During almost 3.5 months I travelled through Bolivia, where I tried to visit as much as possible different habitats, from dry puna vegetation with highland lakes to humid cloud - and rainforest to the dry lowland Chaco. Besides that I spent about 1 week in the southern Brazilian Pantanal. During this trip I did a lot of things: trekking, mountain-climbing, but overall birdwatching was my main activity.
Since I tried to combine backpacking with birdwatching, there were some limitations: a) transportation: Having to rely on public transportation made it sometimes hard to get to the good birding areas. b) guidebooks: Up till now there is still no field guide of the birds of Bolivia. So a birdwatcher in Bolivia has to rely on a combination of resources of other, neighboring countries. Traveling with a backpack made it impossible to bring many heavy books, so I selected two:
Birds of the High Andes (by Jon Fjeldsa and Niels Krabbe): was very helpful and coverd all highland species from 2000 m up.
Birds of Ecuador (by Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield): was quite usefull in the Northern Amazon region, but not so for Southern Bolivia and the Pantanal.
The following items are also very useful and recommended for birdwatching in Bolivia:
Birds of Bolivia 2.0 cd-rom (by Sjoerd mayer): is not complete, but has some good pictures and sound-recordings.
Birds of Southern South-America and Antartica, Collins illustrated checklist (by R. de La Peña and Maurice Rumboll): this book, even though not very detailed covers most species of Southeren Bolivia and Brazilian Pantanal.
17/06: Arrival in La Paz
19/06: Valle de Las Animas (La Paz area)
20/06: Valle De La Luna (La Paz area)
23/06 - 28/06: Sorata
30/06 - 01/07: Isla del Sol (Lake Titicaca)
02/07: Copacabana (Lake Titicaca)
05/07: Valle de Las Animas (La Paz area)
10/07 - 14/07: Yunga Cruz trekking
19/07: Lago Uru Uru (Oruro)
21/07: Kari Kari Lakes (Potosí)
24/07 - 26/07: Tupiza
27/07 - 30/07: Uyuni (Southwestern) circuit
02/08: Cerro Tunari (Cochbamba area)
03/08 - 05/08: Mizque (Cochabamba area)
12/08: Incachaca (Chapare Road)
13/08 - 17/08: Villa Tunari and surroundings
16/08: Estacion de Bomberos (Buenavista area)
17/08 - 19/08: Amborro National Park (Buenavista area)
21/08: Lomas de Arena (Santa Cruz area)
22/08: La Vispera (Samaipata area)
23/08 - 24/08: La Yunga and Bosque de los Helechos (Samaipata area)
30/08 - 04/09: South-Brazilian Pantanal
08/09: Carasco National Park (Cuavernas de de Repechón) + Villa Tunari urroundings
11/09: Lomas de Arena (Santa Cruz area)
12/09: Rio Mamoré (Trinidad area)
13/09 - 14/09: El Diablo (between Trinidad and Santa Cruz)
15/09 - 18/09: Del Beni Biological Station
21/09 - 25/09: Madidi National Park
27/09: La Cumbre (La Paz area)
3. Description of sites visited:
1. La Paz area
At 3,632m La Paz is the highest capital in the world. Having flown in from Panama City, at sea level, it took me a few days to acclimatise to the thin air. The surroundings of La Paz are exellent for some very spectacular hiking with stunning views of several snow-covered mountains (Huyana Potosí: 6080m, Illimani: 6400 m)
The Valle de las Animas
Getting there and away: Take bus 42 or another one marked 'Ovejuyo' from the Plaza de San Fransisco, downtown La Paz and get off when the bus crosses the Quebrada Negra ravine at the upper end of Ovejuyo village. From here just follow the ravine going up. For more detailed description of the route, see Lonely Planet Bolivia, 4th edition (2001) pg181. To get back, simply flag down one of the buses heading to La Paz.
This is a beautiful place with very strange rock-formations and spectacular views from La Paz and surrounding mountains. It is a good site to see the spectacular Giant Hummingbird, interesting tit-spintails and other Furnarids: Mountain Caracara, Puna Hawk, Giant Hummingbird, Andean Hillstar, Straight-billed Earthcreeper, Plain-mantled Tit-spintail, Tawny Tit-spintail, Bar-winged Cinclodes, D'Orbigny's Chat-tyrant, Golden-billed Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Peruvian Sierra-finch, Plumbeous Sierra-finch, Mourning Sierra-finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Greenish Yellow-finch, Black Siskin.
The Valle de la Luna
Getting there and away: Take minibus 231 or 273 or anything else marked 'Mallasa' or 'Zoologico' and ask the driver to stop at Valle de la Luna. To get back, you can flag down the same buses on their way back.
