If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the urban throng, jump in a mototaxi and take the short ride to the expansive grounds of the Natura Viva recreation complex. Located alongside the Rio Ahuashiyaca, about 15 minutes outside of town, Natura Viva is well worth the S/.5 entrance fee.
Health freaks can do laps in the semi-Olympic pool or play football on one of Tarapoto’s best pitches. If you’re feeling lazy, pull up a table by the recreational pool, order a big plate of regional whatever and knock back a couple of ice-cold beers. And that’s just for starters; there are plenty of little side attractions tucked away on the grounds of Natura Viva.
The recreational pool (above) is the heart and soul of Natura Viva, at least for families with splash-happy kids. The restaurant is just off to the right and there is a fairly well-equipped playground to the left.
If for some peculiar reason you enjoy swimming endlessly up and down in unobstructed straight lines, sneak off to the semi-Olympic swimming pool. It’s also a good place to swim if you want to get away from screaming children. Bear in mind that you will now be at some distance from the bar.
Across from the Olympic pool is the Natura Viva planta de producción, a small plant where Natura Viva bottles its own water. I had a little snoop around before the administrator spotted me, at which point he very kindly gave me a short guided tour. The water gurgles up from a spring near the building, from where it is collected, treated then bottled. I’m not much of a water connoisseur, but it tasted pretty good to me.
Lounging around by the pool is an energy-sapping activity, so at some point you’ll probably need some food. Overall, I’d give the food at Natura Viva 7 out of 10. I’m easily pleased when it comes to food, I have to admit – give me a slab of pork and some patacones and I’m a happy man (S/.12). The menu features a good selection of regional dishes – vegetarians don’t have much to choose from, but the salad is immense.
Take a left as you walk into Natura Viva and you’ll find the botanical garden and miniature zoo. I’m not a fan of seeing incredible creatures in cages, so my fascination was tinged with sadness when I saw these beasts and birdies. Pictured above is Simba the tigrillo, a healthy looking specimen who appears to be well cared for despite his confined lifestyle. You’ll also find a plethora of parrots, two capuchin monkeys named Martin and Pipo, a woolly monkey called Jaimito and a lluicho puma by the name of Panterita.
A lot of work has gone into the creation of Natura Viva, and the results are more than evident. While some Tarapoto recreos are a bit rough around the edges, the Natura Viva complex is well maintained and has enough things to see and do to keep you occupied for a good few hours. Recommended.