The Pampas, Amazon region in Bolivia
The rain started and didn’t finish for over 12 hours. Torrential downpour is an understatement. Trugging out in the mud and rain from my hostel, I walked to the office where the adventure would begin. Sure enough, it was going to begin, rain or not.
Rurrenabaque is in the jungle of Bolivia and perfect entrance to the Amazon. I had hoped to visit both the Amazon jungle and the Pampas, but due to it being wet (low) season, there weren’t enough people for the tour I had wanted to go on. I decided instead to go for a mid-range 3 day tour of the Pampas.
The Pampas is a wetlands savannah within the Amazon. It’s one of the most wildlife-filled spots in the Amazon (and the cheapest), which made it a great spot to check out the wildlife South America has to offer. The plane ride in from La Paz, literally lands in a small runway in the jungle, to get you excited the moment you arrive.
The adventure begins with a 3 hour car ride to Santa Rosa. Roads are closed, then opened, then flooded, then the car gets stuck in the mud, but we eventually get there. I’m amongst one Bolivian guide and three young (and immature) Australians. I have many lovely Australian friends, but this group of girls made me cringe and laugh at how ridiculous they were. You can’t always have great tours groups though right? Besides them, the trip was fantastic.
As we rode along the Yacuma River in a long boat to the Ecolodge we spotted an amazing amount of wildlife, birds, pink dolphins, turtles, alligators and more. The boat pulls up and disturbs the local alligator named ‘Federico.’ Yes that’s right, the Ecolodge sits of stilts on a land mass where an alligator likes to call home too. He was pretty well behaved though.
Soon enough we set out for more animal spotting. Squirrel monkey’s were jumping in our boat and on me (leaving behind a little present) at one point! But they were just having fun and weren’t nearly as scary looking (and sounding) as the howler monkeys.
Soon enough the sun set began to set over the Pampas long grass wetlands as we relaxed watching the day end and the night come alive.
The night boat ride was amazing staring up at all the stars, seeing fire flies ping from one tree to the next, hearing the birds and monkeys chatter, spotting glowing eyes of alligators and caimans in the dark. It’s a world away from my life in London, that’s for sure.
Each morning I woke up to the howler monkeys calling, which sounds more like a loud frog groaning. With a cool shower I was then relaxing before everyone wakes up, just listening to the sounds of the jungle. It’s something I’ll never forget. Seeing Federico swim across the river as his tail moves side to side, a pink dolphin comes up for air in the distance, the birds constantly chatter to each other. I felt like a small speck in the jungle filled with so much wildlife.
Due to a bit of stomach issues, I didn’t venture out with the group for Anaconda hunting (they didn’t find any anyway). I relaxed in a hammock listening to the jungle and reading my book. That afternoon came the highlights. A boat ride deeper into the Amazon meant we saw even more pink dolphins, one even caught a snake!
A big highlight for me came soon enough: seeing a sloth. I didn’t expect to see one in the Pampas, I thought they were more in Ecuador and Peru, but here it was. Then we saw another, climbing down a tree (probably to go toilet in the water).
That day ended with more pink dolphins and me struggling to advert my eye suddenly when a few macaws flew overhead. They were another highlight that I’d been wanting to see. Sadly no toucans were spotted, but I was overwhelmed by seeing and hearing so many other animals in the Pampas.
The last day was swimming with the pink dolphins in the river. The river was brown and not the cleanest, but it was warm and a pretty cool experience to be bobbing around as the dolphins swim around you.
I came away with only a few mosquito bites, a pretty upset stomach (probably due to the malaria medication), a scratched up arm from the boat driver going into a bush on my side, a bit of sunburn from the final ride back to land. But most of all, some incredible memories of sounds and wildlife all around.
P.S. No scary spiders, snakes or bugs were spotted in close proximity to me. Namibia still trumps the scary bugs so far.
I did the 3 day, 2 night tour with Indigena Tours, booking it in Rurrenabaque. I was fed pretty well and because I was number 5, I got my own room. The rooms were very basic and often filled with bugs, frogs and other things (if you keep your eyes shut then you can pretend they aren’t there). Our guide spoke basic English and didn’t really tell us the names of all the wildlife we saw, but for the average price I think it was a pretty average/good tour. I just wish the guide hadn’t driven the boat into a bush at full speed on the way back, he didn’t even say anything when I was bleeding and in pain from the scratches!