Bolivia

More than 1,000 bird species have been recorded in Bolivia’s new, huge Madidi National Park. That’s more than 50 percent of all neotropical bird species, 11 percent of all bird species on earth—plus some 44 percent of all neotropical mammals on some 4.7 million acres (1.9 million ha) of largely untouched habitat ranging from cloud forest and glaciers almost to sea level.

Spotted jaguars, owlish-looking spectacled bears, bright pink river dolphins, and giant anteaters with predatory two-foot (60-cm) tongues find homes in this peaceful country of great natural beauty and cultural wealth which has been called the Tibet of the Americas.

Landlocked, more than eight times the size of England, lying dramatically astride the widest stretch of the snow-capped Andes—highest and most isolated of Latin American republics—it spills over into textured hills and green valleys, wild temperate and subtropical forests, and finally into savannahs, lowland swamps, and steamy jungles of the Amazon and Plata river basins.

This enormous range of climate and geography in at least 13 separate “life zones” combined with relatively low population density—about 20 persons per square mile (7 per km2)— makes possible a remarkable range of wildlife on some extraordinary reserves.

Fuzzy vicuñas, with meltingly soft fur that nearly brought them to extinction, graze highland plains and valleys. Great lumbering tapirs, looking like elephant cousins but actually New World relatives of rhinoceros, crash through moist jungles.

Monkeys of 15 species howl, groan, and chatter in forest canopies. Among them are emperor tamarins with imposing white moustaches as wide as their heads, draping down to their chests— named after Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany—that belie their small size. Just 9–10 inches long (23–25cm), they can venture out to feed on farthermost tender shoots of trees and shrubs.

Andean condors wheel overhead on 10-foot (3+-m) wingspans, able to drag a 45-pound (20- kg) carcass. The broadest range of non-marine birds on the continent is here—almost 1,400 species, including 18 endemics—from brilliant yard-long (1-m) parrots and bizarre umbrella birds to scintillating sunbirds and hummingbirds along with hundreds of kinds of moths and butterflies.

Best times are March, end of the southern summer, and September, when dazzling spring flowers emerge at winter’s end (rainy season is November–April). Altitude changes bring wide temperature swings anytime—in a single day, from damp, misty mornings to scorching midday sunshine to low nighttime temperatures.

Scheduled flights are available to La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. After that, only about five percent of Bolivia’s few roads are paved, making 4WD often essential. But modern busses run regularly, railways cross the altiplano south of La Paz, there’s an extensive internal air network, and riverboats are often available for good wildlife-viewing along the Mamore, Ichilo and, to a lesser extent, Beni River in Bolivia’s portion of the Amazon basin, as well as Lake Titicaca with its famed totora reed boats, at 12,500 feet (3,810 m) the world’s highest navigable lake. (Travelers should check with embassies about potential risk of travel to interior coca-growing districts.)

Insects are formidable, not only mosquitoes but leaf-cutter ants, some of which relish tent materials and have been known to devour one entirely, also bee “cities” where up to 10,000 can gather. Wildfires start easily. Campers should use fire only with great care.

Threats are human encroachment and short-sighted exploitation with irreparable damage to natural resources from dams, mining, logging, and burning to huge forest tracts cleared for agriculture and cattle-ranching. In Bolivia alone this has meant loss of 780 square miles (2,025 km2) annually.

Monkeys of 15 species howl, groan, and chatter in forest canopies. Among them are emperor tamarins with imposing white moustaches as wide as their heads, draping down to their chests— named after Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany—that belie their small size. Just 9–10 inches long (23–25cm), they can venture out to feed on farthermost tender shoots of trees and shrubs.

Andean condors wheel overhead on 10-foot (3+-m) wingspans, able to drag a 45-pound (20- kg) carcass. The broadest range of non-marine birds on the continent is here—almost 1,400 species, including 18 endemics—from brilliant yard-long (1-m) parrots and bizarre umbrella birds to scintillating sunbirds and hummingbirds along with hundreds of kinds of moths and butterflies.

Best times are March, end of the southern summer, and September, when dazzling spring flowers emerge at winter’s end (rainy season is November–April). Altitude changes bring wide temperature swings anytime—in a single day, from damp, misty mornings to scorching midday sunshine to low nighttime temperatures.

 

Scheduled flights are available to La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. After that, only about five percent of Bolivia’s few roads are paved, making 4WD often essential. But modern busses run regularly, railways cross the altiplano south of La Paz, there’s an extensive internal air network, and riverboats are often available for good wildlife-viewing along the Mamore, Ichilo and, to a lesser extent, Beni River in Bolivia’s portion of the Amazon basin, as well as Lake Titicaca with its famed totora reed boats, at 12,500 feet (3,810 m) the world’s highest navigable lake. (Travelers should check with embassies about potential risk of travel to interior coca-growing districts.)

Insects are formidable, not only mosquitoes but leaf-cutter ants, some of which relish tent materials and have been known to devour one entirely, also bee “cities” where up to 10,000 can gather. Wildfires start easily. Campers should use fire only with great care.

Threats are human encroachment and short-sighted exploitation with irreparable damage to natural resources from dams, mining, logging, and burning to huge forest tracts cleared for agriculture and cattle-ranching. In Bolivia alone this has meant loss of 780 square miles (2,025 km2) annually.

Bolivia

AMBORÓ NATIONAL PARK

BENI BIOSPHERE RESERVE as well as...

Chimane Forest Reserve

MADIDI NATIONAL PARK as well as...

Tambopata-Candamo Reserve

Apolobomba Reserve

NOEL KEMPFF MERCADO NATIONAL PARK as well as...

Gran Chaco Kaa-Iya National Park

Reserva de Vida Silvestre Rios Blanco y Negro

Sajama National Park


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