The Black Swans of Tenerife in a water garden in Puerto de la Cruz
The attraction of water gardens and ponds
Water gardens hold a special fascination for me that must go back to my childhood days when I used to love searching for newts and frogs and other aquatic life in local ponds. Not a lot has changed apart from now I don't come home with my "wellies" full of muddy water and have my mum shout at me!
Now I am living in Tenerife in the Canary islands the attraction of ponds still works on me but I would never have expected to find large ponds and lily pools at the top of a hill. This is where I found some though!
Water gardens photos
Black swans surprise me in a park on a hill
At the top of Parque Taoro, which is on a hilly part of Puerto de la Cruz and looks down over it to the sea, is located El Jardín Aquático Risco Bello, and it is well worth climbing up through the park to have a look around.
On the way there you will see many shrubs and trees and flowers and I spotted a clump of Shoo-fly an unusual plant with pale purple flowers followed by green bladders, which hold a berry full of seeds. I have grown them back in Britain and was surprised to see them here, but then Tenerife is an island of surprises.
On a wall I saw a wonderful mural of a Guanche man with his dog and on plant holders along the pathways there were Guanche designs on the side panels. Parque Taoro has a stream and waterfalls that look wonderful but the water is dirty and froths with what looks like detergent, which is a shame and spoils an otherwise beautiful location.
No such problems at the aquatic gardens of Risco Bello, which are easily found from the signposts. You enter in through a very green and well-tended garden and pay the lady four Euros admission and then down a winding pathway you soon find the very large lily-ponds.
There is a walkway over the water and a tower you can climb up with a winding staircase, then down below in the pools are masses of water lilies and more fish than I have ever seen in one go. There were thousands of what looked like little mosquito fish and I could also see large numbers of much bigger fish that I thought were carp lurking just below the surface.
All manner of exotic trees and shrubs grow in borders around the ponds and from how lush and green the leaves and plants are you can see that everything gets a regular watering there. I spotted a huge mass of the weird Air Carnation, growing in a clump on a dead tree trunk and hanging down all over its sides.
This strange plant is a bromeliad, which is a relative of the pineapple and gets all its food from the air by absorbing moisture and sunlight. It is often sold by flower-sellers and you can see it growing hanging on balconies and from walls in many places in the North.
At the edge of one pond is a massive clump of what are usually called bulrushes but really should be known as reed mace. It is a plant I never thought I would see in Tenerife and was another very welcome surprise.
In the middle of the ornamental pool where the bulrushes grow there is a little island where all the ducks live. I was watching from the opposite bank and a whole group of them came over to see me. Sadly I had no food to share with them but I said hello and took some photos of the friendly birds.
Following the ducks came a pair of black swans and they were some of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen and another wonderful surprise. I had never seen a swan this colour before apart from in pictures and on TV.
As well as the ducks and the black swans I saw a Moorhen, a water bird, distinctive with its red beak, that is very common in Britain but must admit I didn't know they were found in Tenerife as well. In Cardiff where I used to live you can sometimes see this relative of the Coot on the castle moat and canal and even wandering about in the civic centre early in the morning before all the traffic.
I had arrived rather late in the day and the lady in charge had told me they were closing soon so I didn't get to spend as long as I would have liked. But no problem, because I could happily spend all day at El Jardín Aquático Risco Bello so I will have to be making a return visit to the only water garden I know of at the top of a hill.
Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun
Parque Taoro, Tenerife
© 2008 Steve Andrews