The Amazon Basin

Bolivia’s relatively untouched, sparsely-populated Amazon Basin, which includes the northeastern rainforest of the Beni and Pando departments, is a uniquely pristine area of jungle abounding with wildlife. Home to some of the planet’s highest biodiversity rates, you will likely be awed by the intense beauty as you canoe down
tributaries of the mighty Amazon River and wander through the steamy, bug-infested tangles of jungle. Intrepid travelers looking for a more off-the-beaten path Amazon experience will find the same vast array of wildlife and plant species as that in the Brazilian rainforest without much of the destruction caused by Brazil’s slash-and-burn agricultural and logging methods. This is not true for all areas, however, as some Bolivians have increasingly adopted these same destructive practices, leading to more deforestation.

However, a growing ecotourism industry in the region has helped counter this trend. Some impressive eco-lodges have spurred up in the area such as Parque Nacional Madidi´s Chalalán, allowing travelers to visit this area in a more sustainable way, and the development of numerous national parks like the awe-inspiring Noel Kempff Mercado and Madidi make for a memorable exploration of some of the Amazon’s most remote areas. Consisting of low jungle, swampland and dense rainforest, these parks protect the abundunt wildlife as well as the various indigenous groups such as the Yuracares, Chiriguanos, Chiquitanos and Garavos.

Despite its remoteness, the Amazon Basin is gradually becoming easier to access—some parts more than others—although travel is very much dependent upon the season (during the rainy season from mid-December through March, many roads and air strips are impassable). The closest entry point to the Amazon is Rurrenabaque (often referred to simply as “Rurre” by locals), Bolivia’s most visited Amazonian settlement, which has regular air and bus services from La Paz. The town itself is also a tourist hotspot, where people tend to stay longer than planned. It serves as a popular base from which to take river trips into other parts of the jungle and from where to take day hikes into the rainforest. Since most tourist services are close at hand in Rurrenabaque, this is a comfortable way to visit the Amazon. Keep in mind that to really see the flora and fauna of the Bolivian Amazon, you’ll want to allow at least three days, and make sure to bring plenty of insect repellant.

Although Rurrenabaque is the most popular starting point for jungle trips, you can also fly to one of the other towns in the Amazon Basin, which are served by flights from La Paz. These include Trinidad, Reyes, San Borja, Santa Ana de Yacuma, San Joaquín, Magdalena, Guayaremín and Riberalta. The latter three are also posts from where you can cross into Brazil.