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Bolivia in July/August

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Old Tuesday 16th March 2004, 19:50   #1
Steve Babbs
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Bolivia in July/August

I am undertaking a birding trip to Bolivia, with a friend, for 5 weeks this summer and am after any advice. I have searched the net for trip reports and have found a few but I am keen to hear from anyone who has done it 'on the cheap'. We are keen to not have a high car all the time and I personally am not keen on guides. I particulaly want to visit Noel Kempff Mercado.

Cheers

Steve
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Old Wednesday 6th April 2005, 00:49   #2
lgoldfrank
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Babbs
I am undertaking a birding trip to Bolivia, with a friend, for 5 weeks this summer and am after any advice. I have searched the net for trip reports and have found a few but I am keen to hear from anyone who has done it 'on the cheap'. We are keen to not have a high car all the time and I personally am not keen on guides. I particulaly want to visit Noel Kempff Mercado.

Cheers

Steve
Steve, did you ever go to Bolivia last summer? We're plannning a trip there this August, and I'd be interested in how it was.

Lois
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 13:58   #3
albatross02
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Birding in Bolivia

Hallo,

I heard now Bolivia is very unsafe.
I been there 5 years ago. Amboro national parc should be the place with the most different kind of birds ( more than 840 ).
In Bolivia I was only for mountain climbing. Birds I saw in Sajama national parc like Emu. Just over the border to chile is Chungura national parc. There I saw andean flamingo, gooses, emu, but no condor.
It is high desert with fantastic view ( until 300 km from top of the mountains ). On day in Sajama ( 4300 m ) in July was 15 - 20 Centigrad and 25 below in the night.

Best regards
Dieter
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 22:53   #4
Rasmus Boegh
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Lois,

Below is a copy n'paste job of an email I wrote to a friend of mine before he left for Bolivia, but you may find it useful. Note that the months I spend in Bolivia were back in 2003, meaning that many things could have changed, especially the prices I quote. It is very important that you check your embassy (or similar) for updates on security situation. I found Bolivia to be truly enjoyable and very safe, but Bolivia is a rather unstable country and the situation can change rapidly. Anyway, below is the copy n'paste of the email:

Fieldguides to bring: First, get the very good "Birds of Bolivia 2.0" CD-rom (by Sjoerd Mayer) for many of the voices you will need... I think the cheapest way is to use his webpage and order it from there:

http://www.birdsongs.com/

- from the same page, there are links to his other page (Bolivian Beauty), with a map showing localities of birding spots in Bolivia and often a page with descriptions/photos as well. Otherwise you absolutely need to bring "Birds of the High Andes" and "Birds of Peru". For the Pantanal (Bolivia or Brazil) "Birds of Southwestern Brazil" by B. Dubs is the one you need to bring. If you visit Noel Kempff Mercado National Park you need a guide for the Brazilian Amazon. Right now there really only is one possibility: "All the Birds of Brazil" by D. Souza. This is a bad guide (worse than the one for Peru), but it is your only possibility for that area, and still way better than nothing. As far as I know, all these books can be bought through http://www.nhbs.com/ and probably elsewhere like amazon.com or buteobooks.com. You may choose only to bring copies of the plates of some of the above guides. Copies of a few plates from Ridgely's "Birds of South America" vol. 1 & 2 are useful, too.

Furthermore, you probably need to get the Lonely Planet guide, as it give much info you will need anyway. My edition (2001) was good, however, not for finding hotels and the prices didn't fit. Generally prices in Bolivia were 2/3 of what they were in Peru - very cheap.

As in Peru, distances are great, often more than 8 hours if travelling by bus or car.

I found Bolivia very safe, generally much safer than Peru. Many people say Bolivia is the safest country (in terms of crime) in South America. I never had any problems with safety in Bolivia - even most of central La Paz and Santa Cruz is safe late in the evenings. Of course you still need to use your head and donít do stupid things! As I mention many times in this email, the biggest problem in Bolivia may be the risk of altitude sickness.

Other trip-reports: I found several very useful reports on the net and I often can't add too much. The best where:

http://www.surfbirds.com/mb/trips/bolivia-pw-0104.html
(Good for a short overview of some sites in Bolivia, especially near La Paz)

http://www.birdtours.co.uk/triprepor...l3/bol2002.htm
(Very good for Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, I really canít add anything important to this good report about the park. This is a place where you can get many very good species that are "near-endemics" to Brazil. It should be mentioned that you can fly into the park instead of going by road as described in the report. Goodies include the newly described Cryptic Forest-falcon and the Crimson-bellied Parakeet - certainly a strong candidate for the most beautiful parrot in South America. Furthermore, this area includes most of the species found in the Pantanal of Brazil.

http://users.skynet.be/wielewaal/DOC...%20English.doc
(Fairly good for several areas north of La Paz incl. Rurrenabaque and the nearby national park Madidi)

http://www.birdtours.co.uk/triprepor...ol-nov2001.htm
(Very useful. The one I used the most on my visit and it proved correct and generally precise. I visited all places mentioned except Kimís Golf Course, Laguna Volcan and Lago Angostura)

http://home-1.worldonline.nl/~jvande...ia00/bol1.html
(Very useful, too. I used it almost as much as the previous)

http://maybank.tripod.com/SouthAmeri...ia-09-2000.htm
(Very useful. I used it frequently for my trip)

http://www.doftravel.dk/reports/bolivia.rtf
(Good, though I onbly used it infrequently on my trip)

Here are some extra notes on a few places

Santa Cruz:

I visited many places near Santa Cruz, but the only ones I found really recommendable were "Lomas de Arena" and the botanical garden. "Lomas de Arena" is perhaps 15 km. from Santa Cruz and is fairly well known among the locals. They often visit the small lakes surrounded by sand dunes on weekends, but the rest of the park is left mostly alone. I saw several goodies here, but my best one was surely the Red-legged Seriema, perhaps because it was a bird-family I hadn't seen before (though I've seen loads later in Brazil). When I was there (end Marts), the lakes that are supposed to be good for waterbirds were completely dried out. The second area to visit near Santa Cruz is the so-called botanical garden which doesn't look like a garden at all, but more like a rather large area of dry forest and scrub (with loads of mosquitoes!) and I saw many good species here. Most locals don't know about this botanical garden (and only the old botanical garden is mentioned in Lonely Planet). Do NOT visit the old botanical garden. It is just a few small restaurants and no birds. The new one is to the east of the city on the road toward the nearby town of Cotoca. Just drive (or get a bus) toward Cotoca from Santa Cruz, and you will see a sign for the botanical garden on the right side of the road after some kilometres.

