Located in Escuintla and just a one and a half hour drive from either Guatemala city or Antigua Guatemala, Autosafari Chapin is a great day trip for families and animal lovers. Weather you are visiting or live there, this is definitely one of the best things to do with kids in Guatemala.
What sets Autosafari apart from other zoos is that the animals roam freely in large enclosures through which you can drive. You get the feeling that you are entering that animal’s world and really getting a sneak peak into their lives. Although the enclosures are big enough for the animals to interact with each other in what feels as a natural environment, each enclosure is long but not too wide so the animals are never far away from the car as you drive. Getting close to nature was never this easy!
As I child I remember going to Autosafari Chapin a few times, specially when we where on our way to the beach (it’s a great side trip if you are headed to Monterrico or any other beach in Guatemala’s Pacific Coast). I love animals and I had fond memories of visiting Autosafari Chapin with my family, my favorite memory was holding a baby jaguar at the park when a was about 12 years old. Now where else do you get to do that?
We took the kids to the Autosafari Chapin for the first time on our recent trip to Guatemala and they where so excited to see all the animals, from african species including hippos, ostriches and lions to local species like white tail deer and spider monkeys. In most of the enclosures you can drive with the windows down, except for those enclosures where there are dangerous animals like the hippo enclosure and the lion enclosure among others.
The highlight of our visit was feeding the giraffes. For less than US $2 you receive a bunch of long branches and you can feed the giraffes right from your car. You just open your window and stick out the branch and the giraffes will take them right from your hand. After going through all of the enclosures in our car we came back with the park’s manager as I wanted to take some picture of the kids as they fed the giraffes and to do that I could not be inside the car. All of us ended up riding in the back of one of the park’s pick up trucks and feeding the giraffes from there, I was amazed at how close the giraffes where and at how incredible huge them are. As I stood next to the pick up taking pictures one of the park’s staff members kept the giraffes at a safe distance from me as a kick from their 7 foot legs would have certainly done some serious harm.
It was truly and amazing experience and both of my kids where thrilled to be surrounded by giraffes that where coming from every direction and to be able to get so close to them.
We where able to capture great photos of the animals right from the car and the ride in our own car was comfortable and cool, unlike the weather outside, which was hot and muggy even in December. I was pleasantly surprised to see the zoo in great conditions, the animals looked happy and in great health. We where able to see many animals and some of our favorites where the hippos, there was a baby hippo that was super cute and we got the see them from pretty close. We loved having to stop for white tail deer or spider monkeys to cross the road in front of the car and getting so close to the lions, who where resting just a couple of meters away from the road was really exciting.
We also watched as a deer heard jumped over a stream. It really felt like you where out on a safari as the roads although in great condition are dirt roads and sometimes you even have to cross a little stream, which my 7 year old thought was really cool.
About halfway through the drive through the animal enclosures there was a rest stop where you could buy refreshments and climb up observations areas to look at the giraffes. There where also bathrooms and a playground. We let the kids burn some energy on the playground before heading back to the car. Once you are done with the drive through section of the zoo you arrive at a parking lot and can continue with the pedestrian part of the zoo where you will find local species of mammals, birds and reptiles. The vegetation was well taken care of and you really felt like you where in the jungle or an African savanna as the gardens where not well manicured but had more of a natural and wild look without being overgrown or out of control. In this area you will also find the restaurant and the dock where you can take a boat ride around the small lake and watch the capuchin and spier monkeys that inhabit the small islands.
Things To Consider
- The restaurant offers hamburgers, hot dogs, carne adobada and other simple and quick options. The food could be better but we where not there for the food. Next time I would pack sandwiches and snacks for the kids and skip the restaurant all together.
- It is hot in Escuintla even in December and January so bring lots of sunblock, a hat and mosquito repellent!
- Give yourself at least 3 or 4 hours to see everything.
For more information and rates you can visit the Autosafari Chapin website, like Autosafari Chapin on Facebook and follow Autosafari Chapin on Twitter.