Águas Claras Ecological Park (Parque Ecológico de Águas Claras), Brasília

A group of curious apes in Águas Claras Ecological Park

photography by: Omri Westmark

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In a city best known for its unusual urban layout and modern architecture, it is often easy to overlook the scores of hidden gems which lie unassumingly alongside world-famous monuments. Tucked away in one of Brasília’s satellite cities, Águas Claras Ecological Park is a speck of wilderness, surrounded completely by mountains of concrete. With wooded trails, water streams and plenty of wildlife, the park offers a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of the Brazilian capital.

Brazil’s pre-planned capital might be synonymous with its pilot-shaped master plan, yet the bulk of its population lives across dozens of shanty towns and suburbs around the city’s modernist core. Roughly 10 kilometers east of Brasília’s commercial center, Águas Claras was founded as recently as the early 1990’s. With no architectural masterpieces to awe at, the city is uninspiring at best, yet what it lacks in monumental buildings, it more than makes up for in nature conservation.

 

Entirely engulfed by the city’s newly-built vertical neighborhoods, Águas Claras Ecological Park was created in 2000 as a natural enclave which offers a glimpse of the region’s abundant wildlife. In spite of its urban context, the park, whose area is more than 95 hectares, serves as a habitat for myriads of animals, including multiple bird species, armadillos and apes, just to name a few.


Covered by a well-preserved forest, an expansive lawn with sports courts as well as a pair of small lakes, the verdant sanctuary is crisscrossed by a series of walkways, where visitors can have a close encounter with some of the park’s non-human inhabitants. In fact, the wooded areas along the narrow creeks are teeming with dozens, if not, hundreds of black-tufted marmosets. Typically perching on small branches, the pygmy monkeys are known as attention-seeking critters who relentlessly beg passersby for a scrumptious treat.

 

As strollers wander throughout the park, they will come across two types of mega structures, on the one hand, the nondescript residential towers of Águas Claras, and on the other hand, human-sized termite mounds, each of which is home to up to a million individual insects. To make things even better, the nearby metro station makes this piece of urban nature easily accessible from downtown Brasília.