Valle de la Luna looks like the smaller version of Valle de las Animas, but is more touristy, and less interesting for birdwatching: Mountain Caracara, Andean Gull, Bare-faced Ground-dove, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Red-tailed Comet, White-winged Cinclodes, D'Orbigny Chat-tyrant, White-tipped Swift, Golden-billed Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Peruvian Sierra-finch, Greenish Yellow-finch, Black Siskin.
The La Cumbre pass
Getting there and away: Take the bus that leaves for Coroico from the barrio Villa Fátima in La Paz and get off at the Crist statue. From here you can descend to the nearby lake on the north or take the dust road behind the lake to the north that will take you to some smaller lakes. To get back try to flag down one of the many buses heading for La Paz. This might take a while, since most buses are very crowded.
This mountain pass, on the way to Coroico from La Paz, gives good access to some dry puna vegetation and some interesting (arteficial) highland lakes with some highland ducks. It is also a good location to see the peculiar seedsnipes: Silvery Grebe, Andean Goose, Crested Duck, Speckled Teal, Ruddy Duck, Mountain Caracara, Puna Hawk, Gray-breasted Seed-snipe, Andean lapwing, Andean Gull, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Cinerous Ground-tyrant, White-winged Diuca-finch, Bright-rumped Yellow-finch.
Getting there and away: From La Paz Transportes Larcejeca and Flota UnificadoSorata leave about every hour starting from 6 am till 2 pm. Terminals are on Calle Angel Babia, near the cemetery in La Paz. To get back buses leave frequently from the Plaza in Sorata.
Sorata is a beautiful little town located on the foot of the huge Illampu and Anchoma mountains. Here I did a 4-day trek to two highland lakes: Laguna Chillata and Laguna Glacial. En route there were spectacular views of Lake Titicaca and surrounding mountains and the dry puna vegetation is home to some interesting bird species: Black-faced Ibis, Puna Ibis, Mountain Caracara, Turkey Vulture, Andean Condor, Puna Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, American Krestel, Andean Lapwing, Black-winged Ground-dove, Andean Hillstar, Sparkling Violetear, Andean Flicker, Plain-breasted Earthcreeper, Bar-winged Cinclodes, White-winged Cinclodes, White-winged Black-tyrant, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Golden-billed Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
3. Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world (3820 m) and lies on the border of Bolivia and Peru. The saphire-blue waters measure 9000 km2 .
Getting there and away: Both Transportes Manco Kapac and Transtur 2 de Febrero drive to Capacabana 4 to 6 times daily. They are just off Avenida Baptista near the cementary in La Paz. To get back to La Paz get your ticket at their offices on Plaza 2 de Febrero. Buses leave near Plaza Sucre.
Copacabana is a nice and beautiful city on the shore of Lake Titicaca, from where I took a day trip to explore the nearby reed-beds: Titicaca Flightless-grebe, Black-crowned Night-heron, Yellow-billed Pintail, Ruddy Duck, Puna Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Andean Coot, Common Gallinule, Andean Lapwing, Puna Snipe, Bare-faced Ground-dove, Wren-like Rushbird, Brown-chested Martin, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Perruvian Sierra-finch.
Isla del Sol
Getting there and away: Various tour agencies in Copacabana offer round trip boat transportation to Isla del Sol.
This is a beautiful island in the Titicaca Lake, inhabited by indigenous people, living like people lived ages ago. The bright-blue water and the great views on the Cordillera Real make it really spectacular and a major tourist destination. On the bare and dry hills on the island and on the shore I found some interesting highland birds: Puna Ibis, Puna Teal, Speckled Teal, Turkey Vulture, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Andean Gull, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Andean Flicker, Bar-winged Cinclodes, White-winged Cinclodes, Rufous-naped Ground-tyrant, D'Orbigny Chat-tyrant, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Peruvian Sierra-finch, Black Siskin, Mourning Sierra-finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-finch.
4. Yunga Cruz trekking
During 5 days I did a trek from Estancia Totoral to Chulumani, southeast of La Paz. This was a beautiful, but physically demanding trip. The trek is described in the Lonely Planet Bolivia, 4th edition (2001) page 209. It passes through dry puna, thick cloudforest and some plantations at the end. Even though I did have not much time to intensively look at the birds, I did see and identify some interesting species: Black-chested Buzard-eagle, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Mountain Caracara, Collared Jay, White-tipped Dove, Green-cheeked Conure, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Pearled Treerunner, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Undulated Antpitta, Red-crested Cotinga, Puna Ground-tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white swallow, Crested Oropendola, Mountain Cacique, Spectacled Whitestart, Gray-bellied Flowerpiercer, Moustached Flowerpiercer, White-browed Conebill, Cinerous Conebill, Grass-green Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Three-striped Hemispingus, Golden-billed Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Mourning Sierra-finch, Sayaca Tanager.
