I don’t really have much of a bucket list, but it’s hard to deny the call of the Amazon Rainforest. As I traveled through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, the thought was always on my mind. Then I would think about all of the mosquitoes, humidity, and heat involved and I would come up with a reason to not do it. At the turn of the decade, I finally decided that there was no better way to kick off a new era than in the Amazon Rainforest.
I had a good group of friends and after a rager of a New Year’s Party in La Paz, we set off for Rurrenabaque. Before we even landed, I was already sold. Flying over the vast, green expanse of the Amazon had me in awe. Only the roaring rivers separated the dense, exotic, and inhospitable depths of Amazon Jungle. All I could think at the moment was why I had not chosen to do this sooner, and why I had already booked a return flight when I could easily see myself spending weeks, if not months here.
Okay, maybe just weeks, I thought to myself as I stepped off the plane and was immediately greeted with a humidity that I had not yet encountered in my South American travels. We lounged around the pool at our $7 a night jungle hostel before missioning out into the small town and gathering the necessities. Bug spray? Check. More bug spray? Check. Another can won’t hurt, right? We hit up the thrift shops, bought some 10 Bs ($1.50 USD) clothes that we wouldn’t mind getting trashed, and enjoyed our last meal before foraying into the depths of the Amazon.
It felt like the night before Christmas. Although the Christmas turned out initially to be coal as the first 3-4 hours of our Amazon journey involved a bunch of errands and a muddy, high-speed, and muy peligroso journey to Santa Rosa de Yacuma. But boy oh boy, once we got on those boats, Christmas officially started. The pampas was an adventure unlike anything I had done so far in my life, and by the end, I was thirsty for more. Or maybe I was just thirsty thanks to all the water weight I had lost from the incessant sweating.
If you are considering going to Rurrenabaque for a pampas tour in Bolivia’s incredible stretch of Amazon, then don’t even think. Just do. This is an unforgettable adventure.
What To Bring On The Pampas Tour
If you aren’t properly prepared, then you will be utterly miserable. The jungle is an inhospitable place, and even with a guide and agency taking care of most things for you, it is up to you to make sure you are personally ready to take on the jungle. Most agencies will provide the bare necessities like food and water, but it is in your hands to make sure you aren’t suffering the entire time.
What Is Already Provided For You
- Water: bring about a liter or two for the journey to your lodge, but once you’re there, water will be provided.
- Food: aside from breakfast on the first day, all meals will be provided for you.
- Waterproof Rain/Mud Boots: most travelers won’t be lugging around boots this big, so agencies will provide these for you
- Long-sleeve t-shirt: Not all agencies will provide this, but ours gave us some light-colored baggy long-sleeve button-ups to throw over our clothes as extra protection from mosquitoes and the sun.
What You Need To Bring For Yourself
- Bug Spray. Lots of it.
- Rain Poncho
- Two changes of clothes (at the minimum)
- External Battery
- Headlamp or flashlight
What To Expect On The Pampas Tour
- Depart from Rurrenabaque
- Lunch at Santa Rosa de Yacuma
- 2-3 hour boat ride to the pampas lodge
- Down time to relax
- Sunset mission to a “bar” and football field
- Night search for cayman/alligators
- Wake up for a sunrise boat trip
- Search for anacondas and cobras
- Lunch time
- Swim with the pink river dolphins
- Sunset bar
- Dinner and down time
- Piranha fishing
- One final boat cruise
- Early lunch
- Pack up
- Boat ride and drive back to Rurrenabaque
What Tour Company Should You Go With?
There are at least a dozen tour operators in Rurrenabaque that offer tours to the jungle and to the Pampas. We went with Escorpion Travel but it doesn’t feel like there is too much of a difference between similarly-priced tour operators. Each one has their own lodge, it seemed like. Although some did seem nicer than others, at the end of the day, it’s just a place to sleep. All lodges will be nestled along the riverbank and have hammocks, beds with mosquito nets, and a sheltered dining area.
How Much To Pay For The Pampas Tour
The prices that I’ve heard people pay vary wildly. As is typical in South America, there is really no such thing as a set price. Haggling, group discounts, and low/high-season all play a factor into how much you will pay. If you choose to book flights along with tours, the standard rate for flights is 650 Bolivianos each way. A bus to Rurrenabaque only costs $11 US, or about 80 Bolivianos, but is very ill-advised during the rainy season. I’m usually a bus person, but opted for flights this time around. Since we booked as a group, we were able to haggle the prices down to 1,200 Bolivianos roundtrip.
For the tour itself, you’ll typically be looking at 800 Bolivianos. Our friend connected us with his tour operator and got us a deal of 750 Bolivianos before we were able to haggle it down further to 680 Bolivianos for booking it as a group of five. All in all, it added up to 1,880 Bolivianos, or about $270 USD. As far as tours in the Amazon goes, this is an incredibly cheap price, especially considering that the flights are included.
I’ve found Bolivia to be extremely cheap as a travel destination. Although no two stretches of the Amazon are the same, a similar trip in Peru or Ecuador would run you about 3 or 4 times the cost of what we paid in Bolivia.
Other Advice For The Rurrenabaque Pampas Tour
Do not touch the animals
You can hurt the animals. The animals can hurt you. It is best to play it safe and just admire the animals from a distance without getting too close to them. You came to the Amazon to observe these incredible animals in their natural habitats, not to interfere with their lives.
Just love them from a distance like I did.
Do not feed the animals
Again, it is best not to interfere with the animals. Consistent human interaction and interference can drastically change the lives of the animals in this untouched region of the world. Monkeys will start relying on humans for food. When guides lure cayman onto the shores of your lodge with food, they will start to come more frequently and start posing a danger to travelers. Just do not interfere with the animals and how they live.
Everything you bring to the jungle, take back with you. Including trash.
One of the best parts of the pampas tour was that the nature and landscapes were truly pristine. There was hardly any trash or waste anywhere that it didn’t belong. Keep it that way. Everything that you bring to the jungle, make sure that it comes out with you. Do not litter. Seriously, don’t be that dickhead.
Listen to your guide.
Your guide will know more than you about practically everything. Trust him and don’t do anything stupid. Bolivian people love to have fun, and our guide definitely was a bit of a prankster. However, when anything became serious or threatened our safety, he made sure to let us know.
Unless he’s doing something unethical, then call him out on it.
But, like I said earlier, sometimes the guides will do things like lure caymans out of the water with meat so that you can get a closer look at them. Or sometimes they will grab the snakes so you can also hold them. I’m not a personal fan of this, so if you aren’t either, make sure to let your guide know. A lot of guides like to put on a show because they think it will make the tourists happy. While that may be true for some people, let it be known if you and your group don’t feel the same way.
A trip to the pampas is one of the best adventures you can do in South America. It is unlike anything I have ever done before and I’m certain you will feel the same.
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