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Rurrenabaque

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Beni : Rurrenabaque
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Rurrenabaque (or simply Rurre) is a small town (population 15.000) in the Beni Department on the banks of the Río Beni in the Bolivian Amazon Basin. Trips to the jungle in the nearby Madidi National Park and pampas are the main attraction.

Get in

To get to San Buenaventura across the Río Beni take one of the water taxis at Calle Santa Cruz for 1 Boliviano.

By bus

There are daily buses to and from La Paz. The journey takes 20 hours. There are generally more people on the bus than seats and there isn't much space to put your legs. You can break the trip in Coroico, which is only 17 hours away. On a part of the road from La Paz to Coroico a new highway has been opened at the end of 2006, and the old 'death road' is now only for bikers. The new road only avoids a part of the 'death road' or Yungas Road. From Coroico (Yolosita) to Caranavi is another two to three hours on the death road, with the roadside canyon just a few hundred feet deep instead of a few hundred metres.

There are also daily buses to Riberalta and Guayará-Mirim. Inquire about departure times at the bus terminal; they vary wildly. During the rainy season, this road is virtually impassable, and trips may take up to six days. When the road's in good condition, Rurrenabaque-Riberalta should take about 20 hours, and Guayará another four.

There are two offices on Avaroa offering jeep services to nearby towns and even La Paz (US$25 and only 12 hours). Also you can see all the information about bus travel in [1] a travel guide is very useful for travel in Bolivia.

By plane

A tarmac strip outside town is the main airport. In case it's flooded companies use the landing strip at Reyes, about 45 mins. away. There are daily connections to La Paz, but cancellations are common, especially in the rainy season.

  • TAM, Santa Cruz s/n, has around two flights weekly to La Paz for Bs465. TAM likes the mastercard and Visa logos painted on their office, but only accepts cash or travellers checks (July 2009 they report to accept credit cards).
  • Amaszonas[2], Santa Cruz s/n, tel/fax (3)8922472, is slightly pricier with Bs525, but has several flights daily. Visa and mastercard are accepted, that is, if their reader works.

If you're going east or north from Rurrenabaque there's a flight with TAM from Reyes to the cities of San Borja, Trinidad, Riberalta and Guayará-Mirim (on the border with Brazil).

See & Do

  • Butterfly Pool Mirador, [3]. entrance Bs. 30.-
  • The Dirreción Municipal de Turismo, Avaroa y Vaca Diez, might be open in the high season.
  • Climb up to La Cruz, the cross southeast of town for a rewarding view of Rurre and Río Beni.
  • Balneario El Ambiabo. For Bs20 you can cool down in the swimmingpool.
  • Zipline / Canopy tour, [4]. For 20 USD You can speed through the canopy on a steel cable. Longest run is 620 meters.
Zipline in Rurre

Events, festivities: The 2nd of February: Fiesta de Rurre - Anniversary of Rurrenabaque - The day of La Virgen de Candelaria.

Tours

There are about 20 tour companies offering jungle and pampas trips, the main attractions around Rurre. The official price which every visitor has to pay now is 600 BOB (around 80 US-$, April 2009). Nevertheless it's possible to bargain, either in a travel agency in La Paz or directly in Rurre. The best time to visit is in the dry (and high) season when most wildlife is attracted to the river for water, the walking trails are less muddy and there are fewer mosquitoes.

Choosing who to go with is not easy as most offers sounds more or less the same, and much is up to the guide, cooker and boat driver that happens to work during your tour. A piece of good advice is to choose one of the community based options such as San Miguel del Bala, Chalalán and Mapajo, all in the rain forest. As you stay in one of these community based Eco-Lodges you are sure to do true eco-tourism and at the same time help the indigenous people to survive economically and culturally, and to protect the natural resources where they live.

Jungle Tours

It's possible to stay between one and 30 days in the jungle. Mostly tours have lodging facilities along the Beni and Tuichi Rivers, but you can also go for a trekking and camp in the jungle. Good guides can tell you about the properties of the different plants and trees and let you taste some of the fruits. To spot wildlife you have to be lucky, most of the animals prefer to stay hidden in the dense forest. A night walk to reveal the nocturnal life is the best chance to see some. Tour prices usually don't include park entrance (Bs80) and a fee to stay in a community (Bs50). For a perfect combination of culture and nature stay in one of the community based Eco-Lodges, such as San Miguel del Bala (Tacanas), Chalalán (Quechua-Tacanas) or Mapajo (Tsiman-Mosetén). La Magdalena Ecolodge`is another option to take contact with nature in a private ranch with a comfortable hostal in the middle of jungle, see: butterflymadidi.com. Tucan Ecolodge is another option to take contact with nature in a tours in the Tuichi Rivers.