5. Lago Uru Uru (Oruro)
Located in the Altiplano, Oruro is an important mining city and hosts the biggest carnival of Bolivia, which every year attracts a lot of tourists.
Getting there and away: From La Paz buses to Oruro leave about every half hour and leave from the Terrminal Terrestre on Plaza Antofagasta. From the Terminal de Omnibuses Hernado Siles, northeast of the center of Oruro you will easilly find a bus connecting any major city. Besides that is a railway station with connections to Uyuni, Tupiza and Argentinian border.
At the Pub the Alpaca (a recommended place to spend the night) they can inform you how to get to Lago Uru Uru.
Lago Uru Uru is a huge shallow salt lake, just south of town and attracts a lot of flamingos and other waders. Following birds were seen here: Chilean Flamingo, Puna Ibis, Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Speckled Teal, Puna Teal, Peregrine's Falcon, Andean Avocet, White-backed Stilt, Puna Plover, Andean Lapwing, Golden-spotted Ground-dove, White-winged Negrito, Blue-and-white Swallow, Black-hooded Sierra-finch, Greenish Yellow-finch.
6. Kari Kari lakes (Potosí)
With 4090 m Potossí is said to be the highest city of the world. Here, visitors will find remmants of what was once one of the largest and wealthiest city of Latin America.
Getting there and away: Potosí is easilly reached from La Paz, several buses depart daily from the Terminal Terrestre on Plaza Antofagasta. The bus terminal in Potosí is about 1.5 km downhill from the city center, from which several buses to the big cities leave regularly.
To reach the Kari Lari lakes one has to take a minibus to Cerro Rico, and start hiking up the hills opposite of Cerro Rico. After half an hour some of the lakes will be visible. For more detailed information: see Lonely Planet Bolivia 4th edition (2001) pg 380.
Kari Kari lakes are some dozen artificial lakes southeast of the city, with quite a lot of aquatic birds in them. Besides that the surrounding landscape is quite spectacular and the dry puna vegetation is home to some interesting birds. This is where I saw for the first time the peculiar Gray-breasted seedsnipes: Silvery Grebe, Crested Duck, Speckled Teal, Mountain Caracara, Andean Condor, Andean Coot, Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, Andean Gull, Mountain Parakeet, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Plain-mantled Tit-spintail, Puna Ground-tyrant, Plumbeous Sierra-finch, Bright-rumped Yellow-finch, Black Siskin.
7. Tupiza and Uyuni (Southwestern) Circuit
Getting There and away: buses for Tupiza leave La Paz daily from the Terminal Terrestre on Plaza Antofagasta. South of the center of Tupiza is the bus station, where several buses leave regularly for the bigger cities. Besides that there are trains connecting Tupiza with the Argentinean border and with Uyuni and Oruro.
I did the 4-day Uyuni Circuit with Tupiza Tours (located in hotel Mitru) in Tupiza.
Tupiza is located in southwestern Bolivia and its surroundings have probably the most spectacular scenery of the country. From here I did a 2-day horseback-ride and the famous 4 day Uyuni-circuit. Following birds were seen: Puna Tinamou, Puna (James's) Flamingo, Crested Duck, Speckled Teal, Turkey Vulture, Puna Hawk, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean Avocet, Andean Gull, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Puna Miner, Plain-mantled Tit-spintail, Rusty-vented Canastero, D'Orbigny's Chat-tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Andean Swift, Shiny Cowbird, Bay-winged Cowbird, House Sparrow, Black-hooded Sierra-finch, Greenish Yellow-finch, Red-backed Sierra-finch.
8. Cochabamba Area
Cochabamba is the 3rd largest city of Bolivia, located in the central highlands and is famous for its huge market area.
Getting there and away: Cochabamba is easilly reached from La Paz, several buses depart daily from the Terminal Terrestre on Plaza Antofagasta. Cochabamba's central bus terminal is on Avenida Ayacucho. Here buses leave regularly to other big cities.
To get to Cerro Tunari from Cochabamba one has to take micro F2 or 35 from Avenida San Martín, which will drop you 3 minutes from the park entrance.
Visiting Cerro Tunari National park, was quite a disappointment. The reason for my visit was that the site was described in my Lonely Planet as having interesting natural vegetation and therefore I thought was good for birdwatching. Unfortunately all natural vegetation in PN Tunari is replaced by exotic pines, and there was not many birds to see.
