Leaving the Amazon…time for drinks by the pool

The Amazon is an amazing place, but lets face it…biting insects and not a single margarita in sight. There is only so much time you can spend in a place under those circumstances. We headed back to Rurrenabaque knowing that our time in Bolivia would soon come to an abrupt end. Within the week we’d be on an American Airlines flight that would, via Miami, return us to London and a world of rain and austerity. Not a pleasant thought.

Meanwhile, back in London...

Meanwhile, back in London…

Luckily, we had a couple of days in Rurrenabaque to hunt out a swimming pool, sun loungers and a few cold beers. Even luckier, we’d met Jo and Neil in the Amazon…two kindred spirits from Australia willing to share a cold beer with us. We’d see out our last few days in good company and good style, including an amazing meal at Gustu (the restaurant in La Paz set up by the chef from the world’s best restaurant, Noma).

We still had to get out of the Amazon though. That meant another couple of hours motoring down the Tuichi and Beni rivers back to Rurrenabaque. Under deep blue skies we navigated through rapids, past more amazing Amazonian landscapes, spotting water birds and a group of the reddest howler monkeys I’ve ever seen.

Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Holwer monkeys, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Holwer monkeys, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Holwer monkeys, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Holwer monkeys, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Holwer monkeys, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Holwer monkeys, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Canoe and people, Rio Beni, Amazon, Bolivia

Canoe and people, Rio Beni, Amazon, Bolivia

Rio Beni, Amazon, Bolivia

Rio Beni, Amazon, Bolivia

Clothes drying, Rio Beni, Amazon, Bolivia

Clothes drying, Rio Beni, Amazon, Bolivia

Crane, Rio Beni, Amazon, Bolivia

Crane, Rio Beni, Amazon, Bolivia

Canoe and washing, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Canoe and washing, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Back in Rurrenabaque, we quickly slipped into the tropical mindset and collapsed by the pool, with occasional ventures to the bar. Rurrenabaque is a pleasant place to spend some time, everything seems to take place in slow motion and time happily slides past you, imitating the brown waters of the Rio Beni flowing nearby.

Pool and loungers, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Pool and loungers, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Sunset, Rio Tuichi, Amazon, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, into the Amazon rainforest (part 2)

During the four days we spent in the Amazon rainforest we walked through the forest once or twice each day. It is a humid place and for long periods of time you don’t see much other than the flora all around, but it is absolutely fascinating to be inside the forest itself.

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

One of the great pleasures of being there is just to stand still and listen. The sound of the forest is captivating, there is little wind to obscure the bird calls, the sound of insects and occasionally the noise of the larger inhabitants of the forest. One day we heard, and smelled, a large group of peccaries moving through the forest thirty meters away. We never saw them but the noise was tremendous – they sounded like a giant creature crashing through the undergrowth, and the musk and urine smell was overwhelmingly powerful.

Its impossible to capture the feeling of being in the forest without a soundtrack, but I hope these photos give a sense of place.

Giant 500 year-old tree, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Giant 500 year-old tree, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

A brown and yellow snake, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

A brown and yellow snake, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Butterfly, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Butterfly, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Squirrel, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Squirrel, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Red-bellied Trogon, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Red-bellied Trogon, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainbow Boa Constrictor, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainbow Boa Constrictor, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainbow Boa Constrictor, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainbow Boa Constrictor, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

We occasionally saw a young tapir that had been orphaned and raised by the families who run the lodge. It was semi-wild but had little fear of humans, which meant you could watch him at fairly close quarters. Tapirs have spookily human faces, especially the eyes, but generally are quite odd looking creatures. One night he gave everyone a real scare by charging around in the undergrowth behind the cabanas, in the darkness it was a terrifying.

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, into the Amazon rainforest (part 1)

One of the reasons we wanted to visit the Madidi National Park and the Madidi Jungle Ecolodge, was the opportunity to see some of the incredible wildlife that lives and thrives within the dense forests and along the rivers that make up the park. This is one of the most perfectly preserved and biodiverse areas in the world, a vast 19,000 square kilometre area ranging from tropical rainforest to the mountains of the Cordillera Real.

