Birding Tour Bolivia: Land of Endemic Macaws October 2020/2021

Upcoming Tours:

 

(Click on the + or on the date for prices )

(24) 27 October – 14 November 2021

The dates for the pre-tour are 24-27 October 2021.

Tour Costs

Pre-tour

Price (includes domestic flight): US$2,175/ £1,805 / €2,018 p/p for 4-8 participants,

Single Supplement: US$280 / £232 / €259

Main tour

Price (includes domestic flight): US$7,529 / £6,249 / €6,986 p/p for 4-8 participants,

Single Supplement: US$970 / £805 / €900

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

(24) 27 October - 14 November 2022

The dates for the pre-tour are 24-27 October 2022.

Tour Costs

Pre-tour

Price (includes domestic flight): US$2,175/ £1,805 / €2,018 p/p for 4-8 participants,

Single Supplement: US$280 / £232 / €259

Main tour

Price (includes domestic flight): US$7,529 / £6,249 / €6,986 p/p for 4-8 participants,

Single Supplement: US$970 / £805 / €900

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

Tour Details

Duration Pre-tour: 4 days
Duration Main tour: 19 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start Pre-tour: Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Tour Start Main tour: Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Tour End Pre-tour: Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Tour End Main tour: La Paz

Difficulty:
The pre-tour is rated moderate to difficult. The temperature is hot and humid. There are long drives on bad roads and picnic lunches. The accommodation is good but not luxurious, but is clean with private bathroom and AC. Most of the birding is along roads but includes walking along flat rainforest trails.
The main tour is rated moderate to difficult. Extreme temperatures, high elevations, long drives including poor roads include several picnic lunches, facilities vary from very good to fairly basic, but even though some hiking is included it is not strenuous.

Prices include:
Domestic flights Santa Cruz – Trinidad – Santa Cruz
Domestic flight from Cochabamba to La Paz
All accommodation
All meals (except as indicated)
Land transportation
Admission fees
Private tour leader
All water in the field

Prices exclude:
International flights
Travel cancellation and medical insurance
Personal expenses such as internet access, phone calls, room service, minibar expenses, alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, hotel water for sale
Any activity not described in the itinerary
Breakfast and lunch on day 1
Excess weight of checked luggage, regulated and charged directly by the airline
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

Eduardo's BioEduardo's Bio

Bolivia: Land of Endemic Macaws with optional pre-tour for Blue-throated Macaw October 2021/2022

 

Bolivia may be one of the less-frequently visited birding destinations in South America, but it has truly great potential and magnificent birds. The country holds 1452 bird species, the sixth country with the largest number of birds after Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Indonesia, and Ecuador. There are 18 endemic species, but Bolivia also holds several range-restricted and 50 globally threatened birds that are very difficult to find anywhere else. The reason for this avian biodiversity is probably the large number of different ecosystems found in this country. From Amazon rainforest through cloudforest (Yungas) mountains, tropical savanna, cerrado, flooded savanna, Chiquitania forest, and Chaco to high Andean mountains and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, Bolivia is likely the most diverse landlocked country on earth.


Blue-and-yellow Macaw is one of the commoner macaws we should see on this trip, along with the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Blue-throated Macaw.

Our 19-day Bolivia trip will give you the opportunity to explore some unique habitats in southern South America, such as the Chiquitania region. This transitional area between the Gran Chaco and the Beni wetlands is comprised of native xerophytic vegetation, acacia-like trees, and lowland grasslands and holds birds such as Toco Toucan, Chopi Blackbird, Sayaca Tanager, White-bellied Nothura, Red-winged Tinamou, Campo Flicker, Green-cheeked Parakeet, Flavescent Warbler, Bolivian Slaty Antshrike, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, and with luck the beautiful Red-legged Seriema.

We will start the main tour south of Santa Cruz de la Sierra to explore the Bolivian part of the Gran Chaco, a vast and impenetrable deciduous, thorn-bush-like ecosystem that covers large parts of Paraguay, northern Argentina, and western Brazil and reaches into southern Bolivia. The Chaco holds several very special birds, like the most-wanted Black-legged Seriema in addition to Chaco Earthcreeper, Little Thornbird, Many-colored Chaco Finch, Short-billed Canastero, Crested Hornero, Lark-like Brushrunner, White Monjita, White Woodpecker, and Chaco Chachalaca.

