The Madidi National Park in the northwest of Bolivia is home to the world's most endangered species and, thanks to its enormous scenic diversity, is a worthwhile destination for outdoor holidaymakers, trekkers and nature lovers.
Around 200km north of La Paz, the seat of Bolivia's government, lies Madidi National Park, a unique natural paradise that is one of the most species-rich regions in the world. It is home to more endangered species than any other national park in the world.
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PICTURES: Madidi National Park
Photo gallery: Madidi National Park
Gigantic climate and biodiversity in Madidi National Park
The Madidi National Park extends over an area of almost 20,000 square kilometres from the snow-capped peaks of the Andes at up to 5,760 metres to the tropical climes of the Amazon region 180 metres above sea level. It takes its name from the Rio Madidi, together with the Rio Tuichi the most important river in the national park.
Due to the large number of altitudinal and climatic zones, an immense biodiversity has been able to develop in Madidi National Park. Around 20,000 different plant species thrive within its boundaries, providing shelter and food for 150 different mammals, 180 reptile species and over 860 bird species.
In addition, 85 percent of all Bolivia's amphibians live in Madidi National Park. Endangered animal species such as the spectacled bear (the only bear in South America), North Andean deer, puma, jaguar, river dolphin, as well as Andean and salt cat are undisturbed here.
Best time to visit Madidi National Park
From November to March, the summer rainy season lasts in this region of Bolivia, making many paths impassable. The best time to visit the Madidi National Park is therefore from June to October, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 33°C. In June and July, arctic winds can drop the temperature to as low as 10°C.
Despite the dry season, rainfall must always be expected in the rainforest. Of course, this is also the time when most tourists come. However, the Madidi National Park is hardly ever overcrowded or unpleasantly "full", even in the high season.
Tip: No matter when you visit Madidi National Park, be sure to bring insect repellent or at least long clothing that covers your arms and legs.
On the road in Madidi National Park
Tours through Madidi National Park are only in groups with a guide. Exploring the jungle on your own is possible in principle, but not recommended. Many locals offer to show tourists their fascinating world. The perfect length of stay for the Madidi National Park is between 3 and 5 days.
Depending on time and interest, the excursions into the Madidi National Park can last up to several days with overnight stays in wooden and bamboo huts. The camps are mostly very simple, electricity is only available intermittently, but there are small kitchens and washrooms. The simple accommodation gives an insight into the way of life of the indigenous tribes, who still live in their huts in the jungle.
Base Camp Rurrenabaque
The starting point for many tours in the national park is Rurrenabaque on the Rio Beni. The town in the very east of the national park is now one of the most important tourist destinations in Bolivia. It even has its own small airport with regular flights from La Paz or Trinidad. Not only the Madidi National Park can be explored from Rurrenabaque, but also the surrounding Pampas areas, which are hardly less worth seeing.
Tip: At the end of April to mid-May, with a bit of luck, the weather is already wonderful and there are still hardly any tourists in Rurrenabaque.
Experience the Madidi National Park
On the walks or boat trips through the national park, tourists learn which plants serve medicinal purposes, which thorns are used as arrows and from which berries dye is extracted. Many of the tropical fruits are safely edible and serve as interesting snacks in the middle of the untouched jungle, while flocks of parrots circle above the treetops.
Other special experiences in Madidi National Park include white water tubing, piranha fishing, candlelight jewellery making, jungle walks at night and a visit to the local tribes who still follow their ancient traditions. They live from agriculture, handicrafts and fishing, as they did in the past centuries, but are also increasingly getting involved in tourism.