Bolivia – Pampas tour from Rurrenabaque

Piranha, dolphins, toucans, anacondas, sloths, cayman and monkeys are just some of the animals you will get to see if you do this tour! It was easy to organise from La Paz through Kanoo Tours. They have a few agencies and are hugely popular for independent travelers.

We booked through the agency not far from the Witches Market, but there is one in Loki Hostel too. Kanoo affiliates themselves with the best agencies for all their tours, so they really do get you in with the better companies and guides.

As we were in La Paz, we needed to get to Rurrenebaque to get the Pampas tour underway. So, a 45 minute flight south across the Amazon Jungle was required in an 18 seater Cessna – fun!

This was all part of the package we booked, which is why we opted to get it all organised through Kanoo. You can, of course, organise flights yourself to Rurrenabaque (through Amaszonas) and then just choose an agency for a Pampas Tour from there. There are heaps to choose from, so you can pretty much go the next day if it’s not high season. We got booked in with Dolphins Tours, a reputable and Eco-friendly agency.

            

It is recommended that you stay a night in Rurrenabaque either side of the tour – even more if you have the time and want to chill a while. There are loads of backpackers in this town year round, so you will definitely meet and mingle with ease. We stayed in the cheap and cheerful Los Tucanes, a favorite for people on a budget. There are cool but basic bars, cafe’s and restaurants in this small town BUT limited ATM service, so take enough cash with you.

 

The tour we chose was a 3 day version in April. I am so happy we came at this time of year (wet season), as you see the Pampas for what it is renowned for. Basically, you have the dry and wet seasons. Dry means you have a jungle to walk through, wet means it is flooded a few meters high and you get around on powered canoes across the unique river system that is the Pampas!

As the season was coming to an end, we were blessed mostly with sunny weather too – so win-win all round. To cap it off, this is THE season and perfect time of year to see the native Pink River Dolphins, who come in to breed / birth. They were everywhere and provided a truly remarkable experience. Being able to swim with them safely and see them up so close was amazing.

To get an idea of what this tour is like – it’s no frills, but you are safe and get looked after at the lodgings. We had a cook, who fed us well… she even cooked the piranha we caught!

Food is basic, you get simple pastas, rice and veggie dishes… but there is ample. It probably helped that our tour group was very small – one of the nights there was just the 2 of us there with the workers, pretty amazing to have a whole communal lodge (on stilts) to yourself  in the middle of a flooded jungle!

You can hear howler monkeys, bats and frogs…. and mosquitos… but don’t worry, there are nets provided and you bring your own repellant. We didn’t really get attacked by mozzies too bad… just the odd playful bite from the dolphins – yes, dolphins! They are curious and like to swim right next to you and let you know they are there.

The tour and structure is pretty relaxed, you do everything the itinerary says day by day and get to see cool birds, animals and nature. Being out in the open, powering down temporary rivers on the look out for photo ops and adventure is really exciting and a trip you won’t forget in a hurry!

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Copacabana on Lake Titicaca – Bolivia

I can see the appeal of Copacabana to the backpacker – a cruisy little chill out town by the water, somewhere to unwind for a few days with minimal hassle. I was there recently while in Bolivia and it really helped to break up the trip before crossing the border to Peru.

There is not really heaps to do there, but that’s part of the appeal. The town is starting to cater more for tourists with some cool bars and cafes with live music on offer. It’s a definite draw card for local tourism and there is a famous Easter pilgrimage to the town, meaning it can be hard to get accommodation when Bolivians want to get their holiday fix.  On recommendation we stayed at La Perla del Lago

There are regular connections to Copacabana from La Paz – we went with an agency based at the main tourist bus station, stand 32b… they left twice a day and were cheap and safe…. most the morning buses fill up quickly and this was the only company we found that had an afternoon alternative.  The drive is roughly 4 hours and scenic in areas, especially once you get to Lake Titicaca. As the town is relying more on tourism, your souvenirs and jewellery etc can be a little more pricey than in the cities, but it’s still relatively cheap so well worth stocking up after a big of haggling!

The best place (and cheapest!) to eat would have to be beside the lakefront. Go into any of the little stalls to get your fix of fresh fish – highly recommend the garlic trout, just delicious. A popular walk is up the side of the town near one of the cathedrals – it takes you to the highest point for beautiful sunset views! It’s a short and steep hike up a paved hill that can be done in 30 minutes, but take it slow if you are still adjusting to the high altitudes. The panoramic views from here (Cerro Calvario) are great, very scenic and some would even say spiritual…..

There are day trips to be done – the most popular is to visit Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun)… you can stay there too, which I would definitely had done if I had more time, but a day trip and walk across the island for an adventure is beautiful – and good preparation for my trek up Machu Picchu a week later!

If you do want to go and see the famous floating reed islands (Uros) be sure to see them in Puno, over the border in Peru. We went to some makeshift ‘tourist’ reed islands about a 30 minute boat trip away from the port of Copacabana, but it was not the real deal…an okay way to kill a few hours on a nice day though. We were even treated to a local band filming their video clip… as well as a local wedding, so not bad for a day of random fun!

Local band filming clip on reed island

Funnily enough, this little town is seemingly loved or simply seen as being over-rated. But for a quick stop-over and an unwind between tours and travels, I highly recommend it…. i could think of worse places to be stuck in while visiting the tranquil Lake Titicaca.