Tropical Lowlands (Bolivia) : Beni (Bolivia) : Rurrenabaque
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.
To get to San Buenaventura across the Río Beni take one of the water taxis at Calle Santa Cruz for 1 Boliviano.
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$25 and only 12 hours). Also you can see all the information about bus travel in  a travel guide is very useful for travel in Bolivia.
A tarmac strip outside town is the main airport. In case it's flooded companies use the landing strip at Reyes, about 45 mins. away. There are daily connections to La Paz, but cancellations are common, especially in the rainy season.
See & Do
Events, festivities: The 2nd of February: Fiesta de Rurre - Anniversary of Rurrenabaque - The day of La Virgen de Candelaria.
There are about 20 tour companies offering jungle and pampas trips, the main attractions around Rurre. The official price which every visitor has to pay now is 600 BOB (around 80 US-$, 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.
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 you're 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.
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.
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.
Fantastic Tunesian ! cook create French, Italian and Arab cuisine. Main courses round 50-70 Bol
Fantastic Tunesian ! cook create French, Italian and Arab cuisine. Main courses round 50-70 Bol
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).
Be aware of the guides - there have been many incidents of theft and physical abuse on the pampas and jungle tours. Some of them are professinoal thiefs and liars. Do not lend or give anyone money - there will be no way of getting it back. They usually invent a story about ill family members that need medication or something similar to make the Gringos feel guilty. Single girls beware of "nice" guides - they spend one night with you and find a way of sqeezing out the money.
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.