Samaipata, Tambo, Comarapa and Serrania de Siberia:

On the way to Samaipata from Santa Cruz you find Laguna Vulcan, a place I did not visit (if you want to visit this locality see the notes in the reports I referred to previously).
The place most birders stay in Samaipata is http://www.lavispera.org/, but there are several other possibilities in the town, incl. cheaper ones.
They also have a birdlist on their page. It is a nice and quiet place (though it supposedly can be very different on local holidays). From here it is possible to visit the famous National Park of Amboro. However, to visit any of the really good places in the park you need AT LEAST four days and you need a local guide, as there are no easy trails or lodges. Even if you had a month in the park the chances of seeing the Southern Horned Curassow or the Bolivian Recurvebill are VERY, VERY small (read: microscopic), but it never hurts trying. It is also possible to visit the lowland part of the park from Buena Vista (a town 3 hours of driving NW of Santa Cruz). The locality I found best for birding near Samaipata was the road to the El Fuerte ruins, it being located perhaps 8 km. from the town. I didn't find the famous "Pipeline track" particularly good when it comes to birds. Do remember to look up once in a while as Condors are a frequent sight. It is also in Samaipata you need to get in contact with another interesting local: The German guy who runs Roadrunners, a local travel-agency:http://www.samaipata.info/roadrunners/. He can put you into contact with yet another German, a priest who lives in Vallegrande. This German priest has lived in Bolivia for almost 20 years and is very, very useful for the Red-fronted Macaw. Indeed, that species can be very hard without him even though some manage without him. West of Samaipata you'll find the village of Comarapa. It is in this area the Red-fronted Macaw is found. There are a few small hotels and local restaurants in Comarapa (where I stayed), but most birders supposedly arrange to stay in Tambo at a local school. Tambo is a village some 10 km. east of Comarapa (which is a slightly bigger town). So, if coming from Samaipata you will reach Tambo, and then Comarapa ~10 km. later. In addition to the Red-fronted Macaw, the highly localized Bolivian Earthcreeper is found in this area Ė and unlike the Macaw it is relatively common. Many other nice things can be found in the scrub along the road with Red-tailed Comet, Striped Woodpecker, White-tipped Plantcutter, Ringed Warbling-finch and Grey-crested Finch all being rather common.

Serrania de Siberia is found further west, and it starts perhaps 25 km. from Comarapa along the "main road". The area with forest continue for approx. 20 km. to the small village of Siberia. There are no hotels or similar in this village (at least I don't remember seeing any), so you have to get up early from Comarapa/Tambo to get there. It is a cloud forest with many very good birds, birding being done from the road and on the few small tracks into the forest you can find. Endemics here are Black-hooded Sunbeam (fairly common), Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer (quite common) and Rufous-faced Antpitta (heard it once, never saw it). Even without the endemics the place is amazing and things like Black-winged Parrot, Scaled Metaltail and Bolivian Brush-finch (split from Rufous-naped Brush-finch) were relatively common.

After the village of Siberia the road climbs even higher up to the paramo, and then starts descending to Cochabamba. There were a few patches of Polylepis when I was there, but they were being cut down fast. On the road between Siberia and Cochabamba possibilities include Wedge-tailed Hillstar, Black-throated Thistletail (saw it), Iquico (aka Maquis) Canastero (saw it), Bolivian Warbling-finch (saw it), Cochabamba Mountain-finch, Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer (saw it) and the Citron-headed Yellow-finch (saw it). Generally, all except the Mountain-finch are supposed to occur some 30-50 km. west of Siberia - you just stop and check areas that look promissing.

It should be noted that Samaipata, Tambo, Comarapa and Serrania de Siberia all are along the old road between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. If looking at a map, this road roughly follow the southern border of the National Park of Amboro. If starting in Santa Cruz and going west it is as follows: First Samaipata (120 km and perhaps four hours by car from Santa Cruz), then Tambo (another 100 km. and perhaps three additional hours by car) and some 10 kilometers later Comarapa. About one hour (ca. 25 km.) west of Comarapa you reach Serrania de SiberiaÖ. and then, after additional hours, you finally reach Cochabamba. You can easily go all the way to from Santa Cruz to Comarapa using public trasportation, however, west of Comarapa the road deteriorates and a 4x4 may be recommendable. Obviously, there is virtually no public transportation after Comarapa, not only due to the bad road conditions, but also because of the new (and asphalted) road between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz going north of the National Park of Amboro. The first part of this new road is famous for birding - basically the part going from Cochabamba northeast to Villa Tunari. It is often referred to as the Chapare Road. From Santa Cruz it starts by ascending into the paramo and then slowly descends to Villa Tunari in the lowlands. I didnít really enjoy birding along that road because it has quite a lot of traffic and getting away from the road in areas with good habitat is hard (few tracks). A significant part of the habitat near the road has been cut down, except for some patches of forest far from the road that you canít get near anyway. So, the only nice thing I saw here was a Plushcap(ped Finch), even though I know others have had more luck with things like Hooded Mountain-toucan. There isn't much good habitat let near Villa Tunari, except for the nearby Carrasco National Park, also famous for a cave with Oilbirds. I didn't visit this cave as I've seen many Oilbirds in Peru, but it is supposed to be easy to arrange from the touristy town of Villa Tunari. It is a good idea to start the trip in Santa Cruz (in the lowlands), as you slowly can get used to the altitude by first going to Samaipata, then Siberia, and then Cochabamba. The altitude of Cochabamba normally doesn't give people serious problems, even if they fly in from the lowlands. However, it is a good idea to stop here, not only for the nearby birding localities, but also as a good way of slowly getting used to the altitude before La Paz.

Cochabamba:

The place to go is the Cerro Tunari/Liriuni road (Quillacollo road). First you need to go to Quillacollo, a city some 15 km. to the west of Cochabamba. This is easy using public transportation. From here you turn north (ask locals in Quillacollo where the road starts) towards Cerro Tunari. It is several km's before you reach any good habitat. However, on the way to the good habitat do look out for the endemic Bolivian Blackbird (saw a few) and the near-endemic Bolivian Warbling-finch (I only saw one group in three days of birding in this area). After a few kmís you start seeing a few patches of Polylepis and this is where I saw Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer (fairly common) and Cochabamba Mountain-finch (only saw it twice). Even higher up it is possible to see Iquico (Maquis) Canastero and Wedge-tailed Hillstar. I didnít see any of these at this locality and, as far as I can understand, both are very rare in this area. Sadly, the Polylepis is disappearing fast. The road to Cerro Tunari/Liruni is located higher than Cochabamaba: Take care, altitude sickness. A short trip closer to Cochabamba is Laguna Alalay. This lake is found on the southern edge of the city and is well known by everybody who lives in the area. Being almost inside the city, there often are quite a few people here, but I still saw a few nice things (best probably being White-tipped Plantcutter and Andean Parakeet). Check the earlier notes on the new road to Villa Tunari (and Santa Cruz), too.

Trinidad and the Blue-throated Macaw:

It is from the city of Trinidad that you visit the famous Hacienda El Cutal, where the Blue-throated Macaw is found. You may prefer to fly to Trinidad, as it is some 8 hours on a bus from Santa Cruz. Perhaps it should be mentioned that it is very expensive to see the Blue-throated Macaw. You need to get in contact with Paraiso Travel. They arrange the trip (the big birding-agencies use this company, too). You need at least three days, and in some periods (the rainy season) it is not possible at all. You can write to them on:
paraiso[at]sauce.ben.entelnet.bo
I did email them several weeks before I came to Trinidad, but they never responded!!! Their office is close to the central square in Trinidad, so I just ended up dropping by and they arranged everything with a few days notice. I have heard that other agencies in the city also arrange this trip. Perhaps other agencies are cheaper, just make sure they know what you want - and actually are able to provide it! It would be terrible to miss the Blue-throated Macaw just because you tried to save some money by using a cheaper company that didnít know what they were doing.
When in Trinidad also remember to visit the Laguna Suarez, a big lake perhaps 10 km. from Trinidad. Here you can see many of the species you may see on the way to Hacienda El Cutal, incl. various herons, Jabiru, Southern Screamer, White Woodpecker, various Seedeaters, Scarlet-headed Blackbird and Macaws (Blue-and-Yellow & Yellow-collared). The more species you see at Laguna Suarez, the fewer stops you'll have to make on the way to Hacienda El Cutal and the more time you have to search for the Blue-throated Macaw at the Hacienda itselfÖ

La Paz and nearby:

Remember that La Paz is the worldís highest capital! Be careful with altitude sickness as it is located in 3600 meters asl. Again, there are several nice birding spots near La Paz, but in general I can add little to the reports mentioned previously. The most famous locality near La Paz probably is the road to Coroico, a town to the north. It could be compared to a very short Manu Road, the highest point being approx. 4600 meters and the end being at an altitude of only 700. Many of the bird-species are also comparable to what you would see along the Manu Road. After leaving La Paz the road starts by going up to the paramo. The highest point is close to an artificial (man-made) lake and is known as La Cumbre. (see http://www.bolivianbeauty.com/Choque...e.htm#LaCumbre)
Near the man-made lake Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe has been recorded (but I didnít see it there, but have seen loads in Peru). Important! There is a checkpoint (mostly for drugs) on the way to Coroico. As always remember your passport, even though they only check for it sometimes. After La Cumbre the road starts going downwards. On the way it is possible to visit a few patches of Polylepis (again, see the above link - it was in this area the Ash-breasted Tit-tyrant was discovered a few years ago. Previously, this rare species was thought to be endemic to Peru. However, you would need much luck to see one here; it is far easier near Cusco in Peru). Soon you start seeing cloud forest. A few kilometres after the village of Cotapata you get to the stretch known as "The most dangerous road in the World" (!). Quite simply because it is steep, not very wide, and many places there are several hundred meters down to the side (check the photos in the previous link). I was told that the dangerous stretch would be replaced by a new road a month or two after I visited, so they probably have a new one now. This is good as much birding is done from the road, and dust and traffic is a very real problem when walking along the road. When the new part opens, hopefully, most of the road will be more tranquil (and safe!). I didn't see much on the dangerous stretch after Cotapata (but the part from a La Cumbre to Cotapata is nice). However, I must admit that I actually didnít try very hard after Cotapata, as I didnít have many new possibilities there Ė species I hadnít seen plenty of elsewhere. Hopefully, the traffic and dust-problem will disappear with the new road. As the dangerous part of the road is very steep, most of the original forest still is there. Note that traffic is reversed on the worst part of the road. You keep your car to the left (not as usual, right). Perhaps this will change with the opening of the new road. Of course the opening of the new road may result in the dangerous part being less accessible via public transportation than it was when I was there. However, the nice part from La Paz to Cotapata still is going to be easy to access via public transportation, as this safer (and asphalted) part still will be used before switiching on to the new road. The final destination is the town of Coroico, a town located in ca. 700 meters asl. In the higher parts (before the dangerous part) of the road there is a point where you can turn off towards Chulumani instead of contuing on to Coroico. Chulumani is a town located in approx. the same altitude as Coroico and much birding along the way is comparable. From La Paz to Chulumani is perhaps 5-6 hours and the stretch is served by public transportation. Near Chulumani you'll find a very nice private reserve called the Apa Apa Forest (all the locals in Chulumani know it; when they say it, it sounds like ďPapaĒ). It is owned by a friendly American-Bolivian couple. Contact them before a visit as they sometimes are fully booked, but if visiting in the low season you could be the only one around:
apapayungas[at]hotmail.com
That also give you a possibilty of arranging transport from Chulumani to the reserve (perhaps 30 minutes of driving, but very hard to find without local knowledge). They have a nice and fairly cheap hotel where food is served Ė they also have nice swimming pool. The forest is perhaps one hour of walking from the hotel, but birding on the way is good Ė just don't point your binoculars at the local people there. People are friendly, but as it is a coca-growing area they don't like foreigners looking at them through binoculars! There are also a few coca-fields on the walk up to the forest. They have a birdlist, but it was rather incomplete when I visited. I found several species not on the list including nice things like Rufous-banded Owl, Maroon-chested Ground-dove, White-eared Solitaire and Slaty Finch (the finch and the Dove can only be expected if the bamboo is flowering). In addition to these, there are many other goodies (check the short report:
http://www.worldtwitch.com/bolivia_odonnell.htm) and it is definitely worth a visit. Contrary to the report I found the Blue-banded Toucanet to be fairly common here, as I saw it three days out of four. Also note that the Scimitar-winged Piha has been recorded there, though it is very rare (as everywhere). Nice species that are virtually guaranteed include Versicoloured Barbet, Yungas Manakin and Dusky-green Oropendola. This is also the only place I ever have seen Slaty Gnateater. Many of the species found in this reserve are also possible in the lower parts of the Cochabamba-Villa Tunari road and the La Paz-Coroico road, but the habitat is much more accessible at Apa Apa. I spend four days there, but would have been happy to stay longer.

Rurrenabaque and Riberalta:

Rurrenabaque is a town in NW Bolivia and many birds can be found in the area on trips easily arranged from the town. The area (and species) are rather similar to the lowlands of Tambopata or Manu. Parque Nacional Alto Madidi is located fairly close to the town. The big minus is that it takes (if I remember right) almost 15 hours in bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaqua! It is also possible to fly. Note that most Bolivians just call the town "Rurre". Even further north youíll find Riberalta. I never visited Riberalta, but due to its isolation, the area may be more untouched than near Rurrenabaque. Also, the endemic Masked Antpitta is found near Riberalta. I still saw Razor-billed Curassow near Rurrenabaque, a species which normally is absent (hunted away) anywhere near humans. Regardless, in my opinion the best place to visit the Amazon in Bolivia is Noel Kempff Mercado - that park being as good as Manu.

The Saltlakes:

I never birded the Oruru-area. Quite simply because I had spoken to several people that had missed the Andean Avocet, the Andean Flamingo and the Puna Flamingo at this locality. They are apparently quite seasonal (but certainly still possible). One special thing about Lago Uru-uru is a population of Titicaca Grebes. Supposedly the best area is some 15 km. southeast of the town of Chaillapata, but as said, I didnít try. If you want to see the two "really good flamingos" and the Avocet - almost guaranteed - you should forget Lago Uru-uru and instead do as I did; go further south to Uyuni. This is obviously a looong way on a bad road (I think Oruru to Uyuni took 7 bumpy hours in bus, but I may be wrong), but you can find some real goodies down there. I saw Lesser Rheas along the way. Many "gringos" visit this area to do the famous four-day trip to Salar de Uyuni and the areas nearby. So did I. The trip is sold all over the place in Uyuni and leave almost daily. The price per person was 80 US$ no matter who or where you asked. If you want to go without other tourist (most people who do this tour donít care about birds) in the car, the price was 5x80 = 400 US$. One car can bring 5 people + the local driver. This price included a local Spanish-speaking guide (forget about doing it without a local. You WILL get terribly lost and there are very few people out there), a 4X4 car, hotels (some "hotels" are no more than a four walls with a bed in the middle - as nothing else is out there) and food. First day you visit the Salar which is a massive saltplain. The next few days you visit areas further south, incl. a nationalpark called "Parque Nacinal de Andina" Ė or something like that. Here the three flamingos are virtually guaranteed and so is the beautiful Andean Avocet. Other species I saw several times included Andean Goose, Crested Duck, Puna Teal, Andean Gull, Puna Tinamou, Giant Coot, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Puna Plover, Andean Condor and other highland birds. Two other species that perhaps are more noteworthy are the Red-backed Sierra-finch (common) and Horned Coot (a single pair seen). VicuŮa's were all over the place. It may be possible to make special arrangements (if you have less days at your diposal). Just contact one of the many travel-agencies in Uyuni. Many of them have web-pages. Remember that this area is located in 4000+ meters, so be careful to acclimatize or you will get altitude sickness. This trip is also good if you want to go to Chile. It is possible and easy (many do it) to cross the border into Chile (the famous Chilean national park of Lauca is just across the border) on the third day and from there it is no problem to get a bus to Arica on the coast. In other words, if youíre doing a big trip where you need to go from Bolivia to Chile, it would be logical to go to Uyuni in south-western Bolivia, and from there cross into Chile. From Uyuni (Bolivia) to Arica (Chile) takes three days including stops for the sights on the way, but perhaps it is possible to do it in just two (loooong) days. Even if you are a hardcore birder make sure you get to see the unique saltplain (called the Salar), as it is close to Uyuni, strikingly beautiful and unique. As said previously, donít even think about doing this without a local guide.

