It’s been about five months since I went to the Bolivian Amazon and I just never got around to writing about it, even though it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I think this is because I wasn’t sure if I could write about it in a way that would do it justice. Well, I’ve decided it doesn’t matter anymore and I’m going to do it anyway.
The main form of transport in the town of Rurrenabaque is motorbikes, with motortaxis being the most popular way of getting around
When I arrived in Bolivia all those months ago I was surprised to find out that I could go to the jungle. Like many others, I had a misconception about Bolivia: I thought it was going to be all mountains and altiplano with very little variation. I thought that I would have to wait until I got to Peru before seeing the Amazon. For many travellers, when they consider a trip to the Amazon the immediate options that come up are Brazil, Peru, and Colombia, while Bolivia often gets overlooked. Yes, this is partly because it doesn’t have quite so much jungle, but it’s also because of a lack of promotion. Bolivia is huffing and puffing a long way behind its richer and better-known neighbours in the tourism race.
A farmer out patrolling his land
That’s why I’ve decided to list 3 reasons why the Bolivian Amazon deserves some love:
This one technically comes down to personal choice, as there are two ways to get to Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Amazon. The best place to start is from La Paz, and from there you can either take a bus or a plane. Now, as much as I love travelling overland, I had heard some pretty bad stories about the 24 hour bus journey from La Paz to Rurrenabaque, from buses breaking down for hours on end, to landslides in the rainy season and just general discomfort for a 24 hour period. As well as this, we couldn’t take too much time off work and didn’t want an entire day on a bus to eat up our trip.
The tiny aircraft that took us to Rurrenabaque. The return flight was in an even smaller plane
So, we got a morning flight from La Paz and were in Rurrenabaque by lunchtime. The £100 return flight takes about 50 minutes each way and the views are spectacular. The tiny aircraft flies through the snow-capped mountains of La Paz for the first half of the journey and then the scenery slowly shifts into something altogether more tropical. The winding ribbon of the Amazon basin tributaries forges its way through a lush, green landscape, and, before you know it, you’re preparing to land in Rurrenabaque, in the Beni region.
View of the jungle from the plane
For me, this was perfect. And the fact that I was able to make a weekend trip to the Amazon was amazing.
Obviously, I can make no direct comparison to experiences of visiting the Amazon in other countries, but the impression I got from my research back home about visiting the Amazon in Peru, was that it seems much more expensive and much more remote. There are no buses that can get you to the Peruvian Amazon; the only options are flying and going by boat. Now, if I could afford to visit the Peruvian Amazon via an expensive flight to Iquitos, or by catching the 5-day boat ride then I would take the opportunity in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, my backpacker’s budget doesn’t really allow for it.
This brings me on to the next advantage of the Bolivian Amazon: the cost.
Bolivia is the most pocket-friendly country in South America and this is reflected when it comes to trips to the Amazon, too.
Rurrenabaque’s tiny airport
A 3-day tour, entrance to the national park, a return flight, buses, and accommodation all came to about £250. Considering the fact that a flight to Iquitos in Peru alone would probably cost this much, I was very comfortable with this low-cost option and jumped at the chance to visit the Bolivian Amazon.
3) Wildlife and lifestyle
The wildlife in the Bolivian Amazon is just as rich and diverse as in any other region of the Amazon. From black caimans to toucans, from sloths to pink dolphins, you’re thrown straight into all of it as soon as you get inside the national park.
If you take part in a Pampas tour then you’ll spend most of your time on the water, travelling up and down the river with the caimans alongside you and capybaras relaxing on the banks. Staying in a jungle lodge means you’ll wake up to the sounds of exotic birds and animals every morning and be able relax in a hammock after a long morning of searching for anacondas, or swimming with pink dolphins.
Volleyball at the sunset bar
While I would absolutely say yes to checking out the Amazon in Peru, Brazil, or Colombia if my circumstances were different, there is so much to be said for visiting the Amazon in Bolivia, especially for travellers on a slightly tighter budget.