Bolivia, a special adventure in the middle of south America.
By Birding Bolivia and Blue Elephant
Bolivia is a biological treasure nestled between Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Paraguay. Our tour starts in the tropical lowlands at Santa Cruz, and slowly takes us day by day up to the high Andes, to finally reach an altitude of around 4,720 meters. We will explore a wide range of habitats and the most spectacular scenery on earth is to be enjoyed during this tour. With its diversity of habitats, this small landlocked country hosts over 1,300 species of birds: a full 40 percent of the species in South America. The tropical Amazonian portions of Bolivia have barely been studied, and the species list may be much more extensive. About 20 species are endemic, with three times that many represented by endemic races. Another hundred or so are endemic to the limited ecosystems that share a border with Bolivia’s neighbours. We invite you to join us in this unique birding adventure to the heart of South America.
Our tour itinerary in a glimpse
|1||Arrival in Santa Cruz de la Sierra|
|2||Amboro National Park|
|3||Amboro National Park to Refugio Los Volcanes|
|4||Refugio Los Volcanes|
|5||Refugio Los Volcanes to Tambo|
|6||Siberia Cloud Forest|
|7||Comarapa to Cochabamba|
|8||Cochabamba to Villa Tunari|
|9||Carrasco National Park|
|10||Villa Tunari to Cochabamba|
|11||Birding the Polylepis at Cerro Tunari|
|12||Cochabamba to Oruro, and on to La Paz|
|13||La Cumbre Pass and Coroico|
|14||Titicaca Lake and Sorata|
|15||La Paz airport for return flight home|
Our detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Santa Cruz to Buena Vista. Morning arrival in Santa Cruz. This is the second largest city in Bolivia, and lies in the transitional zone between the seasonal marshes and Chaco desert to the east, the southern edge of the Amazonian rainforest to the north, scrub and grasslands to the south and the foothills of the Andes to the west. On arrival we will go birding in the area of the botanical gardens, to have a brief introduction to Bolivian birds.
After having a packed lunch here, we will drive north, towards the small city of Buena Vista, where we will spend the following two nights. Buena Vista is located on the edge of the northern boundaries of Amboró National Park. On our way there we will cross some grassland habitats, which are always very productive for bird watching. Some of the birds we can expect to see today include: blue-crowned parakeet, Toco toucan, burrowing owl, whistling heron, scaly-headed parrot, gilded hummingbird, black-banded woodcreeper, yellow-chinned spinetail and stripe-backed antbird to name but a few.
Day 2: Amboró National Park. Amboró National Park protects 180,000 hectares of pristine bird habitat and it is nestled amidst three unique and very different ecological regions: the Andes, the Amazon basin, and the Chaco. We will explore the forests of Amboró in the vicinity of Buena Vista, searching for birds like the yellow-tufted and red-necked woodpeckers, blue-crowned trogon, purplish jay, buff-throated and straight-billed woodcreepers, brown-crested flycatchers, great and barred antshrikes, fork-tailed woodnymph and russet-backed and crested oropendolas. In the early evening we will go birding on the nearby marsh of Curichi Cuajo, where we expect to see some very charismatic species, such as the southern screamer and hoatzin.
Days 3 & 4: Buena Vista to Los Volcanes. We will leave our hotel in Buena Vista very early in the morning of day 3, and drive back towards Santa Cruz. Just before arriving there, we will take the road to Samaipata for 70km to finally reach Refugio Los Volcanes, where we will spend the following two nights. Los Volcanes lies right next to the south-easternmost corner of Amboró National Park, in a deep valley overlooking some impressive sandstone cliffs and surrounded by wet tropical forests. The area is remarkable not only for its birds, but also for its flora. Around 100 species of orchids have been identified for this area, and there is also a wide variety of bromeliads. We will spend one and a half days here, exploring the trails around our lodge, and searching for several species of parakeets, like the blue-crowned, mitred and dusky-headed. Flocks of Andean condors are often seen here as well. We will also go birding in a dry, deciduous forest near Samaipata, to look for such specialities as the white-faced dove, the green-cheeked parakeet, the buff-bellied hermit, slender-tailed woodstar, ochre-cheeked spinetail, lined antshrike, ocellated piculet, slaty gnateater, grey-crested finch, black-capped and ringed warbling-finches, dull-coloured grassquit and others. The black-capped antwren, plush-crested and purplish jays, moustached wren, common piping-guan, Tataupa tinamou, black-goggled, orange-headed and guira tanagers, rufous-bellied thrush and dusky-green oropendola are other possible sightings in this region.