Scientists believe the area protected by the Madidi National Park contains the greatest variety of species anywhere on the planet – giving Madidi serious bragging rights. The statistics are mind-boggling, particularly as new species are still being discovered: the park is home to 867 species of birds, 156 mammals, approximately 109 reptiles and 88 species of amphibians. There could be upwards of 300 different species of fish. The variety of flora is off the scale.

Rainforest and river, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainforest and river, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

That said, your chances of spotting most of these species are pretty remote. Many are rightly keen to avoid contact with humans, many others only come out at night, quite a few live under water, while others keep to the tops of trees when they aren’t flying above the forest. Still, we were hopeful of some success in spotting wildlife, mainly thanks to our highly trained guide and native of the forests, Norman.

Norman, our guide, explains about the 'walking palm', Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Norman, our guide, explains about the ‘walking palm’, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

What Norman doesn’t know about the plants and animals of the forest could be written on the back of a stamp. He spotted an ocelot as we motored up the river from Rurrenabaque, and during our four days in the Madidi he led us on daily walks through the forest spotting numerous others beasties. When not spotting animals, Norman gave us the lowdown on medicinal plants that have been used by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon for thousands of years.

Rainforest, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainforest, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Toucans, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Toucans, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Toucans, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Toucans, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Flower, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Flower, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Spikey tree, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Spikey tree, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

On our first walk through the forest Norma suddenly stopped and motioned for us to be quiet (I thought we were being quiet, but apparently we sounded like a herd of elephants crashing about). He led us off the trail and we found ourselves in the midst of a group of tamarin monkeys. Tamarin’s are squirrel-sized and very agile, they didn’t seem to be bothered about our presence and we watched them moving from tree-to-tree, grooming and eating for 20 minutes.

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey with baby, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey with baby, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

On ocelot and tamarin monkeys on the first day….but there was much more in the forest for us to see.

Tree with vine, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tree with vine, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Red-bellied Trogon, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Red-bellied Trogon, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fallen tree and fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fallen tree and fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Howler monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Howler monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Poison dart frog, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Poison dart frog, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainforest, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainforest, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Capybara, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Capybara, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Wildlife of Isla de Ometepe

Anyone who read the last entry in this blog, or at least the title, is probably thinking, “Where are the monkeys?” Here are the monkeys…lots and lots of monkeys.

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

For a small island that has lost much of its primary forest to agriculture, the remaining enclaves of forest on Isla de Ometepe contain a wide variety of wildlife. There are lots of birds and a healthy number of both Howler and Capuchin Monkeys (although the latter  seem to have developed scavenging habits thanks to people feeding them).

We stayed in Charco Verde, right next to the Charco Verde Reserve, a small privately owned patch of forest that contains a lagoon and is fringed by lovely Playa Bancon. Much of the tourist development taking place on Isla de Ometepe seems to be along ecological lines, which is good since uncontrolled development will do serious harm to the environment.

Capuchin Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Capuchin Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Capuchin Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Capuchin Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Capuchin Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Capuchin Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Capuchin Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Capuchin Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Although its possible to see lots of birds around the cabanas where we were staying, a slow walk through the reserve was rewarded by lovely views and sightings of Howler Monkeys. In fact, we saw four different groups of Howler Monkeys including one group of about twenty individuals in trees right on the beach.

This group were so low in the branches that we were able to get very close to them, especially two females with a baby. We saw several babies, crawling on and over their mothers. They were wonderful to watch. As we were leaving the reserve we spotted one young Howler that was very playful. It broke off from its mother – who kept a close eye – to have a look at us gringos.

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Howler Monkey, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

As well as the monkeys, we saw lots of birds, and, although I’m no twitcher, the variety of birds in Central America is astounding. On Isla de Ometepe we had water birds as well, with lots of white Egret-type birds in the shallow waters on the lake side. I’ve tried to find names from photos online, but some I couldn’t identify and some I’ve probably identified wrongly.