On my way back, walking past some houses and small trees and shrubs, I did see a few birds: Turkey Vulture, Bare-faced Ground-dove, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Giant Hummingbird, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-tipped Plantcutter, Brown-backed Mockingbird, Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Getting there and away: Mizque is reached by buses that leave from the corner of Avendida República and 6 de Agosto, south of the center of Cochabamba. In Mizque buses leave about twice a day for Cochabamba form the main plaza. Here you will also find an information center to get around in the area.
Mizque is a beautiful, relaxing little town, about a 100 km south of Cochabamba. Its surrounding landscape is very pretty: dry, with scattered thorny bushes and cacti, similar, but higher than the Chaco region further south. Here I visited a site with petroglyfs and the famous canion with a ancient bridge. In the information centre in town those trips can be arranged.
A nice surprise here was seeing the flocks of the beautifully colored Military Macaws. Besides that the site is good for spotting one of the endemics of Bolivia: Bolivian Blackbird and some interesting warbling-finches: Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Black-chested Buzard-eagle, American Kestrel, Bare-feced Ground-dove, Military Macaw, Guira Cuckoo, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Red-tailed Comet, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Stripe-crowned Spintail, Rufous Hornero, Rufous-capped Antshrike, White-tipped Plantcutter, Great Kiskadee, Greater Wagtail-tyrant, White-throated Tyrannulet, Rufous-webbed Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, House Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Bay-winged Cowbird, Bolivian Blackbird, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Masked Gnatcatcher, Tropical Parula, Brown-capped Whitestart, Elegant Euphonia, Sayaca Tanager, Common Bush-tanager, Golden-billed Saltator, Gray-crested Finch, House Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Saffron Finch, Stripe-headed Brush-finch, Ringed Warbling-finch, Rufous-sided Warbling-finch, Rusty-browed Warbling-finch, Black-capped warbling-finch, Hooded Siskin.
9. Incachaca (Chapare Road)
Getting there and away: To get to Incachaca just take one of the many buses to Santa Cruz that leave from the main terminal in Cochabamba. Get off at kilometer 84 and walk about 100 m down the road, where you'll find an unpaved road leading up the mountain. Follow it for about 30 minutes untill you meet the site where you have to pay a small entrance fee. From there a small trail system will take you to the edge of the cloudforest of Carrasco National park. To get back flag down one of the many buses going to Cochabamba.
The rough road from Cochabamba to Villa Tunari (Chapare Road) is considered to be one of the best birding sites in South-America. The reason for this is that it cuts through the whole range of altitudinal forest types, from virtually untouched elfin forest down to the distant Amazonian lowlands. Unfortunately, with public transportation you are limited and can't stop everywhere you want. I decided to focus on one spot: Incachaca, where I hoped to see some nice cloudforest-birds: Turkey Vulture, Roadside hawk, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Green-cheeked Conure, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Speckled Hummingbird, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Pearled Treerunner, Azara's Spintail, Band-tailed Fruiteater, Tropical Kingbird, Black Phoebe, White-throated Tyrannulet, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Blue-and-white Swallow, Spectacled Whitestart, Blue-winged Mountain-tanager, Safron-crowned Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Common Bush-tanager, Black-backed Grossbeak, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Saffron's Finch, Rufous-naped Brush-finch, Stripe-headed Brush-finch
10. Villa Tunari area
Villa Tunari is a small village in the middle of the Chapare region, surrounded by remnants of tropical forests. It is a nice place to relax and visit the interesting 'Cavernas de Repechón' where a big colony of the peculiar oilbirds can be seen.
Parque Machia (Inti Wara Yassi)
Getting there and away: Micros for Villa Tunari leave in the mroning near the corner of 9 de Abril and Oquendo in Cochabamba. Parque machia is easily accessible from the town, just cross the bridge over Rio Espiritu Santo and you will see the entrance on your left.
This is a 36-hectare private wildlife-park where volunteers try to re-habilitate injured wild animals, abandoned tropical pets and zoo inhabitants. Besides a lot of monkeys and other tropical mamals one can see some interesting birds in and around the park: Neotropical Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, Double-toothed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Black-tailed Trogon, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Broad-billed Motmot, Purplish Jay, Gilded Barbet, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Chestnut-tailed Antbird, Great Kiskadee, Streaked Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Southern Beardless-tyrannulet, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, White-banded Swallow, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Double-banded Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Bananaquit, Purple Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Paradise Tanager, Turqoise Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Palm Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, Yellow-billed cardinal, Stripe-headed Brush-finch, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Crested Oropendola, Olive Oropendola.
