This small jungle town serves as the primary gateway for tours visiting the dense Amazon jungle of Madidi or the wildlife rich pampas region. Relaxed Rurrenabeque has plenty of hotels catering for a variety of budgets as well as a smattering of tourist friendly restaurants, bars and travel agents. Although it is only 250 miles (400 km) north of La Paz, the unpaved road requires a 16 hour journey which is notoriously tiring and treacherous. At less than 70BOB one way (US$10), the bus is okay for travelers on an exceptionally tight budget. However, a BOB490 (US$70) 35 minute flight with Amaszonas is well worth it if your budget will allow.
The most popular option for travelers seeking a memorable yet low cost Amazon experience is the three-day Pampas Tour which departs daily from Rurrenabeque. Tours run as low as BOB210 (US$30) per day for an all inclusive tour, which includes dugout canoe wildlife spotting safaris, swimming with rare pink dolphins, a number of wetland hikes, a piranha fishing excursion plus all food, accommodation and transport. Pampas tours are ideal for those who are primarily interested in spotting wildlife, although bear in mind that these are basic tours, aimed at budget travelers.
Also departing from Rurrenabeque are tours visiting the pristine Madidi National Park. The park is world famous for its diversity, making it a great place to delve deep into the real Amazon rain forest. The jungle is super dense in Madidi, so its a little difficult to spot as many animals, although they certainly can be heard. Trips through Madidi also tend to focus on identifying natural medicines and other jungle oddities. Many people stay in designated eco-lodges, the best of which is the community run Chalalan, but cheaper camping options are available too.
Those looking to experience the beauty of the Amazon at a more relaxed paced should consider a cruise on the charming Reina de Enin. This flotel (floating hotel) gently glides down the River Mamoré from Trinidad while taking in the sights and sounds of the spectacular Amazon rain forest. The ship, which holds a maximum of 34 people, stops along the way so that guides can lead the more adventurous passengers on hiking trips to seek out local wildlife. As with any good Amazon river trip, there’s also the opportunity to swim with pink dolphins and go fishing for piranha.
Fancy yourself as a bit of a Bear Grylls? Then consider signing up for a jungle survival tour. These daring four-day tours see adventurers head deep into Madidi National Park almost empty handed. An expert jungle guide shows brave travelers how to survive by hunting for food, finding water and building shelters. With just a machete and some local knowledge to rely on, this is a brutal experience that really isn’t for the fainthearted.
Those interested in an alternative way of traveling between La Paz and Rurrenabeque should contemplate embarking on a six day inner-tube rafting expedition. The journey involves building a raft, fishing for food and hiking to waterfalls and other attractions along the way. Touted as a no noise experience, the lack of hearing even a single motor for days on end makes for a truly solitary experience.
Floating down the river in Bolivia | © Jonathan Hood/Flickr