Day 5: Los Volcanes to Comarapa.We will leave our lodge at Los Volcanes and drive west to explore and birdwatch in the Samaipata area before continuing for another 97 kilometers to reach Comarapa before the end of the day. Comarapa is the best area to see the rare red-fronted macaw, and there are also numerous raptors here. This part of the itinerary will allow us to bird in a highly transitional area, which goes from the humid tropics to the Bolivian desert. The vegetation becomes drier as the altitude increases, and we enter the dry valleys in the rain shadow of the surrounding mountains. Our simple yet adequate accommodation is located in the village of Comarapa. This will be our base for the next two nights as we go birding in a variety of different habitats.
Day 6: Siberia Forest. A short drive up on the mountains brings us to some of the southernmost deciduous forest in the eastern Andes. At elevations of above 2,440 meters, the abundance of epiphytes and purple flowers of the family Melastomaceae will fascinate us as we enter Siberia Forest. The avifauna here is quite different from what we have been seeing thus far. This is the easternmost distribution range for birds like the scaly-naped and black-winged parrots, violet-throated starfrontlet, bar-bellied woodpecker, pearled treerunner, unicoloured tapaculo, red-crested and chestnut-crested cotingas, rufous-breasted chat-tyrant, tawny-rumped and white-throated tyrannulets, Sierran elaenia, spotted nightingale-thrush, spectacled and brown-capped redstarts, pale-legged warbler, white-browed conebill, blue-winged and chestnut-bellied mountain-tanagers, rufous-naped and stripe-headed brush-finches and grey-bellied and moustashed flower-piercers. Other harder to find species here include the blue-capped puffleg, the stunning crested quetzal, crested becard, plumbeous tyrant, band-tailed fruiteater, barred fruiteater, rusty-browed warbling finch, light-crowned spinetail and rufous-faced antpitta. Our Bolivian bird list will surely be visibly longer by the end of this day!
Day 7: Comarapa to Cochabamba. Our early start to Cochabamba will allow us time to stop in some good birding areas. We will target the endemic black-hooded sunbeam, along with the very restricted blue-capped puffleg. The showy red-tailed comet is possible here as well. After crossing a very scenic pass through the high mountains near Siberia, the road drops down again, passing a series of valleys and ridges. We will soon reach the slopes covered with gnarled, red-bark polylepis forests. These trees grow at higher altitudes than any others, and support a good number of new bird species for us. We will look for olive-crowned crescentchest, spot-breasted thornbird, rufous-bellied saltator, rufous-sided and rusty-browed warbling-finches. As the day goes on, other stops include the habitat of the lovely and near endemic citron-headed yellow-finch, the spot-winged pigeon, bare-faced ground-dove, grey-hooded parakeet, golden-breasted flicker, striped woodpecker, plain-breasted and rock earthcreepers, brown-capped tit-spinetail, streak-throated bush-tyrant, D’Orbigny’s and white-browed chat-tyrants, tufted tit-tyrant, hooded siskin, ash-breasted and black-hooded Sierra-finches, greenish yellow-finch, plain-coloured and band-tailed seedeaters and many more. We’ll also look for the maquis canastero and the endemic cochabamba mountain-finch. A handful of delightful hummingbirds include the giant, sparkling violet-ear and red-tailed comet. At the end of the day we cross the last ridge and descend to the historical city of Cochabamba to spend the night.
Day 8: Cochabamba to Villa Tunari. This morning we will leave Cochabamba, at 2,560 meters, to climb to the Puna ridge at 3,660 meters before dropping back down to rich montane temperate forest. This is the Villa Tunari road, known to be one of the best birding sites in South America. We will watch here for the black-winged parrot, the amethyst-throated sunangel, great sapphirewing, black-hooded sunbeam, the fabulous golden-headed and crested quetzals, white-throated quail-dove, hooded mountain-toucan, blue-banded toucanet, crimson-mantled woodpecker, chestnut-crested cotinga, the endemic black-throated thistletail, rufous antpitta, Andean tapaculo, rufous-breasted and brown-backed chat-tyrants, scarlet-bellied mountain-tanager, blue-and-black tanager, and white-browed conebill, before descending to the tropical lowlands and our hotel overlooking the river in Villa Tunari, where we will spend the following two nights. At the end of the day, we will have dropped some 3,200 meters from the pass this morning all the way down to Villa Tunari.