Cavernas de Repechón
Getting there and away: This site can only be reached by taxi from Villa Tunari. A first taxi will bring you the the turnoff for Carasco National Park. From there it is another 4 kms or so, which you can also do by taxi or walk. Arrange a taxi to come and pick you up, or let him wait, once you get to the park entrance. At the park entrance you pay your entrance fee and are given a guide who will take you to the caves where the oilbirds are.
The Cavernas de Repechón are located in Carrasco National Park. An interesting piece of natural forest on the eastern lower slopes of the Andes. Unfortunately our guide, after having shown us the caves wouldn't let us walk around freely to look for other bird species. But we did get to see a big colony of the peculiar oilbirds, which was already worth the trip.
11. Buena Vista area
Getting there and away: Get on one of the many buses to Santa Cruz and ask to be dropped of at Buena Vista. To get around in Buena Vista you can take one of the many cheap motorcycle taxi's.
Buena Vista is a small town a little northwest of Santa Cruz and is an ideal starting point for exploring the biodiverse Parque Nacional Amboró.
Estacion de los Bomberos
Getting there and away: This place can only be visited on a guided tour from Buena Vista. ask around and people will hook you up with the persons in charge.
This is a small piece of wetland that is under protection and where two look-out towers have been built. Even though there was a lot of wind at the time of being I did get to see quite some interesting waterbirds: Cattle Egret, Rufuscent Tiger-heron, Southern Screamer, Maguari Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Crested Caracara, Gray-necked Woodrail, Wattled Jacana, Ruddy Ground-dove, Scarlet macaw*, Chestnut-fronted macaw, Canari-winged Parakeet, White-eyed Parakeet, Purplish Jay, Greater Thornbird, Vermillion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Blue-capped Donacobius, Blue dacnis, Grayish Saltator, House Sparrow, Yellow-rumped cacique, Solitary Cacique, Russet-backed Oropendola, Orange-backed Trupial, Chopi Blackbird.
*the scarlet macaws seen here were most probably a couple that had been released in town and came daily to feed.
Amboró National Park (Chonta Area)
Getting there and away: I did a 5 day jungle trip with Amboró Travel and adventure a local travel agency in Buena Vista. Their guides, unfortunately knew almost nothing about the jungle and only spoke Spanish. Ok, they knew the way and cooked good. Doing an organized tour, unfortunately is probably the only way to get really inside of the National Park.
The 430 000 ha Amboró National Park lies in a unique geographical position at the confluence of three distinct ecosystems: the Amazon Basin, the northern Chaco and the Andes. A lot of wildlife can be seen here and about 700 bird species have been recorded in the park. The park is also one of the only remaining places of the rare and endangered blue-horned currasow. Following birds were observed and identified: Gray Tinamou, Green Ibis, Cocoi Heron, Whistling Heron, Capped Heron, Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Gray-headed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Blue-throated Piping-guan, Wattled jacana, Gray-necked Woodrail, Red-and-green Macaw, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Hoatzin, White-necked jacobin, Black-throated mango, Collared Trogon, Blue-crowned Trogon, Red-necked Woodpecker, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Rufous-tailed jacamar, White-throated Toucan, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Black-faced Antbird, Black-throated Antbird, Black Phoebe, Lesser kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Masked Tityra, Thruslike Wren, Black-capped Donacobius, Red-eyed Vireo, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Tropical Parula, Green Honeycreeper, Paradise Tanager, Turqoise Tanager, Swallow tanager, Palm Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-tanager, White-shouldered Tanager, Yellow-rumped cacique, Russet-backed Oropendola, Olive Oropendola,
12. Lomas de Arena (Santa Cruz area)
Getting there and away: Microbus 21 will bring you almost at the entrance of Lomas de Arena. It leaves from Avenida Cañoto in Santa Cruz.
Lomas de Arena is a beautiful, protected area located some 16 km south of Santa Cruz. It has some spectacular white-yellowish sand dunes, small lagoons and some nice grassy savannah and Chaco vegetation. The birdlife is interesting here: Burrowing owl and Campo Flicker are both easilly seen, and in the shrubby Chaco-vegetation I had the chance of observing my first Collared Forest-falcon of my life for a few seconds: Red-winged Tinamou, Neotropical Cormorant, Buff-necked Ibis, Striated Heron, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Limpkin, Whistling Heron, Brazilian Duck, Great Egret, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Plumbeous Kite, Collared Forest-falcon, Southern Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Red-legged Seriema, Watlled jacana, White-necked Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Wilsons Phalarope (non-breeding plumage), Greater Yellowlegs, Eared Dove, Picui Ground-dove, Blue-winged parrotlet, Canary-winged Parrakeet, Guira Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Burrowing Owl, Blue-crowned Trogon, Purplish Jay, Plush-crested Jay, Spot-backed Puffbird, Campo Flicker, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Rufous Hornero, Chotoy Spintail, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Spectacled Tyrant, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Black-faced Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Grayish Saltator, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Crested Oropendola, Chopi Blackbird, Giant Cowbird, White-browed Blackbird, Wedge-tailed Grass-finch.
