Bolivia: Tuichi River and Chalalan Lodge in Madidi National Park – 7 days

Our Upper Amazon tour invites you to explore the unparalleled biodiversity of Madidi National Park, a protected area renowned as the most bio-diverse on Earth. While Madidi encompasses a staggering 13 ecological life zones, ranging from the snow-capped peaks of the Apolobamba Andes to the tropical lowlands of the Amazon basin, our adventure focuses on the lower Amazon basin. Spanning an area larger than the combined states of Vermont and New Hampshire, this park is a true ecological treasure, boasting diverse landscapes, from high-altitude puna grasslands and cloud forests to tropical jungles bordering eastern Peru.

Our journey commences in La Paz, Bolivia, where we embark on a flight from the world’s highest commercial airport, El Alto International Airport, to the heart of the Amazon. Our one-hour flight transports us to Rurrenabaque, a jungle town nestled on the banks of the Beni River in northern Bolivia’s Beni Department. Upon arrival, we head to the river port and board a spacious motorized canoe equipped with a canopy to shield us from the elements. As we venture up the mighty Beni River, we transition onto the Tuichi River, a smaller but more turbulent whitewater river originating within the heart of Madidi National Park. Along the way, we are treated to a rich tapestry of wildlife sightings, including birds, reptiles, monkeys, and aquatic mammals inhabiting the riverbanks. During the 3 ½ hour journey, we enjoy a picnic lunch and keep a vigilant eye out for the elusive jaguar, which occasionally graces the riverbanks with its presence.

Upon reaching the river port of Chalalan Lodge, we embark on a scenic 40-minute walk through the jungle along a well-trodden riverstone trail, while our luggage is carried by porters to the lodge. Upon arrival at Chalalan Lodge, we receive a warm welcome and refreshing beverages. After a brief respite and, perhaps, a cool shower, we have the opportunity to explore the surroundings. We can take a dugout canoe ride to observe wildlife along the lagoon’s edges or venture on a hike through the lush forest, all under the guidance of native bi-lingual guides from the village of San Jose de Uchupiamonas, who are the stewards of Chalalan Lodge.

Our daily routine follows the rhythms of the jungle, starting with early morning serenades by howler monkeys (if they are in the vicinity). This is followed by a hearty breakfast, excursions by canoe or on foot, lunch, leisure time, and the option for afternoon hikes or swims in the lake. Evenings offer the chance for dinner followed by nocturnal jungle hikes, the ideal time to observe active wildlife. Immerse yourself in the jungle’s symphony of sounds, from the calls of birds and monkeys to the rustling of animals foraging for sustenance. By calmly and attentively traversing this natural realm, you’ll have the opportunity to observe and capture in photographs the incredible biodiversity and tranquil moments that define this remarkable rainforest.

Highlights:

Madidi National Park, nestled within the upper Amazon river basin in Bolivia, was established in 1995 and encompasses a vast expanse of 18,958 square kilometers. When combined with neighboring protected regions like Apolobamba (Bolivia), Manuripi-Heath, and Manu Biosphere Reserve (Peru), Madidi forms one of the world’s largest protected areas. This ecological sanctuary is home to an astounding array of flora and fauna, including over 8,000 documented vascular plants, approximately 1,200 bird species, around 1,500 mammal and reptile species, and more than 120,000 insect species. Encompassing a spectrum of landscapes from the Andes Mountains to the rainforests of the Tuichi River, Madidi and its neighboring regions are recognized as one of the planet’s most biologically diverse areas. Madidi specifically safeguards portions of the Bolivian Yungas and dry Bolivian mountain forests eco-regions.

Researched and meticulously designed by renowned landscape photographer and Bolivian author, Sergio Ballivian, this tour offers a captivating exploration of a lush, species-rich wilderness traversed by winding jungle rivers and blanketed by multi-layered forest canopies. Sergio’s expertise has led him to capture the most ethereal lights, from the soft glow of dawn to the sun-drenched riverbanks, in his photography book, “Madidi: An Uncertain Future.” Prior to your journey to Bolivia, our team will provide guidance on clothing and equipment suitable for the jungle environment, as well as recommendations for camera gear that will enable you to document your adventure effectively.

