities and attracts many business travelers so as you would expect, all major hotel chains are represented here.  You should have no trouble using points from any of your favourite programs such as Priority Club, Club Carlson, Marriott, SPG, Wyndham, Hyatt, Hilton.  If you are just passing through enroute to the great outdoors, I would recommend staying near the airport for convenience.


Although this zoo has a wide range of animals, I was mostly interested in the birds.  I got to see a lot of birds close up that I had seen while birding in the wild.  It’s way more exciting to see wild birds but seeing them close up can help you later identify them in the wild and get familiar with their calls.  These photos will take a while to load so please be patient!

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Eco-Lite: Bali Bird Park More Photos

Yesterday I launched my new series designed to help people find mini-trips to appreciate birds closer to home or on more conventional trips to beach resorts such as Bali.  All the information on Bali Bird Park is in the first post but I took so many photos, I thought I would follow up with more here so I don’t make the informative post harder to load.

When you first enter, you will see lush gardens and several birds on stands or wandering about the park.  They have photographers there if you want to have a photo posing with the birds.









Then you will pass by some large aviaries and habitats featuring various Indonesian birds and a few from Australia.  You can also see some baby Eclectus Parrots that are being handreared.




These birds are from Africa.


IMG_8566 Then you pass through the Birds of Paradise exhibit.



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Next there is a huge walk-in aviary featuring birds from Bali.  You can see the highly endangered Bali Starling here but they are kept separate for their security.  They are in a breeding program trying to increase the numbers.

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Then you will come to a free-flight show that they do around 11am featuring both birds of prey and some dazzling macaws.  This was one of the times my camera was fogging up due to the humidity and intermittant rain.

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Then you will come to the Papua Rainforest Aviary whose photos I featured yesterday.

As you leave Bali Bird Park, you will see a well-stocked gift shop with bird themed paintings, jewelry and knick-knacks.  I bought out the bird bling when we were there but they have probably replenished it by now………they do take credit cards!

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New Series: Eco-Lite Mini-Trips

This new series which can be found under the Ecotourism menu at the top is going to feature places which aren’t a full-on birding or eco-tourism adventure but still offer a quick connection with nature and birds in particular.  I am hoping to make ecotourism a more accessible experience even for people who don’t have the time to venture off into the rainforest.  Some Eco-Lite Mini-Trips will be in exotic locations frequented by “normal” tourists and some will be close to home depending on where you live.   I will try to post a new one every week, starting with the Bali Bird Park tomorrow.  Eco-Lite Mini-Trips will include:

  • Bird parks and zoos with walk-in aviaries that resemble the bird’s native habitats
  • Hotels that have an atrium or similar mini-habitat with birds
  • Parks in large cities that have interesting birdlife
  • Educational exhibits that encourage an interest in conservation


The benefits of these “Eco-Lite” visits are:

  • Allowing a quick connection with nature for the busy professional
  • Providing a place where people can bring young children safely so they may learn about birds and develop an interest to seeing them in the wild when they are older
  • Support conservation projects in the wild with proceeds from ticket and gift shop sales
  • Allow people to see exotic birds up close and personal so they may later be able to identify them more easily in the wild
  • Support breeding projects that are trying to increase the population of endangered species
  • Learn more about bird habits and their status in the wild

Eco-Lite reports will include information about: