Take a second look at the Bolivian Amazon for pristine wildlife and some true community involvement.
Where To Go? The Madidi National Park covers 1.8 million hectares and is one of the most intact ecosystems in South America. There is a huge diversity of flora and fauna here thanks to the range in habitat, from the lowland rainforest to the mountains that reach 5500m. The park protects more species than any other in the world; there are over 45,000 different plant species and over 1,000 tropical bird species, making it a great place for your visit to the Amazon.
Where to Stay? There are some superb projects in the Bolivian Amazon. One of the best is the Chalalan Lodge in Madidi National Park. In 2010 it was listed in the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Sustainable travel experiences in the world. While these days many jungle lodges jump on the “Sustainable Tourism” band wagon this project really is worthy of the title. Community Owned Sustainable Tourism The lodge was established and is owned by Quechua-Tacana people who live in the San Jose de Uchupiamonas community. The Quechua-Tacana whose people have lived in harmony with the surrounding jungle for over 300 years. 20 years ago they realised that Eco-Tourism was a way of protecting their land and traditions from the threats of deforestation and the migration of young people to the cities. The lodge is owned and run 100% by the local community and benefits already include clean drinking water, and improved health, education and training standards.
What is the Accommodation Like? It is often difficult in such a project to get the balance right between the needs of the community and local environment and the demands of tourists who want to visit the area. Here the staff have excelled in providing clean, comfortable accommodation, expert local guides and a very welcoming environment. The passion for their environment and project show in every detail which is probably what makes Chalalan so special. Rooms are simple but clean and comfortable with cold water showers (but with temperatures high they are welcome!). Your stay includes 3 delicious meals a day so you get to try many local specialties.
How to Get There? Most people fly from La Paz to Rurrenebaque, a jungle town on the river Yacuma. From here a motorised canoe takes you upstream for a few hours. Lodge staff meet are waiting to help with luggage leaving you free to follow your guide through along the forest path to the lodge.
What Can You See and Do There? Activities include; nature walks, bird spotting, night canoe trips, nature talks, hikes, handicraft demonstrations, canoe trips and a goodbye ceremony on the last night where you get to try the local drink “leche de tigre” (“Tiger’s milk”). Madidi is home to 340 species of birds including parakeets, parrots, toucans, wild turkeys, woodpeckers. Animals include the spectacled bear, Andean cat, Andean deer, white-tailed deer, puma, jaguar, white-lipped peccary, spider monkey and the red howler monkey; not to mention more bugs and frogs than you can shake a stick at.
A truly unforgettable trip into the Amazon in Bolivia.