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Rurrenabaque, Bolivia


Jungle & Pampas

Rurrenabaque is a small and colorful Amazonian town on the far eastern spur of the Andes. From there you may want to travel north to the savannahs of Pampas del Yacuma where wildlife abounds, or explore to the south, up the Beni river where Pilon Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Madidi National Park are set (both protected areas are only divided by the Beni River).

Madidi National Park protects a full array of ecosystems, from the high Andes to the Amazon basin, a vast wilderness of 4.5 million acres encompassing unparalleled biological diversity.

In any case this trip is not for the faint-hearted! Several hours by 4WD on bumpy roads to the Yacuma river, or by dugout canoe up the Beni and Quiquibey or Tuichi rivers is an adventure in itself and worth the effort for the show begins long before you get to your lodge. Depending on the option chosen the scenery varies and wildlife viewing opportunities are different but always stunning. Guaranteed!

Vegetation heterogeneity forms the basis for the high species richness of the area around “Rurre”. Together with the adjacent Bahuaja Sonene National Park in south-eastern Peru, the area forms a unique protected area system of more than 3.5 million ha and plays an important role in the establishment of biological corridors along the eastern Andean slope in Bolivia.

Adventure at its best

Apart from great wildlife and adventure what makes this place and this trip truly unique is the opportunity to meet the native people and learn about a culture that has called this unique place home for centuries.

A tropical rainforest adventure awaits those seeking excitement. On this four-day trip, you use indigenous, eco-friendly lodges as your home base and explore the heart of Bolivia's pristine rainforest. During your stay, you explore the wildlife, natural history and indigenous culture of the Amazon jungle. Profits generated are invested in conservation and community work.

If you are looking for a jungle experience, Essential Rurrenabaque will enable you to explore some of the best nature and wildlife hotspots in Bolivia combined with breathtaking landscapes around the lively Amazonian town of Rurrenabaque. You will spend three nights at jungle lodges/campsites deep in the savannahs of Pampas del Yacuma, or in the rainforest of Madidi-Pilon Lajas National Park and Biosphere Reserve.

This trip is for adventurous travelers and photographers who are prepared for hot, humid and sometimes rainy weather.

Rurrenabaque is accessible by bus from La Paz (a 20-hour bus ride over bumpy, dusty/muddy roads), although a vast majority of our clients prefer the much shorter plane ride (1 hour).

Unique expeditions, exclusive hotels and tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

Visiting the Amazon Rainforest is probably one of the “must-do’s” on your South American travels, and while most people think of Brazil when planning an Amazon visit, the Amazon basin also extends into Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. Due to Brazil’s expense, and continued deforestation you may consider Bolivia as an excellent alternative. Not only is it cheaper and just as biologically diverse, but there is no risk of malaria in the jungle around Rurrenabaque – the main (though certainly not the only one) starting point for jungle and pampas trips.

Once you have decided on Bolivia for your Amazon adventure the decisions don’t stop there. From Rurrenabaque you have the choice of a trip into the jungle (usually to Madidi National Park) or to the pampas, a wetland savannah area where the chance of seeing animals is much higher as they aren’t hidden amongst trees. Most travelers choose just one trip, but if you have no time limits we encourage you to do both.

Hell, it's hot down here — hot in an ice-cream-one-second-gone-the-next kind of way.

Arguably one of the hottest spots in the Bolivian lowlands (the average annual temperature is 27ºC), Rurrenabaque has earned itself the reputation as the best place to sweat away the days in between drifting off into the surrounding rainforest or pampas to bond with wild nature and anacondas.

The town itself — a network of gridded streets sprawled lazily along the Beni River and backed by lush green hills — sits on the edge of the awesome Madidi National Park.

Madidi is 1.8-million hectares of Amazonian wonders: rainforest, medicinal plants, jaguars, birds and traditional indigenous villages. Ecolodges staffed by local indigenous communities are springing up around here all the time and are one of the most luxurious and eco-friendly ways to immerse yourself in the jungle.

Northeast of Rurrenabaque lies the equally impressive pampas - wetland savannas that are swarming with caimans, pink river dolphins, anacondas and hungry mosquitoes.

Activities for a Tour to the Pampas

The pampas is not a real jungle experience, but the better wildlife-spotting opportunities attract many travelers. Prices vary a lot depending on the quality of accommodation and mostly, the number of people in your group.

From "Rurre" it is a three hour bumpy jeep ride to to Santa Rosa — the launch point for the canoe ride on Rio Yacuma. Then it is another three hours in the canoe to base camp. There are chances to see wildlife such as sloths, monkeys, birds, caimans and river dolphins during this ride. Usually groups will arrive at camp and have a little time to settle in, then go to one of the “sunset bars” to watch the sunset and buy drinks if one chooses.

