From the luxuriant rainforest of the Amazon basin to the stark puna grasslands of the altiplano, the blinding whiteness of the Uyuni salt flats to the impossibly blue expanse of Lake Titicaca, our exploration of this little known South American nation proved to be that perfect blend of culture, nature, and unexpected highlights, including our time in the Amazon . . .
Returning to La Paz, we flew down to the frontier town of Rurrenabaque, for a first taste of the riches of the Amazon lowlands: two hours of birding in the late afternoon revealed over 60 bird species! We headed up the Beni and Tuichi Rivers the following morning, on what is one of the most scenic river journeys in all of Amazonia, stopping for riverside capybaras and flocks of sand-colored nighthawks. We were welcomed to Chalalan Lodge in the best possible fashion, with a sighting of the rare and newly discovered primate specialty, the golden palace monkey. Chalalan is a fine example of community-based ecotourism and we appreciated the knowledge of our local guides and enthusiasm of the lodge staff. An afternoon canoe ride on the oxbow lake rewarded us with strange, hissing hoatzins, a sizeable black caiman, and the spectacle of a large troop of brown capuchin and Bolivian squirrel monkeys moving past a much more sedentary family group of red howler monkeys. Whilst finding animals in a rain forest is always a challenge, persistence the following day brought sightings of assorted forest denizens; noisy blue-and-yellow macaws, more golden palace monkeys, and a grand finale of acrobatic squirrel and capuchin monkeys along the lake edge.