If your interested in seeing conservation work first hand, check out Serere Sanctuary, a private reserve operated by Madidi Travel. The team behind it was instrumental in establishing Madidi National Park in the 1990s. They’re now using Serere as a strategic point for establishing legally protected zones to the north to save the rainforest from the same fate faced by Madidi 20 years ago. Madidi Travel opened the 4000 hectare park in 2003, to allow visitors to appreciate the restored biodiversity, while generating income for their conservation work to continue. Before the reserve was opened an extensive rehabilitation project was carried out involving; reforestation and the recovering of lakes from invasion plants, the creation of infrastructure to support sustainable tourism, agroforestry, and reintroduction of rescued animals. Now the group works with the neighboring indigenous community to ensure the continued protection of Serere, and community lands, from on-going threats such as logging and hunting. As a result of their conservation efforts, abundant fauna can be found in Serere, including endangered species such as jaguars, black caimans, anacondas, and many varieties of birds. Touristic operations at Serere are maintained at a small scale, there are eight lodges which house an average of 15 – 20 tourists, and guides handle a maximum of six tourists to minimize thier impact. Madidi Travel also accepts volunteers for short or long term stays, to assist within a variety of aspects of their operations, or specific projects.

Pampas Tours

For watching wildlife opt for a pampas tour. Among animals you might see are six different species of Crocodilian (more species than any other region in the world is home to), including the giant black caiman. There are turtles, all three species of anaconda, pink dolphins, capybaras, monkeys, giant ant-eaters, porcupines, toucans, blue and yellow macaws, and even jaguars. A number of native guides in the Pampas region are known for their snake-wrangling skills, and will catch poisonous snakes barehanded while on an excursion. Bird watchers are attracted equally to the Pampas and the Jungle, whereas entomologists tend to prefer the jungle tours, which offer a better selection of insect life, most notably butterflies. One of the unique experiences to be had in the Pampas region is swimming with pink river dolphins. The dolphins are very sociable, and will often approach the sound of a motorboat, eager to interact with the people. Because the water is darkly stained and impenetrable by sight, many people experience anxiety when touched by the dolphins, because they can't be seen underwater. For most, however, it is a thrilling experience. The dolphins greatly enjoy interacting with humans, and will each behave according to its own unique personality. Some are very gentle, and others enjoy the reactions they elicit by gently nipping a toe, or forcefully splashing the water directly behind a person. the pampas tours have become very popular and touristic during the high season and have the potential to cause damage to the wild life in the small river Rio Yacuma. The tours are usually done by motor boats that can cause fatal injuries to pink river dolphins. Competent and ethical guides will know which sections of the river be extra careful in. Also, you should make sure that your guide is not showing you pre-trapped animals kept in inhumane living conditions, or letting anybody wearing sunscreen or repellent touch the animals.