The lush tropical forest of the fantastically beautiful red-walled canyon near Bermejo at the edge of the Amboró National Park will be our next port of call. We will stay at the Refugio Los Volcanes ecolodge, where we could find Bolivian White-crowned Tapaculo, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Military Macaw, Rufescent Screech Owl, Two-banded Warbler, Dusky-green Oropendola, Black-streaked Puffbird, Blue-browed Tanager, White-backed Fire-eye, Yungas Manakin, Yungas Dove, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Slaty Gnateater, and with some luck Bolivian Recurvebill.

Then we will explore the dry valleys between Samaipata and Saipina in search of several range-restricted species such as Dot-fronted Woodpecker, Tucuman Amazon, and Bolivian Earthcreeper and the endemics Bolivian Blackbird, Cliff Parakeet, and Red-fronted Macaw.

Bolivia birding toursBlue-throated Macaw (photo Jose Luis Avendaño)

Leaving the dry valleys behind we will visit the cloudforest of the Siberia area, where we will look for the endemic Black-throated Thistletail, Trilling Tapaculo, Light-crowned Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, Fulvous-headed Brushfinch, and the endemic Rufous-faced Antpitta.

The city of Cochabamba in the center of the country at 2550 meters (8366 feet) above sea level will be our base for the next four nights to explore the slopes of the snow-capped Cerro Tunari, where several interesting species occur, such as the endemic Cochabamba Mountain Finch and Bolivian Warbling Finch. We will have a chance to see the gorgeous Red-tailed Comet, Andean Condor, and several Polylepis specialists including Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, and Giant Conebill. The beautiful mountain scenery is a picture in itself with the addition of images of Andean Gull, Andean Goose, and Andean Lapwing. The cloudforest and upper tropical foothills hold several range-restricted species that are otherwise found only in the extreme southeast of Peru and are hard to get there, such as Hooded Mountain Toucan, Orange-browed Hemispingus, Yellow-rumped Antwren, White-eared Solitaire, Blue-banded Toucanet, and Straw-backed Tanager.

Bolivia birding toursGiant Conebill

Then we will fly to the city of La Paz to explore Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, looking for Titicaca Grebe, Chilean Flamingo, Andean Avocet, Yellow-winged Blackbird, and Many-colored Rush Tyrant. We will also explore other habitats in search of the endemic Berlepsch’s Canastero, and finally our journey will take us along the legendary “Death Road” that used to join the high Andes with the lush and humid Yungas. Along the different altitudinal levels of this road we will look for high-elevation species such as Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Scribble-tailed Canastero, and Diademed Tapaculo to low-elevation species such as Versicolored Barbet, Yungas Tody-Tyrant, and Upland Antshrike.

In addition to this 19-day main tour we offer a 4-day pre-tour (which can be run only if the main tour is guaranteed as a fixed departure; it can be taken either in combination with the main tour or as a standalone tour) to the town of Trinidad in the Beni wetlands to look for the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Blue-throated Macaw as well as other interesting species such as the Beni-endemic subspecies of Velvet-fronted Grackle and Grey-crested Cacholote and Plain Softail. We will also look for Sunbittern, Band-tailed Antbird, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Band-tailed Manakin, Unicolored Thrush, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Hoatzin, Greater Thornbird, Plumbeous Ibis, Snail Kite, Jabiru, South American Snipe, and Black-collared Hawk, and with some luck Bare-faced Curassow and the scarce Orinoco Goose.

 

Pre-tour itinerary: 4 days/4 nights

 

Day 1. Arrival at Santa Cruz de la Sierra and transfer to the hotel

You arrive at the Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in the afternoon. If time permits we will spend a couple of hours birding around the airport, looking for species like Chopi Blackbird, Orange-backed Troupial, Rufous Casiornis, Toco Toucan, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, White-bellied Nothura, Red-winged Tinamou, Campo Flicker, and Greater Rhea.

Overnight: Hotel Cortez, Santa Cruz de la Sierra

 

Day 2. Lomas de Arena Regional Park, flight to and birding at Trinidad

We will have an early start to make a brief visit to the Lomas de Arena Regional Park before our flight to Trinidad. This visit to Lomas de Arenas depends on the schedule of the flight. We will focus on Red-legged Seriema and White-eared Puffbird.  Then we will transfer to the domestic airport to connect with our flight to Trinidad in the Beni Department. The wetlands of Trinidad provide good numbers of species like Jabiru, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Limpkin, and Wattled Jacana. We will also look for Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk, Long-winged Harrier, the local subspecies of Plain Softtail, and Velvet-fronted Grackle, Greater Thornbird, Grey-crested Cacholote, Black-collared Hawk, Snail Kite, and White-bellied and Rusty-collared Seedeaters.