Day 9: Carrasco National Park. Located at the foot of the Andes, 450 meters above sea level, Villa Tunari is in one of the wettest areas of sub-tropical forest on the continent. We will spend the morning birding in the lower forests of the Carrasco National Park. Our goal here is to explore a cave with the southernmost population of oilbirds on Earth. The river crossing is an adventure in itself. In a safe but thrilling procedure, a little cable car is pulled across over the rushing river below. The forest here harbours a number of Amazonian species like the Amazonian umbrellabird, the black-throated antbird, black-spotted barbet, black phoebe, Swainson’s thrush, red-crowned ant-tanager, crested and dusky-green oropendolas, golden-crowned flycatcher, screaming piha, black-and-chestnut eagle, the restricted upland antshrike and the stunning Andean cock-of-the-rock.
Day 10: Villa Tunari to Cochabamba. In the morning, before leaving the Villa Tunari area, we will check Tablas Montes and the Miguelito trails to search for any missed species. After lunch we will start our way back, up the mountains and on to Cochabamba, but taking a different road. In the late afternoon, we will continue up to the treeline, where we will bird until sunset to try for the rare swallow-tailed nightjar, which lives in the canyons of this area. This bird is more easily seen here than anywhere else and we’ll make a special effort to find it. After targeting the vast majority of species that we were after in this region, we will continue on to Cochabamba, where we will spend other two nights.
Day 11: Cerro Tunari area. At dawn we will see the sun creep over the mountains to the west and bring warmth to the valley below. The endemic Bolivian warbling finch is here, along with dazzling hummingbirds including the red-tailed comet and sparkling violet-ear and the less common giant hummingbird. Grey-hooded parakeets leave their roosts squawking loudly as they race to the lower forests. We will pick up these and other birds before continuing on to a treelined forest with rushing mountain streams. Torrent ducks feed next to white-capped dippers. We will also look for tufted and yellow-bellied tit-tyrants, white-winged black-tyrants, giant conebills, the tawny tit-spinetail, puna hawk, bare-faced and black-winged ground-doves, rock earthcreeper, Andean hillstar, olive-crowned crescent-chest and the white-browed chat-tyrant. Other birds we may see here in rocky canyons include the Andean swallow, Andean flicker, plain-breasted earthcreeper, white-winged cinclodes, streak-throated canastero, white-fronted, cinereous and Puna ground-tyrants, greenish and bright-rumped yellow finches, rufous-bellied saltator, fulvous-headed brush finch, plumbeous Sierra finch and white-winged diuca finch. After the activity dies down in the mid-morning, we will continue up the mountain road. Above the treeline, the scenery changes drastically. Sheep and llama farmers here live in houses unchanged since the early 1500s, giving this place a very medieval look. Their lifestyle has also changed little, so visiting this area will be like a journey back in time. This is also prime habitat for the rare short-tailed finch. We will enjoy a picnic lunch, served in a scenic location. We will spend most of this day at altitudes above 4,270 meters. This will be important for our acclimatisation to the higher altitudes to be reached during the next few days.
Day 12: Cochabamba to La Paz. We will leave Cochabamba early this morning to begin our journey to Oruro and on to La Paz. Our first stop will be to try for the brown-backed mockingbird and the endemic, monotypic Bolivian blackbird in the arid valleys south of town. The road climbs to the Puna grasslands at a mountain pass, where red-rock canyons off the road harbour plain-mantled tit-spinetails, D’Orbigny’s chat-tyrant and other interesting birds. The pass lowers into the Bolivian altiplano. This rolling tableland stretches between the western and eastern cordilleras. Oruro is built on the slopes of a hill at 3,700 meters. We won’t spend much time here, but will make a quick stop just south of town to view the rich avian delights at Lake Uru-Uru. An ancient inland sea once covered Lake Uru-Uru as well as Titicaca. Nowadays, the Desaguardero river connects the two lakes only in wet years. Uru-Uru has extensive shallow shores with teeming waterfowl, shorebirds, marshbirds and waders. The most important of these is the endemic short-winged grebe. At times, the lake teems with three species of flamingos: Chilean, Andean and a small number of James’s. We continue on to La Paz in the afternoon. Time permitting, we will stop along the way to look for Darwin’s nothura, the silvery grebe, golden-spotted ground-dove, mountain parakeet, Andean lapwing, tawny-throated dotterel, grey-breasted and lesser seedsnipes, streak-throated canastero, common miner, Andean negrito, short-billed pipit, and band-tailed yellow-finch. Then we will pull into our comfortable hotel in La Paz at the end of a productive day, and settle in for a three-night stay.
