Mad about Madidi in Bolivia

You often associate Bolivia with the high altiplano of The Andes; of immense mountain lakes; silver mines and cities that have been carved up the sides of steep hills. That is the Bolivia that most people know, but there is another side of Bolivia; one which teems with life and is hot, humid and has a very rich and rare biodiversity. That place is called the Madidi National Park.

You actually will find some of those snow-capped peaks in the Madidi because part of it encompasses the Apolobamba Mountain Range, which rises to a height of 6,000 metres, but from there the landfall plummets to a far more tropical 200 metres above sea level, and that is where you find the wide, silty rivers and a jungle that is said to represent the Amazon Jungle at it’s very best.

This park is huge, covering an area of almost two million hectares, or 18,957 square kilometres. The park is still populated by a few indigenous communities who live a very basic lifestyle; but the real treasures found within the park are entirely natural as it is abundant in flora and fauna of almost dazzling diversity.

For instance, Madidi is home to at least 1,100 species of birds, which represent more than 10% of the entire number of species in the world. The park is also inhabited by over 4,739 species of plants and 1,370 species of vertebrates. Living within the park are large populations of Latin America’s most charismatic wildlife species: jaguar, spectacled bear, maned wolf, vicuña, giant otter, Andean condor and military macaw, among others.

As well as the amazing plant and animal life that can be experienced, some of the scenery is extraordinary too. With a massive drop of over 5,000 metres from the mountains to the lowlands you can see glaciers, deep canyons, soaring cliffs, astounding waterfalls and some ferocious rapids as all that water males its way to the lowlands.

Although tourism is encouraged, facilities are scant for those wishing to stay within the park boundaries. The Chalalan Eco-Lodge is located adjacent to Laguna Chalalan, a beautiful jungle lake, only a short half-hour hike from the Tuichi River in the heart of Madidi National Park. The 20-person lodge is owned and operated by the natives of the village of San Jose, who will also act as your guides. These people know the area better than anyone; their skills at spotting wildlife amidst the dense jungle are quite amazing and truly enhance the experience of visiting this magnificent place.

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