Overnight: Tapacare Resort, Trinidad

Bolivia birding toursJabiru

 

Day 3. Loreto Road and Blue-throated Macaw

We will depart early in the morning to look for our main target here, the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Blue-throated Macaw. Until 1992 the natural habitat of this species was completely unknown, and with possibly no more than 50-249 mature individuals it is one of the most endangered avian species in the world. Around Trinidad there is an accessible site where three pairs live. We will also look for other species like Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Mato Grosso Antbird, White-lored Spinetail, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, White Monjita, Black-and-white Monjita, South American Snipe, Large-billed Tern, Yellow-billed Tern, Undulated Tinamou, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Solitary Cacique, and White-tailed Goldenthroat.

Overnight: Tapacare Resort, Trinidad

 

Day 4. Flight to Santa Cruz de la Sierra

If time permit we will spend the morning birding in Trinidad visiting the Chuchuni Ecological Reserve, where we might find species such as Hoatzin, Sunbittern, Black-tailed Trogon, Blue-crowned Trogon, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Barred Antshrike, Band-tailed Antbird, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Band-tailed Manakin, Purplish Jay, Plain-crowned Spinetail, Fawn-breasted Wren and White-backed Fire-eye. With luck we might find the secretive Bare-faced Curassow, Undulated Tinamou or Pheasant Cuckoo. We will fly back to Santa Cruz and transfer to the hotel.

If you are not joining us for the main Bolivia tour, your tour will end here at the Viru Viru International Airport for your flight home.

If you are joining us for the main Bolivia tour we will transfer to the hotel, where we will have our meal together.

Overnight: Hotel Cortez, Santa Cruz de la Sierra

Bolivia birding toursHoatzin

 

Main tour itinerary: 19 days/18 nights

 

Day 1 (4). Arrival at Santa Cruz de la Sierra and transfer to the hotel

You arrive at Viru-Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in the afternoon. We will spend a couple of hours birding around the airport, looking for species like Chopi Blackbird, Orange-backed Troupial, Toco Toucan, Sayaca Tanager, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, White-bellied Nothura, Campo Flicker, and Greater Rhea.

Overnight: Hotel Cortez, Santa Cruz de la Sierra

 

Day 2 (5). Lomas de Arena and Santa Cruz Botanical Garden

We will have an early start to briefly explore the Lomas de Arena Regional Park, where we will focus on Red-legged Seriema and White-eared Puffbird.

Bolivia birding toursRed-legged Seriema

Later we will visit the Municipal de Santa Cruz de la Sierra Botanical Garden, where we will look for the endemic Bolivian Slaty Antshrike, Green-cheeked Parakeet, Fawn-breasted Wren, Blue-crowned Trogon, Amazonian Motmot, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Golden-green Woodpecker, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Purplish Jay, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Great Antshrike, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Black-capped Antwren, Suiriri Flycatcher, Flavescent Warbler, Golden-crowned Warbler, Guira Tanager, and Guira Cuckoo. With luck we might find the elusive Stripe-backed Antbird.

In the afternoon we will visit some water reservoirs and lagoons near Santa Cruz, where we will look for Ringed Teal.

Overnight: Hotel Cortez, Santa Cruz de la Sierra

 

Day 3 (6). Transfer to and birding in the Chaco

We will leave Santa Cruz de la Sierra and drive south toward the Chaco, one of the largest and least-explored ecosystems in South America. The Chaco holds an interesting bird community with birds that can be found elsewhere only in the Chaco in Argentina and the Chaco in Paraguay. On the way to the Chaco we will look for Military Macaw, Stripe-backed Antbird, Black-capped Antwren, Ringed Teal, Least Grebe, Scaly-headed Parrot, and Turquoise-fronted Parrot. In the afternoon, we will start exploring the Chaco itself, where our main target is the most-wanted Black-legged Seriema. Other species we might encounter are Lark-like Brushrunner, Crested Hornero, Suiriri Flycatcher, Cinereous Tyrant, Little Thornbird, and Chaco Earthcreeper.

Overnight: J R Hotel, Camiri

 

Day 4 (7). Birding the Chaco

We will have another day in the Chaco to look for Chaco specials including Short-billed Canastero, Many-colored Chaco Finch, Bolivian Slaty Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, and Checkered Woodpecker.

