Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Amazon Basin, Bolivia

Parque Nacional Madidi

TH has dreamed of exploring the Amazon since childhood.  As I was interested in  visiting Bolivia, we decided to check out the Amazon Basin via the Parque Nacional Madidi accessed through Rurrenabaque, a 40 minute flight from La Paz.

There are a number of tour agencies offering jungle trips out of Rurre.  After much research, TH decided on Berraco del Madidi, and we couldn't have been more pleased with our trip.  After a night at Hotel Safari (decent rooms, quiet location, great breakfast, friendly service- around $45), we began our 6 hour boat ride up the Beni and Tuichi Rivers.

Beni River

Berraco del Madidi is a company owned by a trio of brothers who grew up in an indigenous community located deep in the national park.  The brothers were involved in the creation of the reserve, and their concern for the ecosystem of the jungle was immediately apparent to us.  Their ecocamp is by far the most secluded in the area, and they accept a maximum of eight guests at their camp.  We were lucky enough to share our five day trip with just two other people, Izzy from England and Ricardo from Brazil (the perfect travel companions).

hiking Berraco del Madidi

Our accommodations were tents on raised platforms, ensuring a wonderful bug-free night's sleep on matresses, surrounded by the sounds of the jungle.  There was a spotless flush toilet/shower room.

We were completely entertained for five full days of adventure.  Leopold was our guide, leading us to numerous animal sightings: five species of monkeys, capybaras, deer, caiman, a jaguar (!), wild pigs, snakes, spiders, countless birds, frogs, fish, and insects galore. The wildlife highlights included Leo successfully calling a jaguar to within 30 feet, a giant pack of wild pigs that we had to fend off with machetes and fishing rods, and a spider with a body the size of a golfball, and legs like pencils.  Leo's knowledge of the rainforest was undeniable.  We learned how to find water within vines:

Berraco del Madidi

and how to collect food from the jungle floor, including these larvae, which I actually enjoyed quite a bit.  (They tasted just like Thai young coconut, once you got past the initial pop and squirt.)

larvae Amazon basin

During our day hikes Leo explained the medicinal properties of countless plants and trees, reinforcing the travesty of losing virgin rainforest on our planet.

Leopold Berraco del Madidi

TH's obsession with fishing encouraged Leo to center our trip around hikes to beautiful rivers.  (One tip: cover all parts of your body while on the river as the sandflies are  vicious!)

river Berraco del Madidi

Berraco del Madidi river

We also went on a night hike and a pre-dawn hike, which allowed us to view the nocturnal animals and insects of the jungle.  I found the feeling of a pitch black jungle unlike any other outdoor experience.

The meals were fantastic, and included a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  The company readily accommodates vegetarians and vegans.

Berraco del Madidi meal

The rainforest we encountered was pristine and isolated.  We saw no other people, nor other signs of human life on our walks.

Before bed each night I read "The River of Doubt", by Candace Miller, which chronicles Theodore Roosevelt's exploration of a previously unknown Amazonian tributary.  It was the perfect book to read while in the rainforest, as it describes the extreme harshness of the jungle.

Question:  Have you had a perfect book/travel experience? 

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