Tour operators

  • Indigena Tours[5], Avaroa y Aniceto. Phone: 3892- 2091 (Rurrenabaque). Sagarnaga No 380 of. 3 near illampu Street, phone 22110749 (La Paz). high quality, good service. [6].
  • Flecha tours, Avaroa y Santa Cruz. Phone: (00591)3892-2723(office)/ 73509024 (Rurrenabaque) Cheap, but they don't seem to respect the nature or animals. Their guides touch and feed the wild animals and let visitors do the same.
  • Jaguar Tours Avaroa street. Phone: 71122080, The new option for the people that like exclusive treaps, amazing lodge with private cabain, the best service and confort (hot shower, bufet food vegetarian and normal) in pampas tours
  • Mapajo, [7], Santa Cruz s/n. Junglelodge run by an indigenous community.
  • Chalalan, C Comercio Rurrenabaque, [8]. Ecolodge in Madidi national park, supports the community of San Jose. 6-8hrs by boat from Rurrenabaque. Expensive (USD 370/person for 4 days) but top quality accommodation, guides and food.
  • Madidi Travel, [9]. Madidi Travel is a high quality, flexible and ecologically responsible operator. Madidi Travel offers tours to Serere Sanctuary, a stunning private reserve located two hours by boat from Rurrenabaque. The schedule of activities is decided with the group upon arrival in order to best serve each individual’s interest, if necessary, providing different guides for separate activities. Activities include - Hikes, canoeing, fishing, bird watching, jewellery making classes, and local cooking classes. The guides who are all local people are very friendly and knowledgeable. Cabins are comfortable, including their own private bathroom and have been designed so that you can observe the jungle from your bed. The minimum tour is 3 days, and prices start from $70 USD per day. All profits from Madidi Travel’s tours go towards supporting its conservations work in the Madidi Mosaic. Madidi travel also has a volunteer program, accepting volunteers for short or long term stays. Madidi Travel has offices in La Paz and Rurrenabaque.
  • San Miguel del Bala Community Eco-Tourism, [10]. Calle Comercio (between Vaca Diez and Santa Cruz) in Rurre. Tours in the rain forest with base in San Miguel del Bala Eco-lodge, reached only by boat, 40 minutes up stream from Rurrenabaque. The Eco-lodge is owned and operated by the indigenous community of San Miguel del Bala. Guides are native Tacanas. The lodge has a restaurant and 7 comfortable cabins each with 3 beds and private bathroom. Offers participating in the daily life of the Tacana community. It is possible to arrange a stint of time volunteering with these guys - it's pretty informal, and involves an arrangement fee of USD10 per day, a proportion of which goes to the family you are placed with. Good if you want to teach English to some lovely kids (or possibly some guides), but make sure you go when school's actually on, otherwise you won't have a lot to do!
  • Bala Tours & Ecolodges, [11].Avenida Santa Cruz (between Calle comercio and Avaroa) in Rurrenabaque. Tours in the rain forest of the National Park Madidi, and in the Pampas of the Yacuma River. Where have the Tacuarales Eco-lodge, reached only by boat, 3 hours by boat up stream from Rurrenabaque. The Eco-lodges are owned and private, comfortable bedrooms , bathrooms with illuminations with Solars Panels. Guides native responsables and friendly of differents indigenus communities and speak english. Caracoles ecó-lodge in Pampas has a restaurant, comfortable bedrooms, privates debrooms, hamacs , showers and bathrooms , too illumination with solars panels. It is possible to arrange a trip with 2 people how minimum -Company what offer eco-turism in each trip.
  • Butterfly Adventure Jungle Tours, [12]. Enjoy trekking, waterfalls, horseback riding, rafting, swinging, mountain biking in Madidi, survival tours, fishing, swimming, climbing, bird watching in a private ECOLODGE, chocolate factory, milking and cheese making and more... Calle Abaroa no number, in front of Prodem.
  • Inca Land Tours Travel Agency Eco-Tourism, [13], , Avaroa y Aniceto Arce or book in La Paz (Sagarnaga Street 213 Of. 10 Phone 2316760 . Friendly service and very knowledgeable they have accommodation. The Eco-lodge is owned and operated by Pampas and Jungle (Madidi NAtional Park) top quality accommodation, guides and food.
  • Swiss Bolivian Adventures, Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz esquina Socabaya Handal Center - Planta Baja, Oficina 6, La Paz, Phone - Fax: Int : 0-591-2-2406470, Mobil: 591 - 715-50249, [14] Offers an excellent tours for Rurrenabaque and they can also book flights to and from the Jungle.

Buy

The closest cash machine is in La Paz. Prodem (commercio s/n) gives cash advances on Visa and Mastercard credit cards with 5% commision.

There are several places to change dollars or cash travellers checks. Moskkito also change euros and claim they have the best rates in town.

Several tour companies have Mastercard and Visa logo painted on their wall, but acceptance hasn't been confirmed.

Eat

  • In the Mercado Municipal (Avaroa) there are severl comedors and jugerias for cheap food and fruitjuices.
  • Restaurant Tacuara, Avaroa y Santa Cruz, has good deal dishes. The menu includes pizza, pasta, meat dishes and fastfood. It serves big portions of lasagna and it's also a good place for breakfast.
  • Restaurant Camila's, Santa Cruz s/n, serves pastas, pizzas, Mexican food meat dishes and fastfood, mainly to foreigners.
  • Restaurant La Cabaña, Santa Cruz s/n, has tasty meat and fish dishes with sunset views over the Río Beni.
  • Sala de fiesta, Cl. Beni (San Buenaventura), for cheap lunches. It's popular with the locals, television and loud music is included in the price
  • Cafe Pachamama, cosy restaurant run by a British/Israeli couple just past the main square. Pachamamas serves tasty sandwiches, salads, tortillas etc, and has an excellent cocktail list and happy hour (7-9PM). The DVD rooms are good quality and there are over 500 DVD`s to choose from. Upstairs is a pool room, with a balcony over looking the road complete with hammocks. They have a book exchange and a music `exchange` - just bring in your iPod and ask. Easily the best cafe in town.
  • Butterfly Restaurant, Gourmet national and international food in the jungle, complete menu and bar, healthy and freshest ingredients, bilingual and friendly attention, now attending in the swimming pool Butterfly Mirador.
  • Cafe Pirana, just up the road from Camila's, has good coffee, great fresh croissants that taste almost french, and a nice space for relaxing. Only open during the day.
  • Restaurant Stephani and Juliano at Hotel Swimmingpool Ambaibo.