Tour Length
7 Days
7 Nights
Start / End City
Arrival: La Paz, Bolivia
Departure: La Paz, Bolivia
Best Season

April to November

Group Size Limit

10 Guests

Transportation

plane, motorized boats and canoes

Accommodations

Hotel & Jungle Lodge

Challenge Level

Level 1 - Easy

Highlights

  • La Paz, Bolivia – the world’s highest Capital city, hiding between the Andes and Altiplano
  • Andes Mountains – fly over the world’s longest chain with many peaks over 6,000 m (20,000 ft)
  • Land in the riverside town of Rurrenabaque, the departure point to the upper Amazon basin and Madidi National Park
  • Upper Amazon basin – the lungs of the planet and the greatest biodiversity on the planet
  • Madidi National Park – world’s most bio-diverse protected area
  • Native Quechua-Tacana indigenous people who are owners and administrators of lodges in Madidi National Park
  • Bi-lingual native guides from the village of San Jose de Uchupiamons, who know their jungle home intimately
  • Unique flora and fauna of the Amazon; 6 species of monkeys, giant river otter, sloth, jaguar, and much more
  • Travel up the Beni River (one of Bolivia’s biggest) and the Tuichi River (a wildlife corridor) and the heart and soul of Madidi NP
  • Paddle a canoe around Chalalan Lagoon, seeing countless mammals, birds, insects and reptiles
  • Night hikes to see nocturnal animals

Prices

Our tour prices are based on a tiered pricing modelMore guests = lower price, per person.  That means the prices go down on a per-person basis as more people book onto a specific tour departure.  Prices are based on double occupancy / twin share basis.  All prices are in U$ Dollars.  

Contact us for guidance on a quote for your group or private trip.

Lowest Price7-10 travelers$ 3,625 / per person
Average Price4-6 travelers$ 3,725 / per person
Optimum Price2-3 travelers$ 3,825 / per person
HIghest Price1 solo traveler$ 4,775 / for 1 person
  • Single Supplement Fees are quoted per tour.  Contact us for details.
  • Deposit: $ 700.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee, included in the final price).
  • International airfare is NOT included in price.
  • For airline tickets, contact Geo Travel at 210-225-7903

Daily Itinerary

Sunset lights up the deep canyons and modern urban sprawl of La

Day 1: Arrival La Paz, Bolivia (AM) – City Tour (PM)

 

Airport Arrival, Immigration & Customs

Depending on your international flight schedule you will arrive very early in the morning (between 2-6 AM) at El Alto International Airport. The airport is in the city of El Alto which is on the edge of the Altiplano at 4,023 m (13,200 ft) above La Paz (downtown La Paz is at 12,000 ft). You are now at high altitude; so, you need to be aware of the effects of altitude on your body; you may feel light-headed and short of breath, but that’s normal.  Once we drop down 900 m (3,000 ft) in elevation to your hotel 3,100 m (10,200 ft), you should feel much better.

Upon arrival, you go through Bolivian Immigration for your tourist visa (issued upon arrival) then Customs (Aduana).  Your guide will be waiting for you at the general passenger meeting point, just look for the sign from Sergio Photo Tours.  We will take your luggage to our private vehicle for transport to the hotel.

Private vehicle transport to your hotel

We drive from the airport to the lowest elevation in the city of La Paz which sits at 3,100 m (10,200 ft ). We’ll be heading down a winding mountain road with breathtaking views of the valley below. We head to Hotel Mitru Sur (or similar), located in Calacoto-Achumani neighborhood.  You’ll check in and rest until lunch time (on your own) at the hotel.

The best way to acclimatize to altitude, is to move slowly, drink plenty of water and rest when you are tired.  Acclimatization time is a very personal affair, some do it quickly, and others take more time. It can take a few hours or a few days.  Listen to your body.  We design all high-altitude itineraries with acclimatization time built in.

