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Exploring Bolivia – Rurrenabaque Amazon Pampas Trip

Just a 40 minute flight from La Paz is the small Amazonian town of Rurrenabaque. Sitting on the Beni river in the Bolivian Amazon basin; it is a world away from the cold dry climate of La Paz.

The trip started with flying over the mountains near La Paz which is always a treat, but this time it was in a propeller plane. The humid air as we got off the plane was a relief. Effectively we have had around 9 months of winter by this point, leaving in April the start of spring, which is the start of winter here in Bolivia; it was good to feel warm again!

After spending a night in a local hostel (Hostel Oriental) we were on a 3 hour car and boat trip out of Rurrenabaque to the Eco lodge in the Pampas. The drive was down a long dusty straight road which is just carved right though the forest. On the way we saw Bolivian cowboys cracking their whips at cattle…

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We also spotted a sloth climbing down a tree.

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A vulture and a Karakara snacking on a bovine carcass…

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There were also many other birds capybara and Caiman (Like aligators) lining wetlands along the road. We had not even arrived at our destination but it was clear the Amazon was really teeming with life. After about two and a half hours in the car we reached the boundary of the national park:

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The hours leading up to the park flew by as we were occupied by all the wildlife just outside. At the end of the road it was a our first boat trip down to the eco lodge:

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This is when things started to get interesting, there were so many Caiman so close to the boat, definitely did not want to fall in…P1020286

The Mashaquipe ecolodge was in a great setting, very relaxing and peaceful.

This is the hut we stayed in

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After lunch we were on our first trip out on the river to see the Animals. Right away we saw a toucan, which was a rare sight; but too quick to get a photo of.

We found out why it is called a rain forest; about 15 minutes in to our trip our guide said “Big rain coming”, he was not lying.

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Still we managed to see some water soaked animals and plenty of Caiman who did not mind the weather.

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Thankfully this was the only bit of rain we had, it was much more fun once the sun had come out.

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One of the things of the agenda was to go Anaconda hunting, for this we headed down the river after breakfast on morning to the wetlands. Our guide Domingo brought us down the river to a spot where we could access the the wetland plains. This is a marsh area where the anaconda live, during the day close to noon, anacondas come out of the water to bask in the sun.  Armed with a stick we started to walk the marsh land looking for these snakes:

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After 2 hours of searching we did not find anything, although it was still an experience to be just wondering around looking for them.

Another creature which was not hard to find at all were the piranha. At the time we visited it was dry season meaning the water level has dropped to an annual low, also meaning that the river life is more packed .Looking at the still brown river, it’s easy to thing there is nothing lurking underneath; but after throwing a fishing line with a bit of meat of the end you realise just how wrong that is. Within seconds of throwing in the fishing line there is a bite:

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We managed to pull different types of piranha including the the deadly read one (above) as well as cat fish and a few sticks. I was replacing the bait so many times because it was just being decimated by the life in the river. Here’s a video of some meat being dangled in about 1 – 3 inches of river water:

There was so much life not just in the river but also in the trees, we managed to see a group of squirrel monkeys:

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Also three howlers monkeys:

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Every 10 – 20 meters there was a new Animal:

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Guinea pig deluxe

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Conspiring beasts…

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Sup’

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Better teeth than gran

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Amazing flashes of colour

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Pile on

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Coming back at night was a real experience, this is when the Caimen are most active hunting. The eyes of the caiman can be seen when shining a torch, these reflective eyes help to amplify the low light to make them brilliant nocturnal hunters. So many eyes, definitely, don’t fall in…

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One of the highlights of the trip was to swim with river dolphins.

It was impossible to see where they were under the brown water even with googles on it was like trying to see though a thick fog.

We managed to get a few meters from them in the water.

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Just around the corner from where we were swimming we spotted a Black Caiman, the largest type! Our guide said that the dolphins would keep the Caimen away as they hit them with their noses. Still it felt pretty sketchy swimming in the same water with these guys lurking literally round the corner.

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Excitement aside it was also a very lazy and relaxing time just cruising down the river.

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After three days in the Pampas it was time to head back to Rurrenabaque where we went on a quick hike to a Mirador:

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Stairs ran out

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View was worth it

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Really enjoyed the trip out to the Pampas, felt like I could stay a week there.

The company we went with Mashaquipe was brilliant and were very strict to keep in line with green policies. Whenever they spotted any rubbish lying around they would pick it up. Our guide Domingo grew up in the rain forest and learned about it from his father who was a Medicine Man, often going in to the rain forest for weeks at a time to collect medicinal plants. His real life knowledge really made the trip much more enjoyable