Inquisivi:

This is a village roughly halfway between La Paz and Cochabamba. Write an email to Sjoerd Mayer [removed his private email from this post, check his site mentioned previously] for precise info (what maps to buy, how to get there, etc.). It was here Sjoerd discovered the endemic Bolivian Spinetail and it can be seen easily in the dry scrub near the village (especially if you have a tape, but as always - use tapes with care). However, to get to the really good areas, you need to be prepared for several days of camping and long hard walks in areas where very few people ever go. I would say at least 5 days would be needed. However, it is worth it! The real birding begins on the slopes above Inquisivi and the valleys further away. Goodies include what may be a new species of antpitta, the Huayco Tinamou, Stripe-faced Wood-quail (heard it), Black-and-Chestnut Eagle (saw one) and Rufous-bellied Saltator (saw a pair). The best may be that I finally connnected with the fourth and final Andigena - the Hooded Mountain-Toucan - in a valley ~2 full days of hiking from Iquisivi.

Lago Titicaca:

I never did any serious birding on Lago Titicaca from the Bolivian side. I did make a typical tourist tour to Isla del Sol y de la Luna, but no birds of any real interest here. The price would of course be the Titicaca Grebe, but I didnít see it there (and didn't really try). A good place to look for it would perhaps be en route to Sorata, a town some 5 hours northwest of La Paz. Berlepsch's Canastero has been recorded near Sorata (but I didnít see it). I found the Grebe easily near the city of Puno on the Peruvian side of the Titicaca, but the situation is apparently changing quickly and this species is rapidly becomming rarer. Also check the various reeds along the coast of the lake for Many-coloured Rush-tyrants and Yellow-winged Blackbirds. Of course I also saw many other waterbirds there. Note that the border between Bolivia and Peru on the south side of Lago Titicaca (the one most people use) is notorious for policemen trying to rip people off for a bribe.

The Pantanal:

Neither did I do the Pantanal in Bolivia (I've spend a significant amount of time in the Brazilian Pantanal), but I am sure it is possible (and probably cheaper than in Brazil). The Hyacinth Macaw is recorded frequently from the Pantanal in Bolivia, though only quite close to the border with Brazil. It has also been recorded a few times in the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park.

The far Southeast:

There are several nice and highly localized species in far SE Bolivia (Red-faced Guan, Alder Parrot, Rufous-throated Dipper, etc.). I can't provide much info on this area as I didn't visit it, but rather chose to visit NW Argentina instead where the same things are possible and as far as I can understand easier (except the Guan, probably).

This is how I would do the trip you are talking about [OBS: This was aimed specifically at the friend I wrote this to originally: He did a trip from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Santiago in Chile]:

* Santa Cruz (incl. Lomas de Arena, the Okinava wetlands, the road to the Viru Viru Airport and the new Botanical Garden)
* Trinidad (incl. Laguna Suarez and Hacienda El Cutal for the Blue-throated Macaw)
* Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
* Back to Santa Cruz
* Samaipata (incl. the El Fuerte Ruins)
* Tambo/Comarapa-area
* Serrania da Siberia
* Cochabamba (incl. Cerro Tunari/Liriuni road and Laguna Alalay)
* Villa Tunari (incl. the road to Cochabamba and the Oilbird Caves)
* La Paz (incl. the road to Chulumnani and Coroico)
* The Apa Apa Forest near Chulumani
* Back to La Paz
* Lago Titicaca (from Puno in Peru)
* Back to La Paz
* Inquisivi
* Back to La Paz (perhaps it is possible to drive directly south towards Uyuni from Inquisivi without having to go back to La Paz first - but I don't know)
* Uyuni (The four/three day trip described previously)
* Arica (in Chile)

You could perhaps forget Villa Tunari if you donít care about the Oilbirds. Also, the habitat on the road from Cochabamba is not as good as what you can see in the Apa Apa Forest and near Inquisivi. All the important species are much easier to see at Apa Apa and Inquisivi. It is similar with the road to Coroico from La Paz, even though the high parts of the road certainly are worth a visit for a few specialities that can't be expected elsewhere. Otherwise, the main species are much easier in Apa Apa and Inquisivi (although Inquisivi require camping and some serious walking that perhaps can't be recommended unless you are used to wilderness hiking).

FIN! Again, do note that my visit was ~2 years ago, meaning that several significant changes may have taken place since then. Good luck!

Last edited by Rasmus Boegh : Sunday 10th April 2005 at 03:02. Reason: a few minor changes needed
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Old Saturday 9th April 2005, 02:09   #5
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Fascinating stuff, Rasmus and a wealth of information.
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Old Saturday 9th April 2005, 14:36   #6
Steve Babbs
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Originally Posted by lgoldfrank
Steve, did you ever go to Bolivia last summer? We're plannning a trip there this August, and I'd be interested in how it was.

Lois
Yes I did, we had an excellent, but somewhat crazy trip. I'd definately recommend it. I didn't feel unsafe apart from when at the old botanical gardens in Santa Cruz which we visted by mistake - as Rasmus says you should go to the new ones where the birding is much better and they certainly have a safer feel, although the old gardens were the only place we saw a sloth so it was a fortunate mistake. Having said that the roads could be very scary, recommend you use public transport/taxis which is also much cheaper. Generally the locals were very friendly and we had very little hassle and of course we saw huge numbers of birds. I'll go back one day but this year the lure of Peru has proved to much to resist. Feel free to PM me with any questions.

Steve
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Old Friday 22nd April 2005, 05:39   #7
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Thanks everyone, I now have LOTS of new information to digest. Two quick questions:
Steve, was the Coroico road any different when you were there? I see no signs of improvement anywhere on the web... And second, did anyone take any altitude medicine, or is coming up in 4 weeks from Santa Cruz through Samaipata, then Comarapa, Cochabamba, V. Tunari, Oruro, Putre and Lauca, La Paz going to do it? What exactly does one do to acclimatize?

