The Reserva Ecológica is a strange and wonderful place, a fragment of wild and watery grassland stretching for 2km alongside the Costanera. Having self-seeded with grassland after the landfill project was abandoned in 1984, the reserve offers a juxtaposition of urban and natural scenes, whether factory chimneys glimpsed through fronds of pampas or the city skyline over a lake populated by ducks and herons.
Just outside the reserve, it’s worth pausing to see the flamboyant Fuente de las Nereidas, a large and elaborate marble fountain created by Tucumán sculptress Lola Mora in 1902. The fountain depicts a naked Venus perched coquettishly on the edge of a shell supported by two straining sea nymphs. The fountain was originally destined for the Plaza de Mayo, but its seductive display was thought too risqué to be in such proximity to the cathedral.
Inside the reserve, near the entrance, the visitors’ centre displays panels explaining the park’s development and serves as the starting point for ranger-guided walks along the park’s many trails (Sat & Sun 10.30am & 3.30pm). Full-moon nocturnal tours (weather permitting; dates are listed on the website) allow you to spot all manner of creatures, mainly birds, that keep a low daytime profile. There is a surprising diversity of flora and fauna in the park, with over two hundred species of birds visiting during the year. Aquatic species include ducks, herons, elegant black-necked swans, skittish coots, the common gallinule and the snail hawk, a bird of prey that uses its hooked beak to pluck freshwater snails out of their shells. The park is also home to small mammals, such as the easily spotted coypu, an aquatic rodent, and reptiles such as monitor lizards. The reserve’s vegetation includes the bright red ceibo, but the most dominant plant is the cortadera, or pampas grass.