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

White-throated Magpie-Jay, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

White-throated Magpie-Jay, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Hoffman's Woodpecker, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Hoffman’s Woodpecker, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Roadside Hawk, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Roadside Hawk, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Cattle Egret, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Cattle Egret, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Egret, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Egret, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Egret, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Egret, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Waterbird, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Waterbird, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Return to the Secret Valley, Cayara revisited

Finding a road less travelled without heading into the jungles of Borneo, or risking life and limb in the Hindu Kush, is a challenge in these days of mass global travel. Thankfully, in the valley where the Hacienda Cayara lies, just outside the city of Potosi in the Bolivian highlands, you can be assured of getting away from the crowds.

This was our second trip to Cayara. The one day we spent here in December wasn’t enough to satisfy our longing for nature and absolute peace and quiet. We promised ourselves we’d return to absorb more of the unique atmosphere of the valley and of the Hacienda Cayara. Outside of the Amazon the area has to be one of the greenest in Bolivia, there is abundant bird life and there is tremendous walking available, right from the door of the Hacienda

Heading out on a three hour walk down the valley in the early morning was one of the most pleasant walks I’ve done in Bolivia. With the exception of the sound of the river and the ever present chirruping of birds (I must have seen more than twenty different types of bird), the valley was tranquility itself. I hope these photos and videos give some idea of just how special the valley is.

Early morning in the sleepy village of Cayara, Potosi, Bolivia

Early morning in the sleepy village of Cayara, Potosi, Bolivia

Donkey, Cayara Village, Potosi, Bolivia

Donkey, Cayara Village, Potosi, Bolivia

View over Cayara Village, Potosi, Bolivia

View over Cayara Village, Potosi, Bolivia

A woman walks down the road, Cayara, Potosi, Bolivia

A woman walks down the road, Cayara, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cemetery, Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cemetery, Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cemetery, Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cemetery, Cayara valley, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara village, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara village, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara village, Potosi, Bolivia

Cayara village, Potosi, Bolivia

Bolivian Southwest: Reserva Eduardo Avaroa

Getting up before dawn, and with hot cups of tea barely able to hold the fantastically cold morning at bay, we were treated to a ringside seat of the sunrise over the Siloli Desert. As the colours of the mountains sprang back to life and some of the sun’s warmth finally penetrated the four layers of clothing I was wearing, we clambered back into the car and headed towards the Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa and the border with Chile.

First stop in this bewildering landscape was the wind sculpted Arbol de Piedra, the Stone Tree, a huge lump of rock that over millennia has been carved by wind and sand into its current tree-like shape. That would be reason enough to stop and marvel at it, but it also stands in a vast desert plain surrounded by mountains streaked with colour making it one of the most surreal sights of our trip. Our early start was rewarded with having the whole desert to ourselves.

Heading towards the Arbol de Piedra, Reserva de Fauna Andina Avaroa, Bolivia

Arbol de Piedra, Reserva de Fauna Andina Avaroa, Bolivia

Even with the sun rising in the sky, at this time of day and at this altitude the temperatures were freezing and it was impossible to stand still for long without the cold piercing through clothing and footwear. It truly is an inhospitable place, but one an estimated 50,000+ tourists travel through every year.

A short journey to the south of the Arbol de Piedra lies one of the wonders of the whole region, Laguna Colorada, whose striking red waters contrasted against the deep blue sky are an extraordinary sight to behold. Although it looks like the scene of a toxic spill, the red colour is the result of algae in the water – the main source of food for the flamingos that thrive in the region, including the rare James flamingo which breeds in Laguna Colorada.