Overnight: JR Hotel Camiri

 

Day 5 (8). Transfer to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, birding en route

Today we will drive back to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, on the way exploring some habitat north of the Chaco, where we could find Grey-crowned Warbler, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Black-bellied Antwren, Black-capped Antwren, Blue-tufted Starthroat, Gilded Hummingbird, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Pale-breasted Spinetail, and Golden-collared Macaw, and with a lot of luck we might encounter Chaco Eagle and Quebracho Crested Tinamou.

Overnight: Hotel Cortez, Santa Cruz de la Sierra

 

Days 6-7 (9-10).  Refugio Los Volcanes Lodge

We will have another early start, leaving Santa Cruz de la Sierra for Refugio Los Volcanes. This basic lodge is located in an outstanding location surrounded by rocky cliffs at the edge of the Amboró National Park. Here we will spend two nights. We will be looking for Two-banded Warbler, Black-goggled Tanager, Dusky-green Oropendola, Plush-crested Jay, Purplish Jay, Green-cheeked Parakeet, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Blue-browed Tanager, Striated Antthrush, Slaty Gnateater, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Bolivian White-crowned Tapaculo, Red-necked Woodpecker, Yungas Dove, Sunbittern, Black-streaked Puffbird, Yungas Manakin, and if we are lucky the secretive Bolivian Recurvebill and the elusive Grey Tinamou. At night, we will try for Rufescent Screech Owl.

Overnight: Refugio Los Volcanes, Florida

Bolivia birding toursBlack-streaked Puffbird

 

Day 8 (11). Transfer to Samaipata

After a last morning’s birding around Refugio Los Volcanes we will transfer to Samaipata.

Overnight: El Pueblito Hotel Boutique, Samaipata

 

Day 9 (12). Quirusillas forest and transfer to Comarapa

We will have a very early start to drive the unpaved road to the Quirusillas forest. This remote location holds a remnant of temperate Tucuman forest (a unique habitat found in this part of Bolivia and in northwestern Argentina). Our goal is to be there by dawn to look for Red-faced Guan, Tucuman Amazon, and Dot-fronted Woodpecker. Later we will descend into the dry valleys, dominated by scrub and cacti. During our drive to Comarapa we might see Blue-crowned Parakeet, Grey-crested Finch, White-fronted Woodpecker, White-tipped Plantcutter, and Black-and-rufous Warbling Finch.

Overnight: Monteblanco B&B, Comarapa

 

Day 10 (13). Perereta (Red-fronted Macaw)

Today we have an early start to drive to Perereta, a special place where the endemic Red-fronted Macaw roosts, so the sighting and the chance to photograph this unique species is almost guaranteed. Other birds here include the endemic Cliff Parakeet, the endemic Bolivian Earthcreeper, the endemic Bolivian Blackbird, Chaco Puffbird, Black-capped Warbling Finch, Rufous-sided Warbling Finch, Striped Woodpecker, and Spot-breasted Thornbird, and on the way back to Comarapa we might have a chance to see the elusive Giant Antshrike and Dusky-legged Guan. With luck, we might see the majestic Andean Condor en route.

Overnight: Monteblanco B&B, Comarapa

Bolivia birding toursAndean Condor (photo Alejandro Ronchetti)

 

Day 11 (14). Siberia forest and transfer to Cochabamba

Today we will explore the humid patch of montane forest above Comarapa, looking for Azara’s (Buff-browed) Spinetail, Light-crowned Spinetail, Trilling Tapaculo, the endemic Rufous-faced Antpitta, Common Bush Tanager, Bolivian Brushfinch, Olive-crowned Crescentchest, Fulvous-headed Brushfinch, White-browed Brushfinch, and with luck the scarce Black-winged Parrot. We will drive to a slightly higher elevation and try for the endemic Black-throated Thistletail. Later we will arrive at Cochabamba for a three-night stay.

Overnight: Hotel Diplomat, Cochabamba

 

Day 12 (15). Birding the Cerro Tunari

Today we explore the Cerro Tunari, looking for the endemic Cochabamba Mountain Finch, Bolivian Warbling Finch, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Puna Tapaculo, Maquis Canastero, Cordilleran Canastero, Rusty-vented Canastero, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Black-hooded Sierra Finch, Greenish Yellow Finch, White-capped Dipper, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, and the striking Red-tailed Comet.