13. Samaipata Area
Getting there and away: Several microbuses leave for Samaipata in the morning from Santa Cruz. Since their terminals change spot regularly you should ask around for the exact spot. There are also taxis for Samaipata going from the corner of Omar Chávez and Soliz. They leave when the taxi is full (4 passangers). Again, the exact spot changes regulary. To get back from Samaipata there are several buses, from which tickets can be obtained at Snack Dany or Doña Olga, a block north of the plaza. Alternatively wait on the main road around the gasoline station for taxi to leave (when full) for Santa Cruz.
Samaipata is a pleasant village at 1660 m, about 130 kms southwest of santa Cruz. Its major attractions are the pre-Inca ceremonial site of El Fuerte and the access to the higher parts of Parque Nacional Amboró.
Guesthouse La Víspera
La Vispera is a nice, tranquil hotel / camping place, run by a friendly Dutch couple. They have a birdlist of about 200 species and can arrange organized trips in the area. La Víspera is located a little out of the center of Samaipata and its beautiful surroundings have some nice and well-maintained gardens that attract a lot of hummingbirds and other interesting birds: Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Guira Cuckoo, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-tipped Dove, Mittred Conure, Blue-crowned Conure, Planalto Hermit, Red-tailed Comet, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, House Wren, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Golden-billed Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Saffron Finch, Black-capped Warbling-finch.
La Yunga and Bosque de los Helechos
Getting there and away: To get to La Yunga you either need to hire a four-wheel drive in Samaipata or hike. I went for the last option. The way is easy to find and in the agencies you will certainly find directions on how to get there by foot. It is though a day hike from Samaipata to La Yunga, and another 2 to 3 hours from there to reach el Bosque de los Helechos. In both La Yunga and el Bosque de los helechos there are basic camping facilities.
The hike to La Yunga and Bosque de los Helechos is a very interesting one and takes you through dry decidious forest in the beginning and through humid lush cloud forest, near el Bosque de los Helechos. Here are some well-maintained trails through the cloudforest with good birdwatching. Along the trail from Samaipata to La Yunga follwing birds were seen: Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Cliff Flycatcher, White-collared Swift, Andean Swift, Brown-capped Whitestart, Tropical Parula, Hepatic Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Golden-billed Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Black-capped Warbling-finch, Red-pileated Finch, Plush-crested Jay.
In and around Bosque de los Helechos following birds were seen: Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Masked Trogon, Blue-banded Toucanet, Red-necked Woodpecker, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Variable Antshrike, Blue-capped Puffleg, Andean Swift, Mountain Wren, Glossy-black Thrush, Brown-capped Whitestart, Pale-legged Warbler, Blue-winged Mountain-tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Common Bush-tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Double-collared Seedeater, Rufous-naped Brush-finch, Stripe-headed Brush-finch.
14. South-Brazilian Pantanal
Getting there and away: On time of writing 2 train companies operated between Santa Cruz and Quijarro, near the Brazilian border: Tren Rapído and Ferrobus. The former (to the contrary of what the name says) is the slower (about 18-20 hours) , but cheaper one (about 15 / 20 usd 2nd resp. 1st class) and leaves 3 times a week. The latter is the faster (about 12-14 hours), more comfortable, but pricier one ( about 18 / 25 usd 2nd resp. 1st class). Check at the new railwaystation (on Avenida Brasil) for more details. In Quijarro taxis will be waiting for you to take you to the border, about 2 km from the station. From here you can take a city bus to Corrumba in Brazil, where, about 8 blocks south from the center you can get your entrance stamp. In Corrumba different agencies offer multi-day tours to the Pantanal.
Note that buying Brazilian Reals on the Bolivian side of the border is much cheaper.
The Pantanal is one of biggest wetlands on earth and one of the most immense and rich ecosystems you can find. Extending through Central-West Brazil, eastern Bolivia and northeastern Paraguay, the Pantanal covers some 200,000 sq.km during the rainy season.