Laguna Colorada, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Flamingos in Laguna Colorada, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Flamingos in the mist, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Flamingos take flight, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

It’s a little like “Ten Amazing Things to Do Before Breakfast”, but climbing in altitude to a whopping 5000m we drove on towards the hellish looking and smelling Sol de Manana geyser. As you approach these boiling pools of mud and steaming fumaroles the nauseating stench of sulphur is overwhelming, but even that can’t take away from the wonder of the volcanic activity that is all around.

The first thing you see when you arrive is a jet of highly pressurised steam shooting out of the brown earth and making a screaming noise not dissimilar to the sound of a steam train whistle. The jet is probably about 15 metres high and the steam is hot!

Steam jet at Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Walking around the site is a bit like doing a day-trip to Hell and you have to be careful, the cracked earth can give way and collapse into bubbling mud underneath – as the sign says it’s Peligro. And did I mention the smell? Awful.

Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Sol de Manana geyser, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Leaving the fire and brimstone behind we set off for the furthest reaches of Bolivia to where the Laguna Verde and Volcan Licancabur nestle on the border with Chile. The drive passes a stretch of barren landscape that suddenly takes on the look of a sculpture park combined with a Japanese garden. Known as the Rocas de Dali, it is a peculiar sight.

Rocas de dali, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Rocas de Dali, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

I must confess that the one thing I’d really been looking forward to seeing was the last thing we’d see on the Bolivian side of the border – Laguna Verde. I’d seen photos of the stunning green water – created by chemical reaction – with the backdrop of the towering Volcan Licancabur and was excited to be finally able to see it in person.

As with much of life, it was something of a disappointment. There was little water and the green colour was, at best, subdued. Still you can’t hold that against the Bolivian Southwest, it is a privilege to spend time there. Next stop Chile.

Laguna Verde, Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia

Slow boat into the Amazon

After four glorious days of fiesta in San Ignacio de Moxos, we took a Truffi (a shared taxi) back to Trinidad, a hotel with air conditioning and a solid nights sleep without the fear of being woken by fireworks and church bells. Trinidad is one of the main gateways to the Bolivian Amazon and we’d arranged a relaxing four day slow boat up the Rio Ibare and Rio Mamore to recover from our exertions during fiesta – go far enough north-east on the Rio Mamore and you’ll eventually find yourself in Brazil, but before you reach the border there are thousands of kilometres of Amazonian river to explore.

Fully refreshed, we went early in the morning to a small port on the Rio Ibare where the Reina de Enin (www.andes-amazonia.com) was moored. Known as the Flotel, the Reina de Enin is probably the most comfortable way to travel into the Amazon, but at first sight it looks a bit like two boats squeezed on top of a catamaran, which is what it turns out to be.

The Reina de Enin on the Rio Ibare

The boat is comfortable and a very relaxing way of chugging slowly down the river spotting wildlife and watching some of the most spectacular sunsets you’re likely to see. With three decks, including the top deck with loungers and hammocks, a fantastic restaurant and daily excursions into the forest, up small rivers to inland lagoons, horse riding and fishing trips to choose from, it is almost impossible not to relax.

Reina de Enin at its mooring

This part of the Bolivian Amazon is relatively populated, and as you travel down the river it is quite common to see a dugout canoe tied to the bank and a small track leading into the forest. Sometimes it’s possible to spot a thatched house amidst the trees belonging to small scale farmers who have planted sugarcane, papaya and other crops. Of course this is at the expense of the original prime forest, but that is the reality in a part of the Amazon that is reasonably accessible. The life isn’t easy for the farmers though – no electricity, no running water, little access to health and other services and an isolation that most people wouldn’t welcome, plus your nearest neighbours are about a billion mosquitoes.

A typical ‘home’ in the forest along the banks of the Rio Ibare

One of the joys of travelling slowly down the lazy river is spotting lots of wildlife, from river dolphins to butterflies, as you travel through beautiful surroundings. First though, a quick swim in, what we were promised was, a ‘safe’ part of the river. Safe that is from piranhas and anacondas – although it wasn’t clear if anyone had informed the piranhas and anacondas.