La Paz city tour

At 2 pm we’ll begin a 4-hour city tour of this fascinating city deep in the heart of the Andes; visiting open air markets, colonial neighborhoods, the witches’ market and take in the vast canyon of La Paz from breathtaking viewpoints.  We return to your hotel so you can rest before dinner.

Hotel & welcome dinner

After the city tour concludes you can freshen up and rest before dinner.  We will get to know each other better over dinner and talk about the rest of the trip in detail.  Now would be a good time to make sure everyone is set with all their clothing and equipment questions and anything else they need to do.  Once we leave La Paz, we are not coming back until the end of the trip.  We recommend a light dinner, avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.  During the day you may want to enjoy a Mate de Coca (coca tea), a local herbal tea that helps with acclimatization, but refrain from it at night.  Anise and chamomile teas help with digestion as well.

Keep drinking water, it’s very important for acclimatization.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included:  D

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Day 2: Fly from La Paz to Rurrenabaque (Beni Dept.) to Chalalan Lodge

We depart early in the morning to the airport for the flight to Rurrenabaque. The flight is a little over an hour from the Andes to the Amazon. Upon arrival in Rurrenabaque we will transfer to the offices of Chalalan Eco-Lodge to sort out paperwork, gear and prepare for the boat trip to Chalalan Lodge. We travel via a motorized boat with canopy up the Beni and then onto the Tuichi Rivers. Along the way we will have ample opportunities to view the typical Amazon basin made up of rainforest, rivers and savannas – home to thousands of bird species and other animals. Further up-river the scenery will change, and the landscape will show its hidden secrets as we go through Bullet Canyon and get further into the rainforest. Snacks and light lunch en route. After approximately five hours we will arrive at the Tuichi river port for Chalalan. A short half-hour hike through the rainforest with a local guide will introduce you to the natural ecosystems that are living and struggling to survive in the tropical forest and bring you to Chalalan lodge – situated next to Chalalan Lagoon. Afterwards you’ll have the option of taking a siesta or just relaxing in the hammocks. Later in the afternoon we can go on a canoe trip on Chalalan Lagoon to take advantage of the late afternoon light for some great photo ops of monkeys foraging for food before nightfall. Dinner and an optional night hike to see nocturnal animals. Overnight at Chalalan Lodge.
 
Hotel: Chalalan Lodge (3*)
Meals included: B,L,D
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Day 3: Chalalan – Lagoon Overlook – Chalalan

We depart early via canoe to the other side of the lake in order to climb the hill to see the vastness of Madidi National Park before it gets too hot. The paddle is tranquil and is a great time to shoot birds and animals when they are active. Once across we work our way up to the overlook that gives you stunning views of the lagoon as well as the never-ending seas of trees undulating all the way to the horizon and then the last traces of the Andes mountains. This is a great place to see pigs and birds from the platform and get canopy-level photos of other birds and animals. We’ll work our way back to the lodge on foot in time for lunch. Afterwards we will head into the forest once again in search of animals and insects to photograph. We return for dinner at the lodge. There is a night hike to photograph nocturnal animals so come prepared with a flash. Overnight in Chalalan Lodge.
 
Hotel: Chalalan Lodge (3*)
Meals included: B,L,D
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Day 4: Chalalan – Eslabon River – Chalalan

After breakfast, we depart on a day hike on the Paraba Trail bordering Laguna Chalalan as we go through the rainforest where we can view macaws and other species in the canopy high above our heads. Further on we cross the Rayamayo creek after going through various sections of forest with trees that adapt to their geographical location – much of it based on the availability of sunlight within the forest. We join the Marimono trail slowly working our way back to the lodge for lunch. Afterwards we head to another part of the forest to search for animals and insects and whatever else we may run across. There are very good possibilities of seeing monkeys and wild pigs nearby. We will cross the lagoon via dugout canoe to the lodge. After dinner there’s an optional night hike or a paddle on the lagoon to photograph nocturnal animals. Overnight in Chalalan Lodge.
 