Lois
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Old Friday 22nd April 2005, 11:48   #8
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Bolivia altitude problems

Hallo Lois,

altitude problems appear normally between 2800 m and 3500 m.
Starts mostly with increase heartbead and headdack.
Samaipata should not be a problem.
http://www.samaipata.info/ENGLISH/homeng.htm

The next both town I do not know. Oruro is written 3709 m.
For this You need minimum 3 - 4 days acclimatisation around 2500 m ( sleeping place !!! ).
There is no serious problem for healty persons. But very strong headdack and You feel quite awful ( heartback in quitness around 80 ).

http://www.boliviaweb.com/cities/oruro.htm

Against low headdack the Bolivian dring mate de coca.
Putre I think is 3500 m. But I suppose You will visit also Lago Chungura ( Lauca nationalparc ).
Chungura is 4600 m high. So You need minimun 5 - 7 days in 3700 m acclimatisation, if You want sleep in Chungura.
You have to watch Your heartbeat during quitness. With acclimatisation the frequence goes down ( compare with normal heartbeat at home ).
La Paz is 3700 m high, but there are also hotels in surburbia Cajacoto ( 3400 m ) and near Zoologico e.g. hotel Oberland ( Schwitzerland owner, hotel recommended ).
Buy the way Lauca np is extrem ( 15 - 20 centigrads on day, -25 centrigrad, seldom -30 at night ).
In Sajama np ( 4300 m ) are trees until 4800 m.

Best regards
Dieter
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Old Friday 22nd April 2005, 13:06   #9
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Originally Posted by lgoldfrank
Thanks everyone, I now have LOTS of new information to digest. Two quick questions:
Steve, was the Coroico road any different when you were there? I see no signs of improvement anywhere on the web... And second, did anyone take any altitude medicine, or is coming up in 4 weeks from Santa Cruz through Samaipata, then Comarapa, Cochabamba, V. Tunari, Oruro, Putre and Lauca, La Paz going to do it? What exactly does one do to acclimatize? Lois
If you are not sure how you will handle it, get drugs. I assume Diamox is still the mainstay. Start taking it 24 hours before hitting 9,000-10,000 ft. Or whaterver your personal limit is. Altitude sickness hits everyone differently, it certainly can ruin an expensive trip and also can kill you if you are not careful. I get it, somewhere over 9,000 ft. It usually hits me hard and fast, but I recover quickly when I get back to 9,000ft.

On my last it visit to Bolivia the plane landed at La Paz's El Alto airport (the highest international airport in the world, 14,400ft, or so), before continuing to lowland Santa Cruz. I was vomitting as we took off from La Paz, and not from airsickness.

I was ok from traveling from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba (7,800ft?). From Cochabamaba we took 2 day trips up Cerro Tunari (15,000). once we hit my limit I lay on the floor of the van in my own vomit as everyone else chatted about their lifers. But at least I saw the Giant Conebill before I succumbed.

I was quite worried because we were flying back to LaPaz for a couple days. I had Diamox with me, but had not taken it yet, using Cerro Tunari first gauge my problem. I used the Diamox and felt pretty good for our last couple days in LaPaz and Lake Titicaca. I has some side effects, carbonated drinks taste like crap and your fingers and toes tingle, but I'm using it again if I plan on going much over 9,000ft. Some on our trip had some problems at La Paz, but it took awhile (overnight) for them to crop up.
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Old Friday 22nd April 2005, 13:07   #10
Edward woodwood
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many birders going to Cusco and La Paz etc do not have time to acclimatise and yet experience no serious problems

as long as you take it steady you should be ok

if you do start to show any signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) move to a lower altitude quickly
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Old Friday 22nd April 2005, 13:27   #11
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As Bill's story shows, everyone responds differently to altitude and there are no hard and fast rules. The young and fit are just as likely to succumb as the old and overweight. As Tim says take it steady and you should be OK. The best thing to speed up acclimatisation is to DRINK LOTS (and then drink some more ...). Urine should be clear and copious (if you'll excuse the gory details!).
I am fortunate that after numerous trips to high altitude, both trekking/climbing and birding, I have never had any real problems even when flying into e.g. El Alto or Leh.
I have not taken Diamox but know plenty of people who have and can vouch for its benefits.

Rob
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Old Friday 22nd April 2005, 21:24   #12
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I have spend signifcant amount of time in the highlands (4500+ meters), and consider it no problem if you just make sure you don't go directly from the lowlands to the highlands and know how to respond if more serious symptoms begin. A good way of doing it is lowlands on day 1, 2500 meters on day 2, 3500 meters on day 3, and 4500 on day 4. As others already mentioned, some people get affected, others don't. Indeed, there's a difference from time to time, and you may feel nothing the first time, but really bad the second time. When going above 4000 meters asl I've usually had a slight headache the first day, and likewise been a bit tired, but nothing serious and certainly not enough to keep me from birding! A slight warning against the medicine: It should only be used for minor symptoms of altitude sicness. There have been cases where people felt really bad, took the medicine, and actually placed themselves in serious danger because the medicine hid how bad they actually felt. The medicine only releaves the symptoms, the actual problem (not getting enough oxygen) is still there. As Tim said, if you start feeling really bad, going back to the lowlands is THE ONLY SOLUTION. As other said, drink plenty of water, keep away from alcohol and take it easy on the first day in 3500+ meters. If you do that, the effect is likely to be minimal. Indeed, even if flying into 3500 meter asl from the lowlands, the chance is that you will get bit of headache, nothing else. What is important is that you are aware of the risk and know how to respond if more serious symptoms begin. If you have a slight headache coca tee (mate-de-coca; sold all over the place in Bolivia) help a bit.

Best of luck...
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2005, 00:55   #13
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Coincidentally I just had a physical scheduled so got to talk to my doctor about this. She's opposed to medicine (Diamox) because of what was mentioned, the possibility of masking serious symptoms. I've done ok before up to 3500m, just haven't been as high as La Paz or Lauca. I've always felt tired and a bit light-headed and just recently had some headaches - the suggestion about drinking is a good reminder, thanks. We won't have time to be quite as systematic as I know we should be in terms of easing up gradually, don't have that much time and the interesting places vary so in altitude on the way from SC to LP. Seems like you have to keep going up, then down, then up again. Hope it works ok, that's all.
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2005, 04:45   #14
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I believe to be effective Diamox is to be started 24 hrs before hitting your "altitude", and therfore before you would have any symptoms. Taking it afterwards does no good, I don't think it masks symptoms, but I might be wrong.

To do it without drugs you are supposed to advance your sleep elevation by 1,000 ft each night, but as lgoldfrank piointed out, the logistics of this often can't be met.

