After our trip to Madidi, we took another rest day in Rurrenabaque. I don’t
remember doing anything besides catch up on the Internet and read. This is one
of very few days where I didn’t take any pictures.
The following morning we made our way to the office of Bala tours, where we
were picked up by a car that took us to Santa Rosa. This drive took about 3
hours, mostly over a dirt road that a big Chinese company was busily turning
into a large highway. This road will provide a good connection to Bolivia’s
neighbors, but is also controversial because it will cut through Madidi
National Park. In Bolivia’s current political climate however, infrastructure
(usually accompanied by a huge billboard with Morales’ face on it) and industry
But for now the road was still dirt, and the surroundings were minimally
developed farmland. As such we saw quite a few birds on our drive, and at one
point we stopped to watch some sloths. They were much harder to see than the
ones in Santa Cruz, but we did glimpse one with a baby.
From Santa Rosa we took a short boat trip to the lodge where we would stay. On
that short trip we saw more birds, and got our first glimpses of Bolivian
The lodge consisted of half a dozen cabins and a central dining room, all built
on packed dirt with palm trees growing on it. We met our guide for our stay,
and after dropping off our luggage went on our first boat ride.
The water was unseasonably high. Usually at this time of year the water is 6
meters above the low water level, but during our visit it was 10 meters above
the low water level. As a result the water was very murky, and we were
effectively sailing through the upper layer of brush/lower layer of trees. The
murky water made it very hard to get pictures of the river dolphins, because
you could only really see them when they’re above water, and they would only be
there very briefly.
We saw lots of birds during our stay. Danielle had a list going, and ended up
with more than 50 species. Some of the most interesting birds were the Hoatzin
birds. They sat in the trees not far
above the water line, with distinctive blue faces and mohawks. As we passed,
they’d emit a warning call which sounded like a forceful breath more than
anything. The chicks, of which we saw quite a few, are born with little claws
on their wings so that they can climb out of the water should they fall in.
At night we went out again looking for cayman eyes. We only saw a few because
the high water gave them lots of space to hide. We also saw some capybaras,
but nothing like what we saw the following morning. We had gotten up early for
the sunrise, and saw a river bank with many capybaras. Of course there were
more birds as well. The sunrise was a bust due to cloudy weather, but we were
plenty happy because of all the wildlife we saw.
After breakfast we got our best look at river dolphins. They were playing in
the water around our boat. A few jumped out of the water, and Danielle even
touched one. Our guide had instructed us to splash the water with our hands,
and one dolphin was curious enough to come right up to Danielle’s hand.
Later, we came across a troop of squirrel monkeys. Our guide lodged our boat
into the tree they were in, and promptly several monkeys used the stern of the
boat to wrestle and chase each other around. A few monkeys also showed
interests in Danielle’s phone and my camera. After a few minutes of this they
moved on. It was also really neat to watch them grab insects and eat them.
In the afternoon we returned to Rurrenabaque by boat and then by car. We once
again retired to the air conditioning. The next morning we got to the airport
nicely on time, but the staff there made a mistake and ended up putting us on a
later plane. We didn’t really have anything planned so it wasn’t a huge deal,
although a bit annoying.