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As a frenchman residing in Santiago, Chile, I have many possibilities to discover the Bolivian National Parks. Here are some good ideas at really low prices compared to neighboring Brazil and Peru. 1- Madidi National Park. This is the masterpiece of the hug he Amboro - Manu corridor. It was created thanks to the support of the WCS. On the Northern side of the frontier, in Peru, is the Bahuaja Sonene and Tampobata reserve. Both places are well known and luxury lodges operate in the Tambopata reserve. Madidi is really wild. It streches from the icy peaks of the Chaupi Orco to the lowlands of the Heath pampas. It encompasses a really diverse set of habitat: andes and altiplano steppe, paramo grasslands, yunga cloud forests, amazonian forest, opened grasslands. Some few species present in the park: andean deers, spectacles bears, condors, ocelots, jaguars, amazonian and andean puma sub-species, white lipped and collared peccaries, brazilian tapirs, giant otters, blue throated, red and green and blue and yellow macaws, bush dog, giant ant-eaters, spider monkey, lerochi monkey. I have travelled twice in Madidi and have seen so many animals, including puma, jaguar, and the really rare giant otters. The biomass is really high along the Tuichi river. Some studies determined that the jaguar density is even higher in Alto Madidi than in Pantanal... Only the community land of the indigenous village of San Jose de Uchipiamonas developed tourism. Many lodge operate there while Alto Madidi I stayed twice in the Berraco del Madidi ecocamp (80 dollars per day all included), which the wildest part of the park of easy access to tourists. Density of animals are amazingly high in this primary forest area, with huge groups of white lipped peccaries. The presence of a salt lick is a major asset for this place. It is the most pristine part of the park, with undisturbed wildlife populations. http://www.berracodelmadidi.com Another good place to stay is Chalalan ecolodge, owned by the indigenous community of San José. I'll make a trip report as soon as posible. 2- Yacuma river in Beni It is an amazing birding destination, especially during the dry season, when all the birds and migrants gather along the banks of the small yacuma river. Lots of swamps around the river where you can find anacondas and aquatic birds such as jabiru, storks, etc.. The trips are organized by boat on the river to see the fauna. During the dry season it's thousands of spectacled caimans and capybara that can be observed on the banks, the biomass is just outstanding. There are some squirrel, howler and brown capuchin monkeys. Can also be seen night monkey. The star of the trip are the pink dolfins really playful. They start to migrate down to the Mamoré river during the dry season but still are easily seen throughout the year. The best ecolodge to discover the "pampas" is Balatours. Another good place to stay is Mashaquipe ecolodge. Both have tours at 80 dollars per person. I have been twice to the pampas with bala tours and have seen: tens of howler and brown capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkey night monkey at the ecolodge, porcupine, southern tamandua, two giant ant-eaters, brazilian rhea, blue and yellow macaws, tens of pink dolfins, thousands of caimans and capybaras, agoutis, monitor lizard, coati... I have seen tapir footprints but local say they are really hard to see. An amazing place to combine with Madidi. A paradise for birders. 3- Barba Azul Nature reserve Set to protect the last breeding place of the re-discovered blue throated macaw in the heart of the Beni grasslands, the fundación Armonia is currently working on extending the size of the reserve, monitoring the macaws and working on research. While organized as a research ecological station, tourist are really welcomed. Access is really hard during rainy season. Aircraft has to be hired to avoid long, exhausting road transfer from Trinidad, only feasible during dry season. The blue throated macaw was first thought to be extinct before Charles Munn from the WCS rediscovered it. I am planning to visit this amazing place in the following years. Scientists say it is one of the best places to see maned wolf. Big specimens of black caiman are still there too. 4- Amboro National Park: I have been to los Volcanes lodge in october and had a mitigated impression. While the place is just amazing - breathtaking landscapes - I did not see many birds due to the drought. It is the highest biodiversity place in Bolivia for insects and birds. It is really endangered by the narco-trafficants and its Northern boundary. Amazing turn forest close to Samaipata that I really enjoyed. The tropical part is not really interesting compared to Madidi. 5- Kaa Iya National Park: A small new agency called Nickadventure offers tour to the Chaco from Santa Cruz. They have been really successful for showing jaguars during dry season (from june to october), as well as brazilian tapirs. I will definitely visit the place in the following years. Accommodation is now really bad, we have to camp under 45 degrees which could be a problem for may people. Safaris are done along the gas pipeline between Paraguay and Bolivia. Animals gather around the last pounds during dry season. Here is Nickadventures link: http://www.nicksadventuresbolivia.com 6 - Noel Kempff National Park Another out of the beaten track protected area. Some few operators go there. Nickadventures will soon offer fixed departures by aircraft as road access is definitely unpredictable. I now looks more as a adventure destination, with expensive aircraft, it will soon become an amazing destination. Tourists stay at an ecological research station. Trips by boat on the river and by foot in the jungle. Giant otters almost guaranteed. I will try to visit this place in the next 5 years.
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