Fantastic Tunesian ! cook create French, Italian and Arab cuisine. Main courses round 50-70 Bol

  • Juliano's, central Rurrabaque. Great restaurant with really friendly staff, and high quality food for good prices. You can get a discount ticket from Aerolineas Amazonas. Highly recommended steak.


Drink

  • Junglebar Moskkito, In a new location on Calle vaca diez, with bar, food, three pool tables, two dart boards and a large cd collection. Happy hour from 7PM-9PM. But it's only happy hour for SOME drinks and still is average prices. is open every day from 3PM, 45" TV set connected to cable TV for all sports and others at request. Accepts credit cards, travelers' checks, US dollars, euros, pounds. Rather expensive.
  • Butterfly Pub, calle Comercio. Five stars service and great deal like happy hour every night from 7PM-8PM, complete bar menu, bilingual and friendly attention.
  • Restaurant Stephani and Juliano at Hotel Swimmingpool Ambaibo.

Fantastic Tunesian ! cook create French, Italian and Arab cuisine. Main courses round 50-70 Bol

  • Monkey´s Bar, Avaroa s/n.. 12PM-Late.. This resterant/Bar was originaly called Pizzaria Italiana and is still listed in Lonley Planet as such. They serve great Pizzas as well as a wide selection of fish, meat, pasta, and vegetarian dishes. There is also pool tables, dart boards and satellite tv, showing all major sporting events and more. Bilingual staff with happy hour from 7-9PM every day

Sleep

  • Ecolodge La Magdalena, [15]. Sleep in the jungle like in a good hotel, 25 minutes from Rurrenabaque, 10 rooms with shared bathroom, 1 suite with 2 bedrooms and private bathroom, moskito nets, potable water, electricity, hammocks, room service, comfortable and relaxing stay alongside wild animals, natural streams. infos in calle Abaroa s/n Butterfly Tours.
  • Hostal Oriental, on the main plaza. Rates (Bs70 single, 100 double as at Dec 2007) include breakfast, rooms are comfortable and very clean, showers hot,and there's a nice central area to relax on a hammock while you wait to see if your plane will ever actually leave town.
  • Hostal Touristico Santa Ana, Avaroa s/n. Clean rooms, friendly service and some lofty courtyard. There is also a pleasant hammocking area. Bathrooms (some with hot showers) are shared. All for only Bs25 pppn.
  • Los Tucanes de Rurre Hotel, (591)-3-8922039, (email: info@hotel-tucanes.com),[16]. Rooms with private bathroom and hot shower, and rooms with common bathroom. Hammocks, breakfast, garage.
  • Isla de Los Tucanes, (591)-3-8922127, (email: info@islatucanes.com),[17]. Is a tourist complex with bungalows that provide utmost in confort and privacy. Bugalows with 1,2,3 or 4 bedroom with terrace, cable TV and minibar. Bungalows are finely finished wih Amazon details, where your mind and body find peace.

Cope

There are a number of laundry services in Rurre, none of which are particularly recommended. (Lavanderia Number One has previously been recommended as being friendly, but they are known to have miscoloured their customers' clothes.)

There are around 10 establishments offering internet facilities in the town, all of which charge Bs8 for a fairly slow connection (chat clients and Skype can be used however).

Get out

There are three main ways to enter and exit Rurrenabaque. Buses travel south to La Paz from the bus terminal on a daily basis, usually leaving around 10AM. It is wise to purchase tickets at least a day in advance. The price is approximately $US10 and the journey to La Paz, stopping at Caranavi and Corico can take over a day depending on weather conditions. It is advisable to take food and water supplies, although meal stops do take place.

The more expensive ($US50-$US80) way to enter or exit Rurrenabaque is by flying. There are two airlines both of which have ticket offices in Rurrenabaque town center. The airlines are Amazonas, which operates numerous daily flights, and TAM, who have one to three flights weekly. TAM, run by the Bolivian military, operates slightly larger planes and are on the cheaper end of the scale, where as Amazonas tend to be slightly more expensive but more regular. The flight to La Paz takes between 40 minutes and 55 minutes.

It is worth noting that various atmospheric conditions often lead to the delay of flights, including smoke from forest burning, low cloud cover and heavy rain which saturates the grass runway. Services are more reliable out of the rainy season.

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