When many people think of the Amazon, they think of Brazil – I know I did. But it turned out that the cheapest way to see the Amazon Jungle was in Bolivia, so if you’re on a budget consider seeing the Amazon from a cheaper country like Ecuador or Peru.
This is the review part of my Amazon guide, if you want to read more about what a trip into the Rainforest is like try reading The hum of the Amazon.
To get to the Amazon, you need to get yourself to the frontier town of Rurrenabaque either by 1hr return flight from La Paz for $200, or a 20hr overland trip for $10.
Don’t book any trips online, you’ll just find inflated prices by international companies. Instead book your trip in Rurrenabaque with a local agency. You can book the tour the day before you want to go, there’s always room. We picked our tour based on reviews on Trip Advisor.
We found the agents selling the tours spoke English perfectly, but the guide running the tours spoke minimal English – just something to bear in mind, but we did fine with minimal Spanish.
You won’t want to bring your whole backpack/suitcase with you into the jungle but just bring a day bag with enough clothes for a couple of days in a day pack and leave most of your belongings in a locker at your hostel or at the tour agency, both are safe options.
There are two tours available in the Bolivian Rainforest. The Jungle Tour is a camping trip that’s centred around hiking around the jungle and can be as short as one night or as long as thirty nights. The Pampas Tour is centred around the swamps and rivers of the Amazon and accommodation is in a cabin. Both require a three/four-hour overland drive/boat ride to get further into Amazon
The Jungle Tour breakdown
Length: 2 days, 1 night – although you can extend up to 30 days if you want to go full machete wielding, food hunting, jungle man and learn to live off the jungle.
This tour is pretty rustic, we spent three hours on a motorised boat to reach the campsite and then we were given a massive lunch buffet - the chef brought a whole chicken with us and then proceeded to cut it up on a tree stump.
We spent the afternoon hiking around the area, learning about the flora and fauna of the jungle, and after dark we grabbed our torches and went on a night hike. I couldn't see much more than glowing eyes in the dark, usually those of crocodiles in the swamps and large insects hummed around my ears and small noises made me jump.
The tent we slept in that night was a simple plastic sheet thrown over a branch with another one on the floor, but we were so tired from the hiking that we slept well regardless.
The following morning, we created jewellery from seeds and temporary tattoos with ink from jagua fruit.
Review: We didn’t see as many Amazon critters on this tour as I’d have liked, and the most interesting find of the trip was a brightly coloured caterpillar, but there are never any guarantees on a trip like this and you might get lucky, you might not.
The Pampas Tour breakdown
Length: Three days, two nights
It was a 3 hour ride in a jeep to reach the Pampas, then a short boat ride but within minutes we’d seen far more animals than on the whole jungle tour. Caiman, capuchins, capybara, turtles and exotic birds.
We floated over to a tree rustling with jostling capuchins, the tour guide peeled bananas and placed them on our heads and monkeys clamoured all over us in a mad dive to eat them, pulling hair while still being cute.
That afternoon saw seven of us standing in rocking boat, being very careful not to topple in (and there were some close calls) while fly fishing for piranha. When I got a bite, I'd swing it into the boat flopping and watch them nip at my bare toes (not my brightest idea to go piranha fishing barefoot).
We stopped the boat to watch an amazing sunset on the way home, and then fried up the piranha we’d caught for dinner.
Day two was spent hunting for anacondas in the marshy region and then a cool off in a river with pink dolphins.
Review: You’ll see far more animals on this tour, since the wetlands attract far more wildlife so if you only have time for one – make it this one.
Cost of staying in Rurrenabaque
Accommodation: $30 per night for a basic private room with en suite at El Curichal hostel
Food: A meal out at a restaurant would cost between $3-7, but if you look for the local restaurants off the main streets (they often won’t even have a sign outside to say it’s a restaurant. Tricky, I know) you can buy soup with a main and fresh fruit juice for $2-3.
Transport: $200 return from La Paz or a 20-hour overland drive for $10.
Packing for a tour in the Amazon Rainforest:
Long sleeved cotton pants and tops, it’s hot but you’ll need the protection from insects and branches while hiking. Strong insect repellent, sunblock, toiletries, snacks for energy, a water bottle, torch, camera, money and ID. If you have antimalarials you should take them here, but I heard reports from locals saying that there is no malaria in the Bolivian section of the Amazon. We took ours just in case, it was the only region of South America where we did take antimalarials.
Over all we averaged a spending of $57 per person, per day during our time in the Bolivian Amazon.
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