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Santiago Zoo

Santiago Zoo 2328.747'N ~ 109 42.748'W

Elevation: 120 mWeather: 31°C, Wind N at 14 km/h, 52% Humidity
Local time: Wednesday 2:27 PM
Population: 752 (2010)
For those traveling Highway 1, it can be easy to pass by the small rural town of Santiago unless you are looking to find it. If you head south on Highway 1 from Los Barriles 15 miles (24km), then veer west (right) just about a half mile (2 km.), you will find yourself rolling right into the town square area of this quaint, if not frozen in time, village.

Like Todos Santos on the Pacific side, Santiago is almost directly on top of the Tropic of Cancer. If you park your vehicle in the town square, you can explore the town, which seems to have an oasis feel as it is set somewhat in the middle of nowhere.
Santiago was founded in 1721 by Italian Jesuit Ignacio María Nápoli and was known as the Mission Santiago de los Coras. The mission took part of its name from the "Coras," the native people of the region. Because it was the scene of fierce Indian wars and fighting, Santiago lay virtually abandoned until the 1800s. Now the town economy and survival revolves primarily around agriculture. The lush gardens and crops of citrus, mango, aloe vera, eucalyptus, pear, plum, avocado and other native plants are what keeps this small town afloat.

Aside from the rich and delicious natural crops and gardens that are sure to entice the senses, there are other sights to take in if you find yourself in Santiago. The Santiago Zoo is a nice place to relax and explore. It just so happens to be the only zoo in Baja California Sur. The zoo is free and open to the public. Since there are very few forms of entertainment for children living in Santiago, you will notice much of the actual caretaking and work at the zoo is done by the children who live in Santiago.

While the actual environment and conditions under which the animals are kept may be rudimentary and unsatisfactory for some, the community’s heart is in the right place. The zoo just suffers from lack of adequate resources and funding to give the animals a better life and atmosphere than they currently have. Those who care for the animals hope more visitors who appreciate the idea and opportunity to see the animals will donate money to provide what is so badly needed. Donations are the only source of funding for the zoo.

Despite the less than ideal conditions, there are quite a few impressive animals for visitors to observe. One draw is the rattlesnake pit. There are a few monkeys, mountain lions, deer, coyotes, leopards, a tiger and even a lion. There are also plenty of local specimens such as possums, rabbits, raccoons, geckos, iguanas, salamanders and ground hogs. Those who
appreciate exotic birds will enjoy observing the spectacular peacocks, parrots, ostriches, eagles, falcons and hawks at the zoo.

After a visit to the zoo, an 8 km journey south will take travelers to the hot springs. Just outside of Santiago, there is also a fossil museum. Visitors are often surprised to see the whale bone fossils and other sea life fossils at the top of the mountain, proving the area was once under the sea millions of years ago.

Santiago is a small surprise and a hop away from the ordinary tourist resorts and attractions dotted along Highway 1. The zoo, small shops in the town square, hot springs and fossil museum make it worth the detour whether for a day or afternoon picnic surrounded by the sweet smells of the native flora.

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