Pampas tour in the Amazon of Bolivia – day 1 observing the wildlife
When everything went wrong for me for a week or so in Bolivia and when I went to Sucre just to meet up with my platonic love I was so looking forward to for 9 months (but it never happened in the end), it looked like I was not going to have time to visit Rurrenabaque and jungle. And I was not happy about it as I didn’t go to Brazil this time. Which is why I really wanted to visit the Amazon of Bolivia.
Visiting the Amazon is cheaper in Bolivia than in Brazil.
Then, after visiting Cochabamba, when my trip to Oruro for 2 days got cancelled so I found out I still had 4 days to visit Rurrenabaque and do a 3 day trip in the pampas (wetlands) I dreamed about. Yupiiii!
As the bus trip from La Paz to Rurrenabaque takes from 18 to 24 hours (you never know, many times it takes up to 30 or 40 hours because of the rain, muddy roads or road reconstruction so just be prepared for it), I booked flights with Amaszonas. On the 25th of April 2012, I woke up at 4 am, finished the packing and I took an expensive taxi to the airport which lies in El Alto above the city of La Paz.
I came to the airport at 5 am and my flight at 6.15 am was not on the screen and there was no one at the Amaszonas desk. I got scared the flight was cancelled because of the bad weather, as I heard it happens. But we asked at the information desk and they said to wait. At 5.15 am, the staff came and we did the check in and paid 15 Bolivianos the airport fee (in Bolivia this is like in the Philippines where you have to pay the airport and terminal fees apart from the tickets).
The gate opened at 6 am and we went out to the airplane.
It was the smallest passenger airplane I have ever been on, with just 18 passengers, 2 pilots and no stewardess. The pilots did not even have the door to the flight deck. It was freezing inside the plane, with all the windows frozen, including those of the flight deck. Afte working 2 years as a stewardess on a Boeing 737 – 800 series, it felt so weird on this small plane. To be honest it was a bit scary to take off and fly above all the snow-capped Andes mountains and then after 35 minutes land in Rurrenabaque.
Disclaimer: I became vegan (= not eating any animal products) the year after visiting the pampas in Bolivia and writing this post about it. Sorry for all the meat mentions and photos.
It was so hot and humid in Rurrenabaque that the camera lenses got all wet for a couple of minutes. And the airport was the smallest I have ever seen, with just a small building and toilets outside. The Amaszonas bus took us all to the center of Rurrenabaque for just 6 Bolivianos. Once we picked up our backpacks, we headed off to our travel agency Indigena tours at Avaroa street.
Lovely staff was waiting for us there. We registered for the tour, left our backpacks there (each one with a number so it was impossible for someone else to take your backpack while you were not there) and we went to have a breakfast as we still had an hour before the tour started.
I had some yummy chocolate and mushrooms pastisseries in the French bakery Paris on Avaroa street and fresh orange juice.
After, we all got back to Indigena tours and just outside we saw children in costumes, dancing and singing. It was so cute! At 9 am with our jeeps ready, we left to the unknown adventures in the pampas. We spent some 3 hours in the 4×4 jeep listening to music.
We stopped for toilet in a house of a local family and then got to Santa Rosa where we had lunch. We got delicious soup, then rice with a salad and meat and then bananas for dessert. While we ate, our driver went to pay the entrances for us – it is 150 Bolivianos to enter the pampas which is not included in the prices of the tours.
Then we continued by car a couple of minutes more to the embarkation place at Yacuma river.
Once we got all our stuff and the tour guide Victor secured it all on the boat, we hopped on. It was 6 of us, me, a Spanish girl Margarita, 2 U.S. girls Alice and Talya and and Australian couple Talya and Tom. All nice and funny people!
We spent 3 hours on the boat observing the wildlife. We saw a lot of different birds, from black cormorants, a caracara, a jabiru (the biggest flying bird in the South America, about 1,7 m big) to many paradise birds making a lot of weird noise.
Then male black howler monkeys and cute small yellow monkeys. Pink dolphins were swimming around us from time to time but it was really difficult to take a photo of them. But it was the first time I have ever seen wild dolphins in a river. I loved them!
We also saw a parasite tree and some termite nests.
It was a bit drizzling and then we got to a spot with 2 caimans – from alligator family. It was the territory of those 2 caimans and we all got so excited when we saw them. One of them was just a meter away from us, so cool! It was like in the movies!
Then we got to our ecolodge Indigena tours, settled up in the room and went to the kitchen for some juice and fresh popcorn. Yummy!
After we took the boat again and went to the bar just a few minutes from our ecolodge. There we watched the sunset, guys played football, girls volleyball and everyone had a drink or pringles.
Victor, our guide, explained us there the differences between the caymans, alligator and crocodiles. There are 2 kinds of the caymans in the pampas, the white one we saw (of around 2 metres long) and the black one that can get up to 10 metres long.
The caymans are not aggressive, don’t attack people and you can actually even swim 2 metres next to them. And they have 2 penises 😀 They only live in the South America, while the alligators and the crocodiles are aggressive, and they live in different parts of the world, and they are shorter but their body is wider.
At sunset time all the mosquitoes came so we left back to the ecolodge. I got like hundreds of bites all over my ass and legs, the only place I didn’t put the repellent on. Yes, there are thousands and thousands of mosquitoes, it is true!
At 7 pm it was dinner time. We got yummy risotto with meat, pasta with meat, omelettes, vegetable salads and water.
Then we recharged the batteries until 9 pm when the electricity was switched off as it is ecolodge trying to save electricity and water. Guides got us some candles for those who wanted to keep on drinking and playing cards.
I went to bed and was listening to music and then tried to sleep but it was not easy with all those mosquito bites all over. I didn’t know how to lie down, it was itchy everywhere. Thank God for the mosquito nets around the beds so at least during the night it was safe without more mosquitoes annoying us 🙂
TIP: Check out day 2 of this Pampas trip.
Tips about Amazon of Bolivia:
- bring sunscreen lotion
- strong repellent
- a cream or something to put on the mosquito bites
- waterproof clothes
- water for the first day
- swimming suit
- 1 or 2 towels
- camera, recharged camera batteries
- 2 long pants
- 1 white T-shirt with long sleeves
- shorts and T-shirts without sleeves or with short sleeves for hot days
- sandals/flip flops and sport shoes
- a cap or a hat
My trip to Rurrenabaque pampas was done by Indigena tours. Thanks so much! I really had a great time! I chose Indigena tours because I really had a great time! I chose Indigena tours because they are the first company being certified by US AID for completing standards of quality and ecology during pampas tours.