Overnight: Hotel Diplomat, Cochabamba

 

Day 13 (16). Birding the upper Chapare

The Chapare area is the habitat of the localized Hooded Mountain Toucan and also White-eared Solitaire, the uncommon Orange-browed Hemispingus, and the rare Straw-backed Tanager. Other species include Yungas Pygmy Owl, Band-tailed Pigeon, Barred Antthrush, Blue-banded Toucanet, Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, White-eared Conebill, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Barred Fruiteater, and Southern Mountain Cacique.

Overnight: Hotel Diplomat, Cochabamba

Bolivia birding toursScarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager

 

Day 14 (17). Birding the lower Chapare

Another day to bird the upper Chapare in case we missed some of our targets in the area. We will then descend in elevation, looking for the localized Yellow-rumped Antwren

Overnight: Hotel Diplomat, Cochabamba

 

Day 15 (18). Flight to La Paz, transfer to and birding at Lake Titicaca

We will have an early flight to La Paz, and as soon as we have landed at El Alto International Airport we will transfer to Huarina at the shores of Lake Titicaca. The main target for today is the localized and most wanted Titicaca Grebe, which is easy from the grounds of our comfortable hotel. Other birds include Yellow-winged Blackbird, Many-colored Rush Tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird, Spot-winged Pigeon, Yellow-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck, Puna Teal, Andean Gull, Chilean Flamingo, Plumbeous Rail, Andean Goose, Andean Lapwing, and Cinereous Harrier.

Overnight: Inca Utama Hotel, Lake Titicaca

Bolivia birding toursChilean Flamingo

 

Day 16 (19). Search for Berlepsch’s Canastero

Today’s excursion will take us to Sorata to look for the endemic and localized Berlepsch’s Canastero and other high-Andes species. Then we will drive back to La Paz for an overnight.

Overnight: Hotel La Paz, La Paz

 

Day 17 (20). Day Birding La Cumbre and Coroico Road

Today we will explore the high-elevation mountain pass of La Cumbre at the base of the snow-capped mountains and at an altitude of over 4000 meters (14,440feet). Surrounded by stunning scenery we will look for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe and Grey-breasted Seedsnipe and at slightly lower elevation for Scribble-tailed Canastero and Diademed Tapaculo. We will reach the famous Coroico Road (once the infamous Death Road), which is used these days only by cars and mountain cycles. Here we will look for the scarce Scimitar-winged Piha, Band-tailed Fruiteater, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Bolivian Tyrannulet, Mountain Wren, Fulvous Wren, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Andean Solitaire, Drab Hemispingus, and Orange-browed Hemispingus. Then we will descend to Coroico in the tropical Yungas.

Overnight: Rio Selva Resort, Coroico

 

Day 18 (21). The Coroico Road and transfer to La Paz

We will spend the morning looking for the localized Brown Tinamou, Upland Antshrike, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Stripe-chested Antwren, and with luck Yellow-rumped Antwren. In the afternoon we will return to La Paz.

Overnight: Hotel La Paz, La Paz


Bolivia birding toursAndean Cock-of-the-rock

 

Day 19 (22). Day Transfer to El Alto International Airport and departure

You will be transferred from La Paz to El Alto International Airport to connect with your international flight.

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

Download Itinerary

Bolivia was a place on my wish list for some time. Unfortunately, the time I picked to go happened to be a time of political unrest.  But, in spite of that, Eduardo and the Birding Ecotours team did an amazing job of keeping us all safe and still managing to take us to some special places to see some special birds.  The endemic and critically endangered Blue-throated Macaw was a real highlight.  Sadly, the trip was cut short due to the state the country at the time, but the professionalism of Birding Ecotours never came into question.  I felt safe in their hands and would travel with them again anytime.

Anne Koke British Columbia, Canada

BOLIVIA: THE ANDES AND CHACO LOWLANDS TRIP REPORT OCTOBER 2019

This is a sample trip report. Please email us (info@birdingecotours.com) for more trip reports from this destination.

ARRIVAL INFORMATION

Our tour will start in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. You can reach Santa Cruz de la Sierra by several international flights coming from cities such as Lima, São Paulo, Miami, and Madrid. Please consult your travel agent to book the most convenient flight. Your Birding Ecotours tour leader will be waiting for you at Viru Viru International Airport with a small board with the Birding Ecotours logo and then transfer you to your hotel in a private shuttle.

