Bolivia: Madidi National Park & Wildlife at Chalalan Lodge (7 Days)
Bolivia’s Madidi National Park is known for having one of the most biologically diversity protected areas in the world. It shares a few non-contiguous boundaries with some protected areas in Peru like Tambopata-Candamo Reserve and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park and nearby Manu Biosphere reserve.
Madidi is one of the largest protected areas in the world and the territory encompasses the glacier-covered Andes of the Apolobamba range towards Pelechuco, the dry hills near Apolo, and extensive savannas and deep impenetrable jungle towards the Pando region of Bolivia.
The variety of eco-systems and flora and fauna you will see on this trip are incomparable and you will have countless opportunities to photograph birds and mammals on this trip as well as reptiles and insects. Please keep in mind that shooting in the jungle requires fast lenses, higher ISO’s and tripods to assure keeper photos.
The location of the Chalalan Lodge and adjacent wetlands and small rivers have an abundant variety of birds (macaws, hawks, toucans, ibis, herons, etc.), mammals (monkeys, ant eater, jaguar, fox, etc. ) and reptiles (lizards, turtles, snakes, caiman, etc.) and countless insects of all shapes and sizes.
Chalalan Lodge is the perfect basecamp for those venturing into the Amazon.
We will begin our journey in La Paz and fly the next day to the frontier town of Rurrenabaque to spend one night in preparation for our early morning departure to Chalalan Lodge which is up the Tuichi River. The March 2000 issue of National Geographic featured Madidi National Park and was shot by Joel Sartore and is a great example of what this park is all about.
Departure begins from Rurrenabaque via a motorized boat on the Beni and Tuichi Rivers for approximately five hours. The lodge is owned and administered by the natives of the village of San Jose de Uchupiamonas (located 8-10 hours via motorized boat up the Tuichi River from Rurrenabaque) but the lodge is at the five-hour mark from Rurrenabaque. Generations of the Quechua-Tacana people living in this region make them the obvious choice as naturalist guides that will take us along trails to find birds, mammals and reptiles to photograph and to share their knowledge of their home with you.
Day hikes twice a day and nocturnal wildlife hikes will give us plenty of opportunities to see a great variety of wildlife. The animals are protected (no hunting) so they are not super-wary of people and they are predictable and seen in many places we will visit.
If you like insects, bring your macro lens as there is an endless variety of insects that can keep you busy.
Chalalan is the perfect getaway for those that are in love with the neo-tropics and also for those just venturing into world of the Amazon for the first time offering great accommodations, food and excellent bi-lingual guides that will lead us to the animals.
Tour Dates: May 7-13, 2017 // June 25 – July 1, 2017 // September 24-30, 2017
Tour length: 7-days
Difficulty level: Easy in the Amazon, moderate due to the altitude in La Paz
Group Size Limit: 10
Tour Highlights: La Paz, Madidi National Park, Chalalan Eco-Lodge, wild animals, Amazon basin rainforest, expert native guides, monkeys, birds, peccary
Prices are in $ US Dollars:
7-10 people: 2,100.00
4-6 people: 2,275.00
2-3 people: 2,450.00
1 person: 2,995.00
*International airfare is not included in price
Deposit:$ 500.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee)
Inclusions: As per the itinerary: hotels, most meals (B,L,D), private transport, bi-lingual guides, airport transfers, decades of experience
Anyone can book a single spot on any tour at any time. These prices reflect the cost for one person, based on the total number of fully-paid people booked on a trip. If you have more people in your group and/or if the total number of people rises, the cost per person goes down. These prices are NOT based on a person or complete group bringing in a set amount of people on a tour. As more people book a spot on a tour the lower price is spread among all the participants. Thus we encourage you to include friends and family to join you so everyone gets a lower price.
*Please Note: We can run this trip anytime – let us know your date preferences. We will check lodge availability and coordinate with you.
– ITINERARY –
Flights to La Paz, Bolivia
Typically, flights to Bolivia depart late in the evening from Miami and arrive in La Paz the next morning. Depending on your airline, you would arrive at different times on day 1 in La Paz. Please let us know your flight info so we can coordinate pick-ups and other services.
International airfare is NOT included in this itinerary.
For airline tickets, please contact our ticketing agent GEO Travel 1-800-938-7285.