The next day you will take another canoe ride to a point where your group will go searching through the jungle for local wildlife. It is important to wear long sleeves and long pants for this because there are lots of mosquitoes. The end of the afternoon is usually spent piranha fishing.

The river is narrow so you are likely to get very close to the animals on the banks. No guarantee of course, but you are very likely to see an astounding amount of wildlife: alligators, capybaras (giant semi-aquatic rodents) and turtles sunbathing on logs, plus trees full of tiny squirrel monkeys... There are plenty of birds too – egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, blue kingfishers, eagles and lots of hoatzins (locally known as Serere) – pheasant-like birds with blue faces and spiky hair. That's Nature at its best... and no fences!

The final day will most likely start out with swimming with, which really means in the vicinity of, river dolphins. After lunch there is time for another swim in the river or complementary activities. Then your canoe will head back to the launch point and travelers will take the awful jeep ride back to Rurrenabaque. You should arrive back in the city around 5 or 6 PM.

The pampas tour is a great way to get to view some of the wildlife in the area, and a fun getaway on a fairly cheap budget, although a private tour is substantially more expensive.

Activities for a Tour to the Jungle

Although we can book virtually any accommodation in the area, we are proud supporters of the more upmarket, environmentally-aware jungle lodges such as Chalalán, Serere, Mapajo, San Miguel del Bala among others. Don't you feel good about supporting conservation efforts? This means the staff are paid well all year round and the profits go back into conservation work. Ask us for details.

Tipically our tour to the Jungle is a three hour motorised canoe ride straight from Rurrenabaque, and a 40+ minute walk through the jungle. The Beni River is much wider than the river in the pampas so you are likely to see less wildlife on the way. On another perspective you do see more human life – fishermen is wooden canoes, logging boats and basic riverside camps for nomadic fishing families...

Accommodation is simple but comfortable. The main house is spacious with a large open kitchen, dining area and a chill out area with hammocks overlooking the surrounding rainforest. Your private cabaña has comfortable beds and mosquito netting. Of course electricity or hot water are a real luxury here, but you are in the jungle!

Most of the excursions will be hikes on various trails through the jungle. The guides are very informative and talk about life in the jungle, the types of animals and the medicinal purposes of plants.

Activities may also include canoe rides on the lake or nearby streams – paddling at sunset or at night enables to spot the glowing red eyes of caimans... You may opt for half day or full day walks into the hot and humid rainforest. Honestly, you may you see far less wildlife in the Rainforest than in the Pampas, but you'll certainly enjoy the adventure of being in the jungle and learn about a totally different environment. Of course life forms abound in the rainforest; it's just far more more difficult to spot them, but with a little luck...

Usually after dinner there will be an option to go on a night hike. Don't forget your flashlight. This is a unique experience to allow the senses to experience the jungle in a different way than in daylight and to listen to all the sounds in the night. There is usually an opportunity to make crafts and jewelry out of supplies from the jungle as well as a chance to taste the fruits of the rainforest.

click here to openMadidi National Park

Flowing from the peaks of the Andes to the Amazon River basin, the Madidi-Pilon Lajas Landscape encompasses one of the largest swaths of intact montane forest in the Tropical Andes, as well as humid grasslands and lowland Amazonian rainforest.

Madidi National Park occupies the northern corner of the La Paz department, against the Peruvian border. It is flanked by four other protected areas and an indigenous territory—Pilon Lajas, see below. Madidi is one of Bolivia’s flagship parks, and with a surface of nearly 1,900,000 ha, one of the key components of the Vilcabamba-Amboró Conservation Corridor (VACC), considered the most biologically diverse hotspot on the planet.

Physical description

Madidi is characterized by a wide range of altitudinal variation (nearly 5,500 m, between 5,760 and 180 metres above sea level), topography and climate, which has resulted in diverse plant and animal communities and a high number of endemic species.

Its topography is mainly mountainous, with abrupt relief and deep canyons forming a large number of watersheds, which determines a great variety of ecological zones. The area is located at the meeting point of the Oriental Cordillera, Sub-Andine Cordillera and Oriental Lowlands physiographic provinces.

Biogeographically, it overlaps with the Puna, Humid Montane Cloud Forest, and Humid Madeira Forest subregions (SERNAP, 2001).
The area’s climate is as diverse as its topography, from cold in the Cordillera’s upper reaches to temperate at mid-altitude and warm in the northeastern lowlands. Annual rainfall reaches an astounding 5,000 mm in the Alto Madidi area.


The park’s montane forests are among the most biologically diverse in the world. The local fauna matches this exceptional plant diversity. To the 1,370 vertebrate species registered, experts estimate that future studies should reveal the presence of 600 more (CARE-WCS, 2003).