The Pantanal is a paradise for birdwatchers and birds are easily observed in the open lakes and marshes. During my 5 day-tour with Green-track tours I saw the following species: Greater Rhea, Anhinga, Neotropical Cormorant, Cocoi Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Whistling Heron, Rufuscent Tiger-heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Wood Stork, Jabiru, Southern Screamer, Plumbeous Ibis, Buff-necked Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Fulvous Whistling-duck, White-faced Whistling-duck, Comb Duck, Muscovy Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Snail Kite, Gray-headed Kite, Great Black-hawk, Black-collared hawk, Savanna Hawk, Solitary Eagle, Laughing Falcon, Southern Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Chaco Chachalaca, Common Piping-guan, Bare-faced Currasow, Sungrebe, Solitary Sandpiper, White-necked Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Large-billed Tern, Black Skimmer, White-tipped Dove, Plain-breasted Ground-dove, Scaly Dove, Hyacinth Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, Golden-collared Macaw, Monk Parakeet, Turquise-fronted Parrot, Black-hooded Parakeet, Ferruginous Pygmee-owl, Squirrel Cuckoo, Guira Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Blackish Nighthawk, Nacunda Nighthawk, Comon Pauraque, Blue-crowned Trogon, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Plush-crested Jay, Purplish Jay, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Toco Toucan, Chestnut-eared Aracari, White-barred Piculet, Golden-green Woodpecker, White Woodpecker, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Rufous Cachalote, Barred Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Stripe-backed Antbird, Common Tody-flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, White-crested Tyranulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmee-tyrant, Vermillion Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Thrush-like Wren, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Black-capped Donacobius, Masked Gnatcatcher, House Wren, Tropical Parula, Palm Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Orange-headed Tanager, Guira Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, Red-crested Cardinal, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Rufous-pileated Finch, White-bellied Seedeater, Epaulet Oriole, Trupial, Chopi Blackbird, Uniform-colored Blackbird, Giant Cowbird, Solitary Cacique, Crested Oropendola.
15. Rio Mamoré (Trindad area)
Getting there and away: Trinidad can be reached by bus during the dry season, when roads are passable. Several bus companies leave at night from the main terminal of Santa Cruz. In La Paz several companies leave (only in dry season) daily from Virgen del carmen, just west of Avenida Américas. A more adventurous alternative is getting to Trinidad by boat along the Rio Mamoré. This is possible from Puerto Villaroel, (a little east of Villa Tumari) and from Guayaramerín. This is best done during rainy season, when the river is higher and more navigable.
Rio Mamoré can be easily reached from Trinidad by taxi. Ask the taxi-driver to get you to Puerto Barador, or let him take you to Puerto Almacén and walk the last 4 km by yourself. In Puerto Barador you will easily find a motorboat to take you a few hours on the river. In order to reach Puerto Barbador 2 rivers had to be crossed by ferry. Note that ferry service is only until 6.00 pm !
Trindad is a hot and humid town in the middle of the Bolivian Amazon. The town itself is quite muddy and polluted, but its surroundings are definitely worth a visit. From here I did a day trip on the Rio Mamoré, one of Bolivia's biggest rivers with a scenery comparable of that of the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon. Along the shores and when stopping along some shallow lakes, I saw a lot of interesting birds: Neotropical Cormorant, Bare-faced Ibis, Snowy Egret, Limpkin, Jabiru, Southern Screamer, Woodstork, Cocoi Heron, Great Egret, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Lesser yellow-headed Vulture, Great Black-hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Roadside hawk, Black Hawk-eagle, Yellow-headed Caracara, Southern Crested Caracara, Wattled Jacana, Collared Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Great-billed Tern, Yellow-billed Tern, Black Skimmer, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Black-fronted Nunbird, Golden-green Woodpecker, Cattle Tyrant, Vermillion Flycatcher, Pied-billed Water-tyrant, Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, White-winged Black-tyrant, Brown-chested Martin, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, White-winged Swallow, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Saffron Finch, Crested Oropendola, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Trupial.
16. El Diablo (between Trinidad and Santa Cruz)
Getting there and away: El Diablo can be reached by taxi from Trinidad or by any bus going between Trinidad and Santa Cruz. A cheap option is to get to Parade Sintrabe in Trinidad a take a shared cab.