Hotel: Chalalan Lodge (3*)
Meals included: B,L,D
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Day 5: Chalalan – Rayamayo – Chalalan

After breakfast we go on an early morning hike on the Silbador trail until we arrive at Rayamayo River to view birds as they begin their daily activities. We continue looking for birds, monkeys and other animals as we work our way along the Mutun and Anta trails that will take us back to the lodge where we will have lunch. Canoe trips on the lagoon are always available for you to go shooting on your own. All you have to do is ask for a boat and off you go. Dinner at the lodge. Optional night hike for those interested in nocturnal animals photography. Overnight in Chalalan Lodge.
 
Hotel: Chalalan Lodge (3*)
Meals included: B,L,D
Tourists and guides travel via canoe along the edges of Chalalan

Day 6: Chalalan – Tuichi River – Chalalan

It’s always a good idea to head out early in the morning as birds and animals get active as soon as there is light, which around these tropical latitudes means around 6 AM. The howler monkeys are the alarm clocks of the jungle, so you don’t need one to wake up. You can just lie in your bed and enjoy the soothing sound of mother nature. An early morning walk to the port is a great opportunity for some fabulous photography and peaceful moments. We will be taking different trails to look for wildlife, insects and whatever catches our fancy. Lunch at the lodge. We will head in a different direction for the afternoon which is especially good on the lagoon as the sun fills in the dark shadows with warm sweet light, great for making images of monkeys, which they are usually around! Dinner at the lodge. Night shooting for those that are interested. Overnight in Chalalan Lodge.
 
Hotel: Chalalan Lodge (3*)
Meals included: B,L,D
A neo-tropical Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) perches on

Day 7: Chalalan – Rurrenabaque – La Paz

After an early breakfast we head to the river and board the boat back to Rurrenabaque. The approximate travel time will be about 3 ½ hours – depending on water levels. As we head downriver, you’ll have time to reflect on all the wonderful things that you saw in Chalalan. Keep a sharp eye out on the riverbanks as we have seen jaguars, peccary, tapir, caiman, deer and countless birds on shore and crossing from one side of the Tuichi to another. The scenery unfolds once again as we come to the confluence of the Tuichi and Beni rivers and finish in Rurrenabaque.  Once we land at the port, we head to the offices of Chalalan Lodge and get our airline tickets and sort our gear for the flight back to La Paz.  Lunch before we head to the airport.  Our flight back to La Paz is under an hour.  We recommend you have some warm clothes in your carry-on so when you arrive you have something warm to wear.  Our vehicle will be waiting, and we descend quickly to our hotel.  The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy on your own to rest, freshen up, re-pack your bags.   We will have our final group dinner together at a local restaurant. Overnight at Hotel Mitru Sur.
 
Hotel: Hotel Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included: B,L,D

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Day 8: Airport Transfer in La Paz

 

Based on your flight schedule, we will coordinate a departure time from the hotel. The ride from hotel to the airport takes 45 minutes. Domestic flights require 1.5 hours before departure and international flights require 3 hours before departure.

Hotel: none

Meals included: none

End of our services.

Included

  • airport Transfers IN and OUT of your arrival city
  • private vehicle and driver
  • bi-lingual photographer guide
  • all hotel / hostel /estancia accommodations for all nights (based on double occupancy)
  • all daily meals as denoted on the itinerary as ‘B, L, D’ (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • all entry fees and permits to protected areas: national parks, islands and museums
  • domestic airfare within the destination country (if there is a domestic flight in the itinerary, it’s included)
  • unlimited bottled water per person per day
  • snacks during the whole trip
  • more than 25 years of tourism experience

Not Included

  • international airfare to destination country
  • visa requirement and fees
  • personal expenses of any kind (liquor, laundry, personal purchases, etc.)
  • telephone, email, mobile phone, Wi-Fi services
  • emergency evacuation expenses
  • personal travel or health insurance, doctor visits
  • gratuities for guides, drivers and other staff

 

We, of course, would do whatever is necessary in case of medical emergency and evacuate to the closest hospital or clinic to make sure you receive medical care.