Please be aware that most international flights arrive in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in the afternoon, so we do not have any official birding activity planned for day 1. In case you arrive on an early flight you will be transferred to the hotel and will have to wait until check-in is available. For an early check-in you might be charged an extra fee directly by the hotel, which is not included in the Birding Ecotours tour price. When arriving at the airport please remember to keep your luggage tags, as they are required to exit the terminal at the Santa Cruz de la Sierra airport. Depending on time and weather we can spend a couple of hours of afternoon birding around the terminal’s grasslands.

DEPARTURE INFORMATION

After an incredible 22 days our tour will end in the city of La Paz. We will say fairwell the previous evening, and you will be transferred on the following day to El Alto International Airport to connect with your international flights. El Alto International Airport is located at a distance of 25 kilometers (15 miles) from La Paz, which can take an hour or more due to frequent serious traffic jams. We ask you to take precautions and leave the hotel early enough to avoid any unforeseen problems.

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENT AND PACE

This trip combines easy, moderate, and difficult legs. You will start the trip in the Bolivian lowlands. Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Trinidad, and the Chaco are lowlands at elevations from 170 to 760 meters (557 to 2400 feet). We will spend a week at these elevations. The weather is hot in the lowlands with temperatures that oscillate between 26 °C and 40 °C (78 °F and 104 °F). In this environment most of the birding is on flat grounds along roads, close to the vehicles, and from the vehicles.

There are some hilly, steep trails at Refugio Los Volcanes, which we will hike on foot at 1470 meters (5400 feet) above sea level. They are not difficult but require a certain level of fitness. Birding the inter-Andean valleys between Samaipata and Cochabamba will be relatively easy, similar to the first leg of the trip. Once we reach the high-elevation areas of Cochabamba such as Cerro Tunari, La Cumbre, and Lake Titicaca the elevation increases to 4000 meters (13,124 feet) above sea level. Most of the birding will be near the vehicle and walking on roads, but the high altitude and the lack of oxygen might affect those participants which are not used to such high elevations. We will spend a night in Huarina at the shores of Lake Titicaca, which ranks among the highest elevations of the trip, but the hotel is very comfortable, and medical oxygen is available in the hotel in case of any potential altitude sickness.

Bolivia is the fifth-largest country of South America and sadly among the lesser-developed ones with the poorest road infrastructure in the area. We will face long drives and early starts on almost every day of the trip. However, we have chosen the most comfortable places available for our guests.

Overall the trip is not any harder than any other birding trip in terms of walking and hiking, but we will face bad roads, long drives (five to nine hours in some cases), and high elevation for the last seven days of the trip.

MEDICAL AND TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE

All tour participants are strongly advised to obtain adequate medical cover prior to any tour, to take steps to ensure that all valuables are covered against damage, loss, or theft, and to obtain travel insurance for loss of luggage, unforeseen delays, or cancellation of the trip due to events like delayed flights, adverse weather conditions, or civil unrest.

We strongly recommend to purchase trip cancellation insurance, as Birding Ecotours will not give a refund on deposits or balance payments if the trip is canceled for any reason whatsoever, including but not limited to illness and death. Participants should consider insurance that covers any medical expenses, evacuation expenses, and trip cancellation expenses in case a participant has to leave the tour for any reason unrelated to Birding Ecotours. Note that some hospitals and doctors in South America will ask for advance payment before providing any medical attention. We advise you to get a plan that ensures cover of all medical care and evacuation that applies to your country of residence.

MEALS 

Due to the early starts we will have on the trip and the remote locations we will visit breakfast and lunch will be served in the field, but we will have hot meals for dinner in restaurants and hotels. In restaurants we have two options of menu with always a vegetarian option. In lodges we have a fixed meal. Please let us know in advance about any diet restriction or preferences. However, we do our best to provide you with the most varied options during the trip. Water is included during the trip. Drinks, including soft drinks, fruit juices, and alcoholic beverages, are not included in the tour price.

MONEY

The official Bolivian currency is the boliviano. One US dollar equals 6.90 bolivianos.

We recommend that you bring US dollars. Often traveler’s checks are difficult to change, and this is not possible everywhere, especially in remote areas. We cannot spend birding time or scheduled time looking for financial institutions where you could cash these checks.

Your Birding Ecotours birding tour is an almost all-inclusive tour. You might need some money to cover personal expenses such as drinks, alcoholic drinks, laundry service, phone calls from the hotel, bar expenses, souvenirs and gifts you want to take home, or any non-mandatory gratitude you would like to give to any person who you think has provided exceptional service.