Originally I had not planned to visit El Diablo, but wanted to go to "The Farm", a rainforest getaway, recommended in my Lonely Planet. When I got there, though, the owners of "The Farm" seemed to have moved and the place was deserted. Luckily the people living on the opposite side of the road, on a finca called "El Diablo" offered me to stay with them. They were very friendly and for a cheap price they cooked for me, provided me a campsite and showed me around the area: secondary forest, speckled with small lakes and savannahs. There were some interesting birds, even though I didn't see many new things, since the birds were quite similar to the ones around Trinidad and Pantanal: Greater Rhea, Anhinga, Green Ibis, Buff-throated Ibis, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Jabiru, Great Egret, Rufuscent Tiger-heron, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Snail Kite, Savanna Hawk, Roadside hawk, Laughing Falcon, Southern Crested Caracara, Watlled Jacana, Gray-necked Woodrail, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Canary-winged Parakeet, Hoatzin, Guira Cuckoo, Purplish Jay, Plush-crested Jay, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Black-fronted Nunbird, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Streaked-headed Woodcreeper, Greater Rufous Woodcreeper, Rufous Hornero, Band-tailed Manakin, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Cattle Tyrant, Vermillion Flycatcher, Thruslike Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Silver-beaked Tanager, Palm Tanager, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Grayish Saltator, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Crested Oropendola.
17. Del Beni Biological Station
Getting there and away: Del Beni Biological Station is accesible on any bus or shared cab between Trinidad and San Borja or Rurrenebaque.
Del Beni is a Biosphere Reserve recognized by UNESCO in 1986 as a "Man & Biosphere Reserve". In its 334,200 hectares there is profuse wildlife to see. Several tours in the park were offered; I did the following:
La Pescana Tour:
During this tour I went with a local (Spanish speaking) guide to the centre of the Park, where we camped for 2 nights. The first day we went through grassland savannas, and arrived at the edge of the forest. The second day we did a day hike through the forest to a small lake. Because I was the only tourist on this tour, me and my guide could really focus on wildlife watching, and this was a big success. I have had never seen so many antbirds in a forest before and the second day we saw 7 mammal species:
This tour is a 4-hour boat trip with a local guide on the large Normandia lake, about a kilometer north of Del Beni biological station. This excursion is very good to see some typical aquatic birds of the area and to spot one of the many black caimans which live in the lake: Striated Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-heron, Cattle Egret, Limpkin, Cocoi Heron, Great Egret, Wood Stork, Maguari Stork, Southern Screamer, Rufescent Tiger-heron, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Snail Kite, Southern Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, White-eyed Parakeet, Smooth-billed Ani, Nacunda Nighthawk, Great Kiskadee, Lesser Kiskadee, Vermillion Flycatcher, White-headed Marsh-tyrant, White-winged Swallow, Black-faced Donacobius, Black-lored yellowthroat.
18. Madidi National Park
Getting there and away: Madidi is only accesible by going on one of the tours offered by a dozen agencies in Rurrenebaque. Flota Yungeña's office is located on Yanacachi, just north of the gasoline station and has several buses leaving for Rurrenebaque daily. This trip is quite long (around 18 hours) and uncomfortable. Another option is to fly in from La Paz: TAM (Transportes Aéros Militares) fly about two times a week for 54 usd one way.
To go from Rurrenebaque to Madidi National Park, you have to go on a tour offered by the many agencies in town. I chose to do a 5 day tour through the park with Aguila tours, which was ok.
Madidi National Park protects about 1,8 million hectares of some of the most intact ecosystems in South-America. The park ranges from lowland rainforest to 5500 m Andean peaks. This place is home to a huge variety of wildlife, including 44 % of all neotropical mammal species and 38 % of the tropical amphibian species and more than 1100 bird species, more than 10 % of what is known to science !
I was lucky to be the only one in my tour group, so I could birdwatch with my local guide undisturbed. During my 5 day trip following birds were observed: Undulated Tinamou, Neotropical Cormorant, Capped Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cocoi Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Green Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Plumbeous Kite, Great Black- hawk, Blue-throated Piping-guan, Spotted Sandpiper, Pied Plover, Yellow-billed Tern, Large-billed Tern, White-tipped Dove, Ruddy Quail-dove, Red-and-green Macaw, Blue-and Yellow macaw, Chestnut-fronted macaw, White-bellied Parrot, Hoatzin, Squirrel Cuckoo, Black-tailed Trogon, Collared Trogon, Lineated Woodpecker, Red-necked Woodpecker, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Broad-billed Motmot, Blue-crowned Motmot, Purplish Jay, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Gilded Barbet, White-fronted Nunbird, Black-fronted Nunbird, White-throated Toucan, Ivory-billed Aracari, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Fasciated Antschrike, Plain-winged Antshrike, Black-throated Antbird, Black-faced Antbird, Chestnut-tailed Antbird, White-browed Antbird, Plumbeous Antbird, White-flanked Antwren, Rufous-winged Antwren, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Screaming Piha, Tropical Kingbird, Piratic Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Gray-capped Flycatcher, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Thrushlike Schiffornis, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, White-winged Swallow, Musician Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Turqoise Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-tanager, Grayish Saltator, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Red-rumped Cacique, Crested Oropendola, Olive Oropendola.