Even if you are doing ok at altitude (with or with out drugs) you will be a little tired or short-winded for awhile. I wouldn't consider this an altitude sickness symptom. I have seen some folks have fun with this. When the group first hits 9,000-10,000ft they suddenly stop the bus and jump outside, yelling about some rarity, then watch everyone collapse after running about 10 steps.
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2005, 07:52   #15
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Tiredness is the very first syntom of altitude sickness, caused by the cells in the brain getting less oxygen - virtually everybody will experiance this largely harmless symptom if going above 3500 meters (~12.000ft) directly from the lowlands. This is caused by the simple fact that there is roughly 40% less O2 in the air at that altitude when compared to the O2 level in the lowlands. At a point you start getting a headache for the exact same reason. Others get a bit lightheaded instead, it almost feeling like being a drunk. Yet another effect of the altitude is an increase in urination (even more so if taking Diamox), which is why you should try to drink more than usual. There are numerous other things altitude sickness may cause, incl. nausea. Finally, and this what you really want to avoid and luckily very few ever experiance, liquids from the capillaries start gathering in the lungs (pulmonary edema) leading to death unless actions are taken (either oxygen chamber or lowlands; often combined with Dexamethasone or another drug to lessen swelling of the brain). True, via a rather complicated processes Diamox re-acidifies the blood (basically, the same your body would do naturally if given the time to aclimmatize properly). Thereby it can shorten the acclimatization period, but NOT remove it (the numbers I've heard is that it on average cuts the time in half, but I do not know if that is true or what this estimate is based on). Indeed, it can be useful to take the "sting" of minor syntoms and has proven especially helpful for people experiancing sleeping problems due to the erradic breathing pattern a sudden decrease in oxygen level often cause. However, it has a number of side effects, one of them being that it for a period can "hide" more serious problems. Of course this risk is minimal, not at least because very few ever get to point where lung oedema sets in, but on the other hand why risk anything (that or one of the numerous other side effects, at least one of which can be very serious) if staying a day or two at a medium altitude is possible? If Diamox is taken Bill is completely right, you have to start 24 hours before, but should obviously consult a doctor to get exact instructions...

Oh well, that was a bit if a change in subject. I do hope above didn't scare anybody away from Bolivia. It really is a beautiful country and as long as you use your common sense, the risk is minimal.
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 19:05   #16
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Thanks again for the info. I'm not at all scared off, can't wait in fact!

On a slightly different tack, I'm now wondering what recording device to bring with us for judicious playback of certain skulkers. My friend just got the newest Sony minidisk recorder but as yet does not have a mic. Any recommendations for a relatively inexpensive one?

And do you all think the minidisk is the way to go now? Has anyone used an I-pod with recording device? Or other recording MP3 device? I'm really interested in doing immediate recording and playback but hope not to have to lug a huge mic and recorder around.

Lois

Last edited by lgoldfrank : Friday 29th April 2005 at 02:14.
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 19:25   #17
Steve Babbs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasmus Boegh
Lois,

Below is a copy n'paste job of an email I wrote to a friend of mine before he left for Bolivia, but you may find it useful. Note that the months I spend in Bolivia were back in 2003, meaning that many things could have changed, especially the prices I quote. It is very important that you check your embassy (or similar) for updates on security situation. I found Bolivia to be truly enjoyable and very safe, but Bolivia is a rather unstable country and the situation can change rapidly. Anyway, below is the copy n'paste of the email:

Fieldguides to bring: First, get the very good "Birds of Bolivia 2.0" CD-rom (by Sjoerd Mayer) for many of the voices you will need... I think the cheapest way is to use his webpage and order it from there:

http://www.birdsongs.com/

- from the same page, there are links to his other page (Bolivian Beauty), with a map showing localities of birding spots in Bolivia and often a page with descriptions/photos as well. Otherwise you absolutely need to bring "Birds of the High Andes" and "Birds of Peru". For the Pantanal (Bolivia or Brazil) "Birds of Southwestern Brazil" by B. Dubs is the one you need to bring. If you visit Noel Kempff Mercado National Park you need a guide for the Brazilian Amazon. Right now there really only is one possibility: "All the Birds of Brazil" by D. Souza. This is a bad guide (worse than the one for Peru), but it is your only possibility for that area, and still way better than nothing. As far as I know, all these books can be bought through http://www.nhbs.com/ and probably elsewhere like amazon.com or buteobooks.com. You may choose only to bring copies of the plates of some of the above guides. Copies of a few plates from Ridgely's "Birds of South America" vol. 1 & 2 are useful, too.

Furthermore, you probably need to get the Lonely Planet guide, as it give much info you will need anyway. My edition (2001) was good, however, not for finding hotels and the prices didn't fit. Generally prices in Bolivia were 2/3 of what they were in Peru - very cheap.

As in Peru, distances are great, often more than 8 hours if travelling by bus or car.

I found Bolivia very safe, generally much safer than Peru. Many people say Bolivia is the safest country (in terms of crime) in South America. I never had any problems with safety in Bolivia - even most of central La Paz and Santa Cruz is safe late in the evenings. Of course you still need to use your head and donít do stupid things! As I mention many times in this email, the biggest problem in Bolivia may be the risk of altitude sickness.

Other trip-reports: I found several very useful reports on the net and I often can't add too much. The best where:

http://www.surfbirds.com/mb/trips/bolivia-pw-0104.html
(Good for a short overview of some sites in Bolivia, especially near La Paz)

http://www.birdtours.co.uk/triprepor...l3/bol2002.htm
(Very good for Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, I really canít add anything important to this good report about the park. This is a place where you can get many very good species that are "near-endemics" to Brazil. It should be mentioned that you can fly into the park instead of going by road as described in the report. Goodies include the newly described Cryptic Forest-falcon and the Crimson-bellied Parakeet - certainly a strong candidate for the most beautiful parrot in South America. Furthermore, this area includes most of the species found in the Pantanal of Brazil.

http://users.skynet.be/wielewaal/DOC...%20English.doc
(Fairly good for several areas north of La Paz incl. Rurrenabaque and the nearby national park Madidi)

http://www.birdtours.co.uk/triprepor...ol-nov2001.htm
(Very useful. The one I used the most on my visit and it proved correct and generally precise. I visited all places mentioned except Kimís Golf Course, Laguna Volcan and Lago Angostura)

http://home-1.worldonline.nl/~jvande...ia00/bol1.html
(Very useful, too. I used it almost as much as the previous)

http://maybank.tripod.com/SouthAmeri...ia-09-2000.htm
(Very useful. I used it frequently for my trip)

http://www.doftravel.dk/reports/bolivia.rtf
(Good, though I onbly used it infrequently on my trip)

Here are some extra notes on a few places

Santa Cruz:

I visited many places near Santa Cruz, but the only ones I found really recommendable were "Lomas de Arena" and the botanical garden. "Lomas de Arena" is perhaps 15 km. from Santa Cruz and is fairly well known among the locals. They often visit the small lakes surrounded by sand dunes on weekends, but the rest of the park is left mostly alone. I saw several goodies here, but my best one was surely the Red-legged Seriema, perhaps because it was a bird-family I hadn't seen before (though I've seen loads later in Brazil). When I was there (end Marts), the lakes that are supposed to be good for waterbirds were completely dried out. The second area to visit near Santa Cruz is the so-called botanical garden which doesn't look like a garden at all, but more like a rather large area of dry forest and scrub (with loads of mosquitoes!) and I saw many good species here. Most locals don't know about this botanical garden (and only the old botanical garden is mentioned in Lonely Planet). Do NOT visit the old botanical garden. It is just a few small restaurants and no birds. The new one is to the east of the city on the road toward the nearby town of Cotoca. Just drive (or get a bus) toward Cotoca from Santa Cruz, and you will see a sign for the botanical garden on the right side of the road after some kilometres.