Day 1: Arrive in La Paz, Bolivia – City Tour
Arrive in La Paz in the early morning. The altitude at El Alto International Airport is 13,200’ above sea level, so it’s not un-common to feel light-headed and have shortness of breath at this altitude. We suggest you have a basic photo kit easily accessible so you can take photos along the route into La Paz after we pick you up. There are a few panoramic viewpoints where we will stop to see the grand canyon where La Paz sits. You will have plenty of time to make images before heading into the heart of La Paz. The hotel is located one of the lowest parts of the city in the warmer and more modern location (approximately around 10,500’) where you will check in and rest, relax or sleep for the rest of the morning. We recommend you have lunch at the hotel. We will pick you up at 2 PM to take a city tour so you can have a real close-up look at this fascinating city deep in the heart of the Andes. We will visit the heart of the business sector downtown, the open air markets in the Indian quarter and the colonial neighborhoods with great views of the city. We will return to the hotel about 4 hours later so you can rest and continue your acclimatization. Group dinner tonight at the hotel and we suggest you avoid alcohol and caffeine tonight. Overnight at Hotel Oberland (3*) in the Valley of the Moon (Mallasa) neighborhood. (D)
Day 2: La Paz – Rurrenabaque – Chalalan Lodge
We depart early in the morning to the airport for the flight to Rurrenabaque. The flight is a little over an hour from the Andes to the Amazon. Upon arrival in Rurrenabaque we will transfer to the offices of Chalalan Eco-Lodge to sort out paperwork, gear and prepare for the boat trip to Chalalan Lodge. We travel via a motorized boat with canopy up the Beni and then onto the Tuichi Rivers. Along the way we will have ample opportunities to view the typical Amazon basin made up of rainforest, rivers and savannas – home to thousands of bird species and other animals. Further up-river the scenery will change and the landscape will show its hidden secrets as we go through Bullet Canyon and get further into the rainforest. Snacks and light lunch en route. After approximately five hours we will arrive at the Tuichi river port for Chalalan. A short half-hour hike through the rainforest with a local guide will introduce you to the natural ecosystems that are living and struggling to survive in the tropical forest and bring you to Chalalan lodge – situtaed next to Chalalan Lagoon. Afterwards you’ll have the option of taking a siesta or just relaxing in the hammocks. Later in the afternoon we can go on a canoe trip on Chalalan Lagoon to take advantage of the late afternoon light for some great photo ops of monkeys foraging for food before nightfall. Dinner and an optional night hike to see nocturnal animals. Overnight at Chalalan Lodge. (B,L,D)
Day 3: Chalalan – Lagoon Overlook – Chalalan
We depart early via canoe to the other side of the lake in order to climb the hill to see the vastness of Madidi National Park before it gets too hot. The paddle is tranquil and is a great time to shoot birds and animals when they are active. Once across we work our way up to the overlook that gives you stunning views of the lagoon as well as the never-ending seas of trees undulating all the way to the horizon and then the last traces of the Andes mountains. This is a great place to see pigs and birds from the platform and get canopy-level photos of other birds and animals. We’ll work our way back to the lodge on foot in time for lunch. Afterwards we will head into the forest once again in search of animals and insects to photograph. We return for dinner at the lodge. There is a night hike to photograph nocturnal animals so come prepared with a flash. Overnight in Chalalan Lodge. (B,L,D)
Day 4: Chalalan – Eslabon River – Chalalan
After breakfast, we depart on a day hike on the Paraba Trail bordering Laguna Chalalan as we go through the rainforest where we can view macaws and other species in the canopy high above our heads. Further on we cross the Rayamayo creek after going through various sections of forest with trees that adapt to their geographical location – much of it based on the availability of sunlight within the forest. We join the Marimono trail slowly working our way back to the lodge for lunch. Afterwards we head to another part of the forest to search for animals and insects and whatever else we may run across. There are very good possibilities of seeing monkeys and wild pigs nearby. We will cross the lagoon via dugout canoe to the lodge. After dinner there’s an optional night hike or a paddle on the lagoon to photograph nocturnal animals. Overnight in Chalalan Lodge. (B,L,D)
Day 5: Chalalan – Rayamayo – Chalalan
After breakfast we go on an early morning hike on the Silbador trail until we arrive at Rayamayo River to view birds as they begin their daily activities. We continue looking for birds, monkeys and other animals as we work our way along the Mutun and Anta trails that will take us back to the lodge where we will have lunch. Canoe trips on the lagoon are always available for you to go shooting on your own. All you have to do is ask for a boat and off you go. Dinner at the lodge. Optional night hike for those interested in nocturnal animals photography. Overnight in Chalalan Lodge. (B,L,D)
Day 6: Chalalan – Tuichi River – Chalalan
It’s always a good idea to head out early in the morning as birds and animals get active as soon as there is light, which around these tropical latitudes means around 6 AM. The howler monkeys are the alarm clocks of the jungle so you don’t need one to wake up. You can just lie in your bed and enjoy the soothing sound of mother nature. An early morning walk to the port is a great opportunity for some fabulous photography and peaceful moments. We will be taking different trails to look for wildlife, insects and whatever catches our fancy. Lunch at the lodge. We will head in a different direction for the afternoon which is specially good on the lagoon as the sun fills in the dark shadows with warm sweet light, great for making images of monkeys, which they are usually around! Dinner at the lodge. Night shooting for those that are interested. Overnight in Chalalan Lodge. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Chalalan – Rurrenabaque – La Paz
After an early breakfast we head to the river and board the boat back to Rurrenabaque. The approximate travel time will be about 3 ½ hours to Rurrenabaque – depending on water levels. As we head downriver you’ll have time to reflect on all the wonderful things that you saw in Chalalan. Keep a sharp eye out on the banks and in the river as we have seen jaguars, peccary, tapir, caiman, deer and countless birds on shore and crossing from one side of the Tuichi to another. The scenery unfolds once again as we come to the confluence of the Tuichi and Beni rivers and finish in Rurrenabaque. Once at the port we head back to the offices of Chalalan Lodge and get our airline tickets and sort our gear for the flight back to La Paz. We depart to the airport and take the one-hour flight back to the Andes. We recommend you have some warm clothes so when you arrive you have something warm to wear with you, not in your luggage. Our vehicle will be waiting and we descend quickly to our hotel. Lunch on your own. The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy on your own or we can finish up with a session in photography and see what you captured in Madidi. It’s likely the altitude will affect you a bit so listen to your body and rest. Drink plenty of water and stay away from alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Hotel Oberland (3*). (B,D)
This marks the official end of the trip. We will provide a complimentary shuttle to the airport in the morning. Please coordinate with us for your scheduled departure time.
Day 8: La Paz – Home
For those departing to the US most flights leave early in the morning. We will provide a complimentary shuttle to the airport so please coordinate with us to schedule your transfer time.
– End of our Services –
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.