Swimming in the Rio Ibare

After splashing around in the water for half an hour we jumped back in the small boat and headed back to the Reina, but not before coming across a fisherman a short distance from where we’d been swimming who’d caught this…

These are piranha infested waters

After that wake-up call, and a mental note never to set foot in the water again, we set off down the Rio Ibare heading towards the larger Rio Mamore and passing some beautiful wildlife en route, which, coupled with the beauty of the scenery, makes for an amazing wildlife encounter.

The river banks provided rich wildlife spotting

A king fisher with a small fish in its beak

Two river dolphins

Heron

Very large water rat?

Another fisher

Sunset over the Rio Ibare

After mooring on the banks of the Rio Ibare for the night and listening to the deafening sound of millions of cicadas, the following day we set off towards the Rio Mamore where, in the afternoon, we took a trip into a lagoon where there was even more wildlife to spot.

The lazy river

Turtles soaking up the sun

Not a flamingo, more duck-like but pink

Another stork-type bird

A different type of fisher

Big stork-thing in flight

Just out-and-out odd looking

One of many hawks we saw

This frog hopped on board and hitched a lift with us

The day’s adventure came to a dramatic end with one of the more sublime sunsets anyone is likely to see…although it was impossible to stay outside the screened areas of the boat for long after sunset due to the sheer number of mosquitoes, who weren’t just hunting in packs but swarming everywhere.

Sunset over the Rio Mamore

Sunset over the Rio Mamore

The next day we went on a walk through the forest in the hope of spotting monkeys, we didn’t, but there was lots of other wonderful wildlife out there, including a large sloth.

Amazing blue butterfly

Pink ‘Dragonfly’

Another amazing butterfly

And perhaps the most amazing sight of all, a sloth…

Sloth!!!

After a hot and sticky walk through the forest, our reward was a journey back to the Reina as the sun set over the Rio Mamore while drinking a cold beer, the perfect end to the day.

Pacena es cerveza…especially in the Amazon

Returning to Trinidad after four days we took the night bus to Bolivia’s second city, Santa Cruz, and, after soaking up a big city atmosphere for a couple of days, headed to the sleepy village of Samaipata for further encounters with wildlife and ancient civilisations.

The road to San Ignacio de Moxos

San Ignacio de Moxos, about three hours from Trinidad (the capital of Bolivia’s Beni department), hosts what is surely one of the most spectacular festivals in Bolivia. A tiny village on a miserable dirt road that turns to liquid mud or just gets flooded by Amazonian rivers in the rainy season, San Ignacio is only accessible during the dry season.

Most guide books say that San Ignacio de Moxos isn’t worth the effort unless you go for the fiesta, but our experience was that the journey itself is worth it because the waterways and lagoons that lie along the road are home to a host of wildlife that is easily visible and not very afraid of humans. Luckily, we were able to combine wildlife spotting with San Ignacio de Moxos’ fiesta.

But first, the small task of crossing the Rio Mamore.

In the rainy season none of this is here

It’s fairly common to see these barges loaded with cattle truck or buses

Dismounting at the other side

After crossing the river you spend the next two and a half hours on mud and gravel, but throughout the entire journey there are hawks and vultures, stalks and water birds, river dolphins and alligators to spot – in fact, this journey was one long Bolivian safari.

A blue Coot?

Your guess is as good as mine, but it looks a bit like an Anglican vicar

The road (at least for 6 months of the year)

It was impossible to capture everything on camera, but we must have seen a dozen types of water/wading birds and a similar number of hawks, not forgetting the very exciting river dolphins.

Flipper of a river dolphin – playing with its friends

Snout of a river dolphin

Almost as impressive as the animals is the surrounding countryside, very green and stretching as far as the eye can see.

Views across the Llanos de Moxos

Stork or Heron?

As if one sighting of river dolphins wasn’t enough, we were lucky to see two groups within a short distance of each other.

River dolphins at play

River dolphin

Giant water lilies in flower

Heron or Stork?

Small but dangerous? An alligator

Turkey Buzzard