The park’s high latitudinal range and rugged topography ensures a large variety of habitats, with 1,875 plant species described to date out of an estimated total of 5,000. This is matched by an exceptional animal diversity composed of at least 1,370 vertebrate species, including several dozens of endemics to the protected area. In fact, Madidi N.P. could be the most biodiverse protected area in the world.

Among the 156 reported mammal species, the most remarkable are the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), Andean cat (Oreailurus jacobita), puma (Felis concolor), jaguar (Panthera onca), tiger cat (Felis pardalis), Andean deer (Hippocamelus antisensis), white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus), giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), and a great variety of primates: spider monkey (Ateles paniscus), red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), white-fronted capuchin (Cebus albifrons), black-capped capuchin (Cebus apella), owl monkey (Aotus sp.), squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus boliviensis). In addition to these, a new primate species of the Callicebus genus has been encountered, whose species name (aureipalatii) was recently established through an international online auction to the benefit of the protected area.

With respect to birds, the park harbors such charismatic species as the green-winged macaw (Ara chloroptera), ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant (Anairetes alpinus), cock of the rock (Rupicola peruviana), crested eagle (Oroatus isidori), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyia) and various endangered species such as Grallaria erythrotis, endemic to the region. 867 species have been registered inside the area, but estimations place the total number of bird species living within the park at more than 1,150, which amounts to 83% of the country’s bird diversity.

The numbers are equally eloquent for the other taxonomic groups:

• Amphibians: with 84 registered species and 88 more believed to live inside the park (172 in total), Madidi harbors 85% of the country’s amphibian fauna. More than 30 species are believed to endemic to the area;

• Reptiles: 71 registered species and 109 probable (180 in total), or 70% of Bolivia’s reptile diversity. Many populations of the large-sized species such as the boas, colubrids, caimans and aquatic and terrestrial turtles are placed under heavy hunting pressure (for both subsistence and commercial purposes, including the sale of their skins on the black market);

• Fish: 192 registered species and 104 probable (296 in total), which corresponds to 51% of the country’s ichtyofauna.

The Madidi region is among the areas with highest conservation value in the entire country.

In 1993, consultants contracted by the World Bank designated the Madidi region as one of the nine priority areas for conservation in Bolivia, recognizing it as the country’s most important natural area.

In spite of being one of the country’s flagship areas and to be supported by a constellation of NGOs and cooperation agencies providing financial assistance, human resources, and expertise, the protection corps is only composed of 24 rangers instead of the 60 judged necessary to achieve an adequate protection of the area. Even with the recent arrival of five new park guards with the support of ACCA (Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica) and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the park remains severely understaffed.


Getting there and away

Getting here is an adventure in itself. A couple of Bolivian airlines fly here from La Paz in tiny 18-seat airplanes multiple times daily. Note however that flights are frequently delayed due to bad weather. Ask us for an update of the airlines' schedules.

A bus also links Rurrenabaque with La Paz via Coroico and Caranavi on a back-creaking 20+ hours journey.


Rurrenabaque is located in the western part of Bolivia, north of La Paz.


Through our intimate, small-group tours and private expeditions in this area you will be able to visit sites most tourists, even seasoned travelers, never find.

Join us on a discovery of a lifetime in Rurrenabaque.

Check our selected excursions in this area:


Rurrenabaque - Pampas & Jungle
{ short bolivia excursion - fully customizable }

The following packages also include this area
among other destinations.


La Paz / Sajama & Lauca National Parks / Rurrenabaque / Madidi & Pilon Lajas National Parks / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }


Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / La Paz
{ special itinerary - small group travel }

Feel free to customize any travel package according to your own personal interests and the specific activities you expect...

Join us on one of our Natural History Tours or a Cultural Exploration into the heart of South America. Our programs are offered throughout the year, on a (very) small group basis and mostly in private.

You may also want to make an enquiry or design your own program of activities in this area.

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Call us to help you plan the best active, outdoor exploration to meet your interests, time, budget and abilities. You will be accompanied by expert local guides specializing in each region.

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Speak to a member of our team. We'll answer your questions, provide advice, help you book your Bolivia Trip, and most of all we'll help you customize your tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

You may also check other Special Interest Travel and unusual tours or expeditions around Bolivia, including:

• La Paz, Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca
• Uyuni Salt Flats & Sud Lípez Red & Green Lagoons
• Colonial Cities of Sucre and Potosí
• Central, Inter-Andean Valleys of Cochabamba
• Santa Cruz - the Lowlands & Jesuit Missions
• Bolivian Rainforests & Amazon Basin
• Cuzco & Machu Picchu Extensions

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