Located in the tropical lowlands on the Beni River, Rurrenabaque serves as a base for jungle wildlife tours. These tours are extremely popular with backpackers, and flights between La Paz and Rurre (as it's known in Bolivia) fill up quickly. Book your flight a few weeks in advance—or you might have to take the bus (a 20-hour trip in either direction).
Most tours visit one of two habitats—the jungle or the pampas. The jungle that surrounds Rurre teems with tropical birds, monkeys and innumerable varieties of plants. Tour guides are adept at finding the jungle's natural medicines, as well as its poisonous plants and vines. Relatively few guides speak English, however, so you'll need an interpreter or a good knowledge of Spanish to understand their explanations. (Some tour companies can provide interpreters.)
In contrast to jungle trips, pampas excursions emphasize animals more than plants. The pampas are flat, grassy plains dotted with water holes that swell and contract with seasonal rains. Rivers crisscross the area, and the abundance of water draws an incredible variety of wildlife into a very small area: Alligators, monkeys, capybaras (a South American animal that resembles a giant guinea pig), pink river dolphins, anacondas and dozens of different kinds of birds can be spotted. You might even catch a glimpse of a jaguar, tapir or anteater.
Both trips generally include guides, food, transportation and a mosquito net. Travelers should take along their own sleeping bag, waterproof boots and jacket, and strong insect repellent—all indispensable items anywhere in Bolivia's lowlands.
Between excursions into the bush, Rurre is good place to lie in a hammock and catch up on your postcards. The Beni River is not a good place to swim, but there is a municipal pool that's clean. 145 mi/235 km northeast of La Paz.
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