Day 13: La Cumbre Pass and Coroico Road. Today you’ll experience some of the most impressive drives on Earth. We will leave La Paz after an early breakfast and climb through the clouds to La Cumbre Pass at over 4,570 meters. Snowcapped peaks and snowfields will surround us. Natural Puna gardens attract a variety of hummers including the Andean hillstar. This delightful jewel is well adapted to the high altitude with its abilities to go into a dormant torpor to save energy at night and on cold days. From this point, we will drop more than 3,380 meters in less than 80 kilometers, passing through Puna, Andean lakes, cloud forest and finally the exuberant rainforests of the Yungas. We will stop to view birds in the different habitats along the way. Andean cock-of-the rocks can be seen from the roadside today. Birding in the steep temperate and sub-tropical slopes will be exhilarating. We will look for black-winged and plum-crowned parrots, crested and golden- headed quetzals, band-tailed and barred fruiteaters, barred becard, crescent-chested cotinga, Bolivian tyrannulet, white-eared solitaire, golden-browed chat-tyrant, mountain wren, white-collared jay and a dazzling array of tanagers. Other possible birds include the citrine warbler, streaked tuftedcheek, ochraceous-breasted flycatcher, chestnut-bellied mountain-tanager, the stunning golden-collared tanager and a species of light-crowned spinetail with a white crest. Further down, the habitat becomes more sub-tropical, with huge bamboo stands intermixed with cloud forest. Several bamboo specialists forage here, and we will look for the sepia-brown wren, the plushcap and superciliaried, three-striped, orange-browed and drab hemispinguses. Some of the forest species include the hooded mountain-toucan, rust-and-yellow, blue-and-black and blue-capped tanagers, crimson-mantled and bar-bellied woodpeckers, long-tailed sylph, sword-billed hummingbird, rufous-capped thornbill, rufous-bellied brush-tyrant, blue-banded toucanet, hooded mountain toucan and southern mountain cacique.
Day 14: Lake Titicaca and Sorata. Lake Titicaca is the last stretch of an ancient inland sea that once covered over 62,120 square kilometers and included Lake Uru-Uru. It is the world’s highest navigable lake, and stretches over 5,050 square kilometers. Its greatest known depth is 280 meters. Floating “totora” reeds enable descendants of the Uru Indians to maintain floating villages, and inhabitants on the southern border use them to build the distinctive reed boats the lake is known for. Today, we will bird along the marshy shorelines to look for the endemic short-winded grebe among the totora reeds. We will also look for silvery grebe, plumbeous rail, Andean ruddy-duck, mourning and Peruvian Sierra-finches, black-winged ground-dove and black siskin. Other possible species here include the Puna snipe, Correndera pipit and slender-billed miner. After lunch and an active morning we will change the pace of the tour and return to La Paz. The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore the markets in town.
Day 15: Return home. Today we will transfer to La Paz International Airport to take the return flight home.
|Tour price :||3.790 BP / 4750 Euro|
|Tour date :||17th September – 1st October|
|Tour code||15 Panama (Please mention code with booking)|
|Single room surcharge||€ 750,-|
|From and to||Schiphol – Panama City|
|Travel Itinerary||will be sent 4 weeks before departure|
|Local transport||van, boat, plane|
|Difficulty of walks:||Only light, easy walks|
|number of participants||6-8|
|Accommodation||Hotels and simple lodges|
|Guides||Dutch and local guide|
|Climate||Tropical and windy, cloudy in the mornings|