ATM machines are available in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cochabamba, and La Paz. Be aware that credit cards are not accepted everywhere, especially in remote locations. ATMs only provide bolivianos. We recommend that you get an amount you think you might need at the Santa Cruz de la Sierra airport immediately at your arrival. You will find exchanges at the airport.

We ask you not to bring US dollar bills that are damaged in any way (broken tips and edges, ink marks, pieces of tape on them, etc.) Most institutions and people do not accept US dollars that show this kind of damage.

HEALTH

Please carefully read the Center for Disease Control advice for Bolivia, including their recommendations about malaria. We also ask you to follow your doctor’s advice.

Although not a requirement for entry into Bolivia, unless you arrive from an infected area in another country, a yellow fever vaccination is a good idea for most people traveling to tropical third-world countries, and the vaccination is good for ten years. People with compromised immune systems should consult with their personal physician before getting any vaccination.

Hepatitis A, B, and C as well as polio, tetanus, and typhoid protection are recommended.

Dengue fever, carried by day-flying Aedes egypti mosquitoes, does occur in Bolivia, but no vaccine is yet available. To prevent mosquito bites we recommend to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, treat clothes with repellents like permethrin or use permethrin-treated clothing (such as Buzz Off), and use an EPA-registered mosquito repellent containing DEET.

Diarrhea is always a tricky hazard traveling in South America. Even though many travelers escape untouched we ask you to consult your doctor and bring some medicine to threat diarrhea like Imodium or Ciprofloxacin 500mg. We recommend drinking only bottled water and not eating at any street vendors if you are suspicious about the hygienic conditions. Follow your tour leader’s suggestions.

We take care of the places where we go for meals and the food we prepare in the field. We ask you to clean your hands using hand sanitizer. Please note that sometimes the change in the normal diet might show some mild stomach digestive abnormalities that may disappear in a short time. Only when this problem is followed by nausea, sickness, or fever there may be a real infection problem. Again, please ask your doctor what he recommends as best for you.

Please let us know any medical condition you may have such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, heart conditions, knee, back, or neck problems, including phobias or anything else you think we should know in order to take care of you and suggest what is best for you.

WEATHER

The weather will be hot and humid in the tropical lowlands with temperatures of 26 °C to 40 °C (78 °F to 104 °F) in places such as Santa Cruz, Trinidad, Camiri, and Coroico, but it will be less hot in the inter-Andean valleys such as Samaipata and Comarapa, where it can be hot in the morning but cool and windy in the afternoon.

La Paz, El Alto International Airport, and La Cumbre can be cold with temperatures around 5 °C to 8 °C (41 °F to 46 °F).

INSECTS

Insects should not be a big problem over most of our route, but we recommend that you wear loose-fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirts and keep insect repellents handy. Spraying shoes, socks, and the lower portion of pants with insect repellent will help reduce problems with chiggers.

Chiggers are burrowing mites that are found in the Americas from the United States to Argentina in hot areas. They occur on grass, and even though they do not spread any kind of disease their bites produce long-term itching as an allergic reaction. We recommend spraying insect repellent on feet and socks and lower legs to avoid chiggers. The forest holds all kind of insects such as mosquitoes, sandflies, blackflies, no-see-ums, and horseflies but never in large enough amounts to present a real problem. Ticks are uncommon in this part of Bolivia.

WHAT TO BRING

Equipment:
-Binoculars (of course)
-Spotting scope (optional) The leader will have a spotting scope for general use of all participants. However, we ask you to have quick views of the birds in order to allow everybody to have good views, especially of elusive species. If you like to enjoy long scope views of species at all times you might consider bringing your own scope. Digiscoping is not allowed with the tour leader’s scope.
-Alarm clock
-Flashlight
-Batteries
-A small notebook and pen to takes notes in the field
Personal Items:
-Grooming kit
-Glasses if you wear them
-Personal medication. We recommend bringing your prescription if you think you may need to buy any serious personal medication in local pharmacies.
-Sunscreen
-Sunglasses
-Waterproof plastic bags to keep your passport, wallet, and other valuables safe
-Umbrella (we recommend an umbrella rather than a waterproof jacket)
Clothing
-Long-sleeved shirt to be in the field (especially when walking forest trails)
-A regular t-shirt to feel comfortable while resting in the lodges and in the cars
-A regular shirt to be dressed for some dinners-and-checklist sessions
-Hiking boots to walk in the field, especially along forest trails. We will cover all kinds of terrain including paved roads, unpaved dirt roads, steep forest trails, grassy surfaces, rocky roads, and sandy surfaces. We might even have to walk on slightly muddy trails.
-Another pair of shoes to be comfortable during the drives, flights, and for meals. You may also bring sandals to be comfortable in your room and during spare times.
-A warm hat
-A warm jacket
-Waterproof pants

Please avoid nylon or plastic jackets and/or rainwear of similar materials that produce noise when we are owling.

