Visiting La Senda Verde Animal Refuge
We ended up at La Senda Verde a bit by chance (or destiny) as it’s not very advertised. The only way to book, is by writing an email to the lovely lady who runs this sanctuary, Vicky Ossio. It turned out to be a real highlight of our time in Bolivia, a unique and grounding experience.
La Senda Verde is an animal refuge, or sanctuary, where animals who’ve been mistreated or saved from illegal traffic come to live once they are rescued, as by Bolivian law they cannot be returned to the wild. I believe the word sanctuary perfectly fits this peaceful and secluded slice of jungle, as here animals are taken care of with immense respect and love.
Born by the willingness and vision of Vicky and Marcelo Ossio, who transformed a once eco-resort into a ‘resort’ for animals in need, today is supported mainly by volunteers who live and work there paying a weekly fee and tourists who visit by day or stay at one of the lovely cabins or treehouse. As one of the volunteers we met pointed out, humans are the ones ‘caged’, while animals roam free in kilometers of protected jungle. The effect is truly interesting, as you walk through passages made of net to go from your lovely eco-cabin to the restaurant or other areas, and observe the animals on the other side going about their daily lives.
The accommodations are simple but clean and comfortable and if you book enough in advance you can stay in the tree house, which is one of the favourite spots of spider monkeys, who might came and chill on your balcony (they are very friendly!).
The variety of animals living here resembles the Noah's Ark. There are different type of monkeys, several types of tropical birds, deers, a tapir, a capybara, two bears, snakes, ducks, caimans, turtles and more, for a total of 700 individuals.
Most of these animals have sad background stories, having being rescued from houses were they were chained, hit or mistreated in other ways. Some were being sold illegally or abandoned. We learned from the volunteer that took us on a tour of the refuge, that most of these stories are the result of cultural misconceptions, as in Bolivia, for example, is normal to have a monkey as a pet and there is little understanding of the fact that most of these animals belong to the wild or are endangered. A reality that can only be changed by a work on education, which La Senda Verde promotes with locals and tourists.
Every single cent that you spend during your stay goes towards the functioning of the sanctuary and if you feel like doing more to help you can volunteer for short or long periods, paying a weekly fee which covers for your food and supports the refuge. In both ways, your help is extremely vital and welcomed, given that the refuge is not supported by the government.
We spent two relaxing nights immersed in the jungle, going to sleep at the sounds of animals around us and waking up to find our friend tapir roaming around looking for food. A truly unique and unforgettable experience.