Samaipata, Tambo, Comarapa and Serrania de Siberia:

On the way to Samaipata from Santa Cruz you find Laguna Vulcan, a place I did not visit (if you want to visit this locality see the notes in the reports I referred to previously).
The place most birders stay in Samaipata is http://www.lavispera.org/, but there are several other possibilities in the town, incl. cheaper ones.
They also have a birdlist on their page. It is a nice and quiet place (though it supposedly can be very different on local holidays). From here it is possible to visit the famous National Park of Amboro. However, to visit any of the really good places in the park you need AT LEAST four days and you need a local guide, as there are no easy trails or lodges. Even if you had a month in the park the chances of seeing the Southern Horned Curassow or the Bolivian Recurvebill are VERY, VERY small (read: microscopic), but it never hurts trying. It is also possible to visit the lowland part of the park from Buena Vista (a town 3 hours of driving NW of Santa Cruz). The locality I found best for birding near Samaipata was the road to the El Fuerte ruins, it being located perhaps 8 km. from the town. I didn't find the famous "Pipeline track" particularly good when it comes to birds. Do remember to look up once in a while as Condors are a frequent sight. It is also in Samaipata you need to get in contact with another interesting local: The German guy who runs Roadrunners, a local travel-agency:http://www.samaipata.info/roadrunners/. He can put you into contact with yet another German, a priest who lives in Vallegrande. This German priest has lived in Bolivia for almost 20 years and is very, very useful for the Red-fronted Macaw. Indeed, that species can be very hard without him even though some manage without him. West of Samaipata you'll find the village of Comarapa. It is in this area the Red-fronted Macaw is found. There are a few small hotels and local restaurants in Comarapa (where I stayed), but most birders supposedly arrange to stay in Tambo at a local school. Tambo is a village some 10 km. east of Comarapa (which is a slightly bigger town). So, if coming from Samaipata you will reach Tambo, and then Comarapa ~10 km. later. In addition to the Red-fronted Macaw, the highly localized Bolivian Earthcreeper is found in this area Ė and unlike the Macaw it is relatively common. Many other nice things can be found in the scrub along the road with Red-tailed Comet, Striped Woodpecker, White-tipped Plantcutter, Ringed Warbling-finch and Grey-crested Finch all being rather common.

Serrania de Siberia is found further west, and it starts perhaps 25 km. from Comarapa along the "main road". The area with forest continue for approx. 20 km. to the small village of Siberia. There are no hotels or similar in this village (at least I don't remember seeing any), so you have to get up early from Comarapa/Tambo to get there. It is a cloud forest with many very good birds, birding being done from the road and on the few small tracks into the forest you can find. Endemics here are Black-hooded Sunbeam (fairly common), Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer (quite common) and Rufous-faced Antpitta (heard it once, never saw it). Even without the endemics the place is amazing and things like Black-winged Parrot, Scaled Metaltail and Bolivian Brush-finch (split from Rufous-naped Brush-finch) were relatively common.

After the village of Siberia the road climbs even higher up to the paramo, and then starts descending to Cochabamba. There were a few patches of Polylepis when I was there, but they were being cut down fast. On the road between Siberia and Cochabamba possibilities include Wedge-tailed Hillstar, Black-throated Thistletail (saw it), Iquico (aka Maquis) Canastero (saw it), Bolivian Warbling-finch (saw it), Cochabamba Mountain-finch, Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer (saw it) and the Citron-headed Yellow-finch (saw it). Generally, all except the Mountain-finch are supposed to occur some 30-50 km. west of Siberia - you just stop and check areas that look promissing.

It should be noted that Samaipata, Tambo, Comarapa and Serrania de Siberia all are along the old road between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. If looking at a map, this road roughly follow the southern border of the National Park of Amboro. If starting in Santa Cruz and going west it is as follows: First Samaipata (120 km and perhaps four hours by car from Santa Cruz), then Tambo (another 100 km. and perhaps three additional hours by car) and some 10 kilometers later Comarapa. About one hour (ca. 25 km.) west of Comarapa you reach Serrania de SiberiaÖ. and then, after additional hours, you finally reach Cochabamba. You can easily go all the way to from Santa Cruz to Comarapa using public trasportation, however, west of Comarapa the road deteriorates and a 4x4 may be recommendable. Obviously, there is virtually no public transportation after Comarapa, not only due to the bad road conditions, but also because of the new (and asphalted) road between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz going north of the National Park of Amboro. The first part of this new road is famous for birding - basically the part going from Cochabamba northeast to Villa Tunari. It is often referred to as the Chapare Road. From Santa Cruz it starts by ascending into the paramo and then slowly descends to Villa Tunari in the lowlands. I didnít really enjoy birding along that road because it has quite a lot of traffic and getting away from the road in areas with good habitat is hard (few tracks). A significant part of the habitat near the road has been cut down, except for some patches of forest far from the road that you canít get near anyway. So, the only nice thing I saw here was a Plushcap(ped Finch), even though I know others have had more luck with things like Hooded Mountain-toucan. There isn't much good habitat let near Villa Tunari, except for the nearby Carrasco National Park, also famous for a cave with Oilbirds. I didn't visit this cave as I've seen many Oilbirds in Peru, but it is supposed to be easy to arrange from the touristy town of Villa Tunari. It is a good idea to start the trip in Santa Cruz (in the lowlands), as you slowly can get used to the altitude by first going to Samaipata, then Siberia, and then Cochabamba. The altitude of Cochabamba normally doesn't give people serious problems, even if they fly in from the lowlands. However, it is a good idea to stop here, not only for the nearby birding localities, but also as a good way of slowly getting used to the altitude before La Paz.

Cochabamba:

The place to go is the Cerro Tunari/Liriuni road (Quillacollo road). First you need to go to Quillacollo, a city some 15 km. to the west of Cochabamba. This is easy using public transportation. From here you turn north (ask locals in Quillacollo where the road starts) towards Cerro Tunari. It is several km's before you reach any good habitat. However, on the way to the good habitat do look out for the endemic Bolivian Blackbird (saw a few) and the near-endemic Bolivian Warbling-finch (I only saw one group in three days of birding in this area). After a few kmís you start seeing a few patches of Polylepis and this is where I saw Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer (fairly common) and Cochabamba Mountain-finch (only saw it twice). Even higher up it is possible to see Iquico (Maquis) Canastero and Wedge-tailed Hillstar. I didnít see any of these at this locality and, as far as I can understand, both are very rare in this area. Sadly, the Polylepis is disappearing fast. The road to Cerro Tunari/Liruni is located higher than Cochabamaba: Take care, altitude sickness. A short trip closer to Cochabamba is Laguna Alalay. This lake is found on the southern edge of the city and is well known by everybody who lives in the area. Being almost inside the city, there often are quite a few people here, but I still saw a few nice things (best probably being White-tipped Plantcutter and Andean Parakeet). Check the earlier notes on the new road to Villa Tunari (and Santa Cruz), too.