SECURITY

The Bolivian countryside in all the areas that we visit are now quite safe, and you will find that Bolivians are friendly and helpful in general. Big cities, however, suffer the same problems as large cities anywhere, and you should take precautions to safeguard your personal belongings such as money, passport, and optical equipment. We recommend using money belts or security pouches worn inside your clothing. Avoid walking at night in large cities without informing your tour leader, and do not walk in big cities displaying binoculars and big cameras. We will be birding close to the Paraguayan border in the remote Chaco, so please be not surprised if we are stopped by military police; they are just checking what we are doing in the area.

ELECTRICITY

Bolivia uses 230 volts. We recommend bringing your electric converters and adapters to fit your electric devices. Bolivia uses A and C electricity plugs https://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/.

PASSPORT AND VISA

A passport valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure is required. We recommend having a few blank pages in your passport; some countries require a full page for their stamp. Bring a few copies of your main passport page as well as details of your consular representation in Bolivia. Citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Europe, and Japan as well as countries that belong to the Latin-American MERCOSUR trade bloc do not require visa to enter Bolivia. Citizens from Africa, Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean as well as Puerto Rico, Surinam, and Guyana should check directly with the Bolivian representation in their country about any requirements and visa they might need to enter Bolivia.

LAUNDRY

Laundry service is available in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cochabamba, and La Paz. Laundry fees are not included in the tour price.

PHOTOGRAPHY

We recommend that you bring all the photographic gear you may need because photographic equipment is difficult to find in Bolivia, especially in remote areas that we will visit.

Please ask permission of the local people before taking any photos of them. Some of them may feel that it is OK, while others may feel disturbed, and yet others, especially in tourist zones, may charge money or even might react aggressively.

Bird photographers are welcome, and the opportunities to photograph birds are good, but our tour is birding orientated.  We will not waste time searching for birds that have been seen by the group if somebody needs a photo or even an upgrade photo. Our birding schedule is not always associated with the best light conditions for photography. Your tour leader doesn’t waste any client time on personal photography.

LUGGAGE

For the domestic flight to Trinidad you are allowed one piece of luggage of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) as checked luggage and five kilograms (11 pounds) as carry-on luggage. If your luggage is heavier you will have to pay a fee, which is not included in the tour price. We ask you to put a sign with your name and contact information on your luggage.

BOLIVIA DEMONSTRATIONS

We would be remiss if we did not inform you that Bolivia has been the scene of political unrest in recent years. The wealthier lowlanders of the Santa Cruz and Beni departments are trying to maintain autonomy from the current socialist government, which wants to centralize power and most major industries. Due to this political disagreement Bolivia has been the scene of major protests, strikes, and demonstrations. Normally these issues are dealt with by blocking roads, particularly the highway between Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Cochabamba, which normally happens once or twice per year and sometimes might not happen for a few years at all. Fortunately we have never experienced any such civil unrest during our Birding Ecotours trips since we started operating in Bolivia in 2013. If this should happen during our trip we will do everything in our power to minimize the impact on our tour, but you should be aware that the tour might suffer some itinerary shuffles, unexpected downtime, or even a re-routing of international flights. Should the situation become unsafe (which, currently, is unlikely; most demonstrations are not violent, and tourists are not a target), cancellation of the tour, perhaps just prior to the tour departure or even during the tour, is a possibility.

ACCOMMODATION

We use very comfortable accommodation in cities such as Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Huarina (Lake Titicaca), Trinidad, and Cochabamba. You can expect all the usual comfort in these hotels. The Hotel in Camiri is comfortable enough, with private bathroom, air conditioning, and WiFi, but there is not much service or staff to provide extra services to the guest. In La Paz we use a hotel bed-and-breakfast style, which is strategically located to avoid the infernal traffic jams in the city. The Hotel in Samaipata is rustic but very charming, and the food is delicious; it normally ranks as one of the favorites for our guests. Refugio Los Volcanes is rustic, simple, and relatively old and provides only a room with en-suite bathroom and three meals per day. The accommodation in Comarapa (the most remote location we will visit on the tour) is very basic, with just your room and private bathroom but no service at all.

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