Mon 9th to Thu 12th Jul
I catch a local colectivo to the airport (6b as opposed to 70b in a taxi) which takes about an hour from Prado. We board and leave on time for the shortest flight ever to Rurrenabaque with Amazonas – only 30 mins! As part of the service with Indigena Tours, I’m picked up at the airport and due to mix up with lack of communication from the company, I’m taken to the office to meet with them. All is cool, I’m dropped off at my hostel and go for dinner.
Tue morning, we leave around 0930/1000 in 4×4 for the 3 hour journey to Santa Rosa (96kms) ready to start our 3 day jungle tour into the Pampas of Yacuma situated in the upper basin of the Amazon.
It’s nice as there is only 3 of us – me and 2 girls from Denmark – Matilda and Marie.
Our driver stops as he spots some capybara (big rodent things – member of the rat family)
The journey is pretty much a long dusty bumpy road
with lots of bridge jumps that he drives over at speed making ur tummy turn like the one on the way to Abergavenny!
After about 2.5 hours we arrive in Santa Rosa and it’s a quick included lunch stop then a 5 min drive to the boat pick up point for half one.
This is when the returning groups come back and the new ones set off.
We’ve barely been on board 2 mins when our guide Jack shouts camera camera. We’re a bit oh ok, take our time not realising there is an aligator right in front of us!
This quickly becomes the norm as there are hundreds of them!
We get a bit girly and squeal as they crawl off the river bank and swim towards and under our boat! Jack seems to love this and has a real evil laugh when we’re approaching them!
There are loads of birds, mist of which are wasted on me but I do know and spot a heron (it’s a cocoi) and a kingfisher. The rest I haven’t a clue….but am told there’s Rufescent Tiger-Herons, wattled jacana, macaws, bird of paradise and many many more. My twitcher friends would have loved it.
We spot a few caiman but most scarper into the water before we get chance to really get a look at them and their enormity – but I do manage to get this beauty
Whilst looking at a capybara fall into the river, a piranha flips out of the water and lands at my feet. I absolutely crap myself and brave Marie grabs it and puts it back in the water!
Our guide’s favourite saying is camera camera, ladies camera. But after so many photos of the aligators, we’ve become a bit blasé and don’t really need anymore. We do though as he’s so excited by it all and lives sharing this environment with us. After every twist and turn in the murky brown river, there are just more and more of these leathery beasts basking in the sun on the riverbanks.
It definitely makes you feel like you’ve entered another planet, we are definitely on their turf now. The animals rule here.
We stop to see some yellow squirrel monkeys which from afar look quite cute but they make an awful noise and have really pointy canine teeth.
They look quite menacing as they contemplate jumping on board. With a petrified Matilda, I ask Jack to reverse the boat back a bit.
We see lots of tortoises and watch them plop in the water as our boat approaches
Jack shouts mira mira, and we think he’ll see the aligator that is inches from us but he’s too busy looking at more monkeys. We shout and he pisses himself laughing at our reaction if being so close!
A lot of the aligators rest with their mouths open. When I ask why I’m told it’s because they have cold blood and this warms their bodies up…
We arrive at our lodge which does look half built but none of the others we psssed actually look much better.
It was only ever going to be basic out here anyway! We chill on the river back in the sun
before heading to the Sunset Bar to watch the sunset of course and grab a drink
Once dark, it’s back in the boat to go in search of caiman and aligators and their babies using a flash light. They’re easily spotted this way as the light makes their eyes shine red. Again, there’s bloody hundreds of them. We kind of feel we’ve exhausted this adventure and cold want to head bsck but there seems to be a turning round point. When one aligator jumps out at us and we shit ourselves, it seems this was the desired reaction and laughing, Jack happily turns back! He definitely knows his stuff and pulling up against the bank, shows us loads of baby aligators – spotted just by lots of eyes!
He turns the engine off and it’s quite surreal…just the noises of the jungle….birds squawking and flapping wings, crickets, bugs, fish jumping, all lit by bright stars in the sky. All senses in full alert…it’s quite incredible.
This little outing has left us freezing cold so it’s time to head back for dinner which was lovely and plentiful. It’s amazing what these guys can knock up in the middle of nowhere. Then it was time for bed under a massive mosquito net!
I didn’t sleep too good as it was freezing. I was warmer at minus 15 on the Chachani hike in a tent than here! Half 5 we’re up and by 6 we’re on our way to go watch the sunrise which was beautiful as too was the morning must over the river.
This mornings activity is a walk around the Pampas looking for anaconda. After breakfast and wellies up, off we go into the jungle.
Not far in, we’re in a place they should be but find nothing. We wander on through….long grass, along the river lined with aligators, trudge through seamos and bogs whilst Jack pokes and prods with his staff but to no avail
We see a dead heron in a pond and think one might be near but again no luck. Jack is trying his best and goes off here there and everywhere trying to ensure we see one. The heat is building and after 2 and a half hours, we tell him not to worry. I think he’s getting quite stressed about it. He wanders off again while we wait under the shade of a tree
I think we’re kind of heading back although he’s not said anything and he’s still massively on the look out. Then all of a sudden his pace slows, body position changes and he turns to beckon us over quietly. Letting out a HUGE sigh of relief, he pints at this black thing in a swamp puddle. THAT is an anaconda!
I thought they were bloody massive things and was petrified about seeing one up close but this I’m afraid to say was a bit of an anticlimax. I’m just glad we saw one for Jack’s sake. After 3 or so hours, this does mean we can now walk back and get some lunch – which was again great then it’s some chill time in the sunshine overlooking the river.
Around 4, we set off down stream to go piranha fishing! We see a sloth up in the tree but without binoculars, it’s sadly hard to get a proper look.
Finally Jack stops the boat and out comes our fishing gear – it’s like crabbing wire with a hook which we stuck a small chunk of beef on then hoy it in the water. U can feel a tug instantly but the knack is in how quick u can pull the wire back in
Jack gets one first
then Matilda. We carry on for a fair bit and Jack is the clear winner. My second catch
We amass 15 piranhas and 2 catfish – dinner is sorted (although I hope there is something other than fish).
With the mosquitos buzzing and biting in full force, it’s time to take our catch home and get it cooked.
Luckily dinner is beef as well as the piranhas are pretty difficult to eat (for someone like me) and there isn’t a lot of meat on them but it is good to eat what we’ve caught.
After an adventurous day, we’re all knackered and call it a night about half 8!
I sleep much better and warmer than the night before but am woken around 6am by the sound of what I thought was a bear in the lodge vicinity. It’s only when I fully wake up I realise this is the howler monkeys! God they make a racket and this little chorus continues for a good 20 mins or so and then just stops.
After breakfast it’s time to go look for the pink dolphins. They’ve bobbed about all the time but not been easy to see. They must live this time of day because there are loads of them. They are not flipping and jumping out of the water and getting any kind of picture is impossible so it’s nice to just sit back and watch them appear and reappear without looking through a camera lens. This was all I captured…
We could have gone swimming with them but none of us fancied getting in the murky water. On the way back we also see the cute cappuccino monkey.
Back at the lodge we pack up, have lunch and it’s time to head back to Santa Rosa on a sun drenched boat ride
The caimans are our in force today and they are bloody massive. Omg….
We even see one eating an aligator!
Back on dry land, we thank Jack for everything
and it’s into the car for the return 3 hour trip to Rurrenabaque and for me back to La Paz.
Back in the city, I treat myself to a slap up steak dinner at The Steakhouse. This isn’t cheap but is mightily good. A must for meat eaters visiting the city.