Trinidad and the Blue-throated Macaw:

It is from the city of Trinidad that you visit the famous Hacienda El Cutal, where the Blue-throated Macaw is found. You may prefer to fly to Trinidad, as it is some 8 hours on a bus from Santa Cruz. Perhaps it should be mentioned that it is very expensive to see the Blue-throated Macaw. You need to get in contact with Paraiso Travel. They arrange the trip (the big birding-agencies use this company, too). You need at least three days, and in some periods (the rainy season) it is not possible at all. You can write to them on:
paraiso[at]sauce.ben.entelnet.bo
I did email them several weeks before I came to Trinidad, but they never responded!!! Their office is close to the central square in Trinidad, so I just ended up dropping by and they arranged everything with a few days notice. I have heard that other agencies in the city also arrange this trip. Perhaps other agencies are cheaper, just make sure they know what you want - and actually are able to provide it! It would be terrible to miss the Blue-throated Macaw just because you tried to save some money by using a cheaper company that didnít know what they were doing.
When in Trinidad also remember to visit the Laguna Suarez, a big lake perhaps 10 km. from Trinidad. Here you can see many of the species you may see on the way to Hacienda El Cutal, incl. various herons, Jabiru, Southern Screamer, White Woodpecker, various Seedeaters, Scarlet-headed Blackbird and Macaws (Blue-and-Yellow & Yellow-collared). The more species you see at Laguna Suarez, the fewer stops you'll have to make on the way to Hacienda El Cutal and the more time you have to search for the Blue-throated Macaw at the Hacienda itselfÖ

La Paz and nearby:

Remember that La Paz is the worldís highest capital! Be careful with altitude sickness as it is located in 3600 meters asl. Again, there are several nice birding spots near La Paz, but in general I can add little to the reports mentioned previously. The most famous locality near La Paz probably is the road to Coroico, a town to the north. It could be compared to a very short Manu Road, the highest point being approx. 4600 meters and the end being at an altitude of only 700. Many of the bird-species are also comparable to what you would see along the Manu Road. After leaving La Paz the road starts by going up to the paramo. The highest point is close to an artificial (man-made) lake and is known as La Cumbre. (see http://www.bolivianbeauty.com/Choque...e.htm#LaCumbre)
Near the man-made lake Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe has been recorded (but I didnít see it there, but have seen loads in Peru). Important! There is a checkpoint (mostly for drugs) on the way to Coroico. As always remember your passport, even though they only check for it sometimes. After La Cumbre the road starts going downwards. On the way it is possible to visit a few patches of Polylepis (again, see the above link - it was in this area the Ash-breasted Tit-tyrant was discovered a few years ago. Previously, this rare species was thought to be endemic to Peru. However, you would need much luck to see one here; it is far easier near Cusco in Peru). Soon you start seeing cloud forest. A few kilometres after the village of Cotapata you get to the stretch known as "The most dangerous road in the World" (!). Quite simply because it is steep, not very wide, and many places there are several hundred meters down to the side (check the photos in the previous link). I was told that the dangerous stretch would be replaced by a new road a month or two after I visited, so they probably have a new one now. This is good as much birding is done from the road, and dust and traffic is a very real problem when walking along the road. When the new part opens, hopefully, most of the road will be more tranquil (and safe!). I didn't see much on the dangerous stretch after Cotapata (but the part from a La Cumbre to Cotapata is nice). However, I must admit that I actually didnít try very hard after Cotapata, as I didnít have many new possibilities there Ė species I hadnít seen plenty of elsewhere. Hopefully, the traffic and dust-problem will disappear with the new road. As the dangerous part of the road is very steep, most of the original forest still is there. Note that traffic is reversed on the worst part of the road. You keep your car to the left (not as usual, right). Perhaps this will change with the opening of the new road. Of course the opening of the new road may result in the dangerous part being less accessible via public transportation than it was when I was there. However, the nice part from La Paz to Cotapata still is going to be easy to access via public transportation, as this safer (and asphalted) part still will be used before switiching on to the new road. The final destination is the town of Coroico, a town located in ca. 700 meters asl. In the higher parts (before the dangerous part) of the road there is a point where you can turn off towards Chulumani instead of contuing on to Coroico. Chulumani is a town located in approx. the same altitude as Coroico and much birding along the way is comparable. From La Paz to Chulumani is perhaps 5-6 hours and the stretch is served by public transportation. Near Chulumani you'll find a very nice private reserve called the Apa Apa Forest (all the locals in Chulumani know it; when they say it, it sounds like ďPapaĒ). It is owned by a friendly American-Bolivian couple. Contact them before a visit as they sometimes are fully booked, but if visiting in the low season you could be the only one around:
apapayungas[at]hotmail.com
That also give you a possibilty of arranging transport from Chulumani to the reserve (perhaps 30 minutes of driving, but very hard to find without local knowledge). They have a nice and fairly cheap hotel where food is served Ė they also have nice swimming pool. The forest is perhaps one hour of walking from the hotel, but birding on the way is good Ė just don't point your binoculars at the local people there. People are friendly, but as it is a coca-growing area they don't like foreigners looking at them through binoculars! There are also a few coca-fields on the walk up to the forest. They have a birdlist, but it was rather incomplete when I visited. I found several species not on the list including nice things like Rufous-banded Owl, Maroon-chested Ground-dove, White-eared Solitaire and Slaty Finch (the finch and the Dove can only be expected if the bamboo is flowering). In addition to these, there are many other goodies (check the short report:
http://www.worldtwitch.com/bolivia_odonnell.htm) and it is definitely worth a visit. Contrary to the report I found the Blue-banded Toucanet to be fairly common here, as I saw it three days out of four. Also note that the Scimitar-winged Piha has been recorded there, though it is very rare (as everywhere). Nice species that are virtually guaranteed include Versicoloured Barbet, Yungas Manakin and Dusky-green Oropendola. This is also the only place I ever have seen Slaty Gnateater. Many of the species found in this reserve are also possible in the lower parts of the Cochabamba-Villa Tunari road and the La Paz-Coroico road, but the habitat is much more accessible at Apa Apa. I spend four days there, but would have been happy to stay longer.

Rurrenabaque and Riberalta:

Rurrenabaque is a town in NW Bolivia and many birds can be found in the area on trips easily arranged from the town. The area (and species) are rather similar to the lowlands of Tambopata or Manu. Parque Nacional Alto Madidi is located fairly close to the town. The big minus is that it takes (if I remember right) almost 15 hours in bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaqua! It is also possible to fly. Note that most Bolivians just call the town "Rurre". Even further north youíll find Riberalta. I never visited Riberalta, but due to its isolation, the area may be more untouched than near Rurrenabaque. Also, the endemic Masked Antpitta is found near Riberalta. I still saw Razor-billed Curassow near Rurrenabaque, a species which normally is absent (hunted away) anywhere near humans. Regardless, in my opinion the best place to visit the Amazon in Bolivia is Noel Kempff Mercado - that park being as good as Manu.

The Saltlakes:

I never birded the Oruru-area. Quite simply because I had spoken to several people that had missed the Andean Avocet, the Andean Flamingo and the Puna Flamingo at this locality. They are apparently quite seasonal (but certainly still possible). One special thing about Lago Uru-uru is a population of Titicaca Grebes. Supposedly the best area is some 15 km. southeast of the town of Chaillapata, but as said, I didnít try. If you want to see the two "really good flamingos" and the Avocet - almost guaranteed - you should forget Lago Uru-uru and instead do as I did; go further south to Uyuni. This is obviously a looong way on a bad road (I think Oruru to Uyuni took 7 bumpy hours in bus, but I may be wrong), but you can find some real goodies down there. I saw Lesser Rheas along the way. Many "gringos" visit this area to do the famous four-day trip to Salar de Uyuni and the areas nearby. So did I. The trip is sold all over the place in Uyuni and leave almost daily. The price per person was 80 US$ no matter who or where you asked. If you want to go without other tourist (most people who do this tour donít care about birds) in the car, the price was 5x80 = 400 US$. One car can bring 5 people + the local driver. This price included a local Spanish-speaking guide (forget about doing it without a local. You WILL get terribly lost and there are very few people out there), a 4X4 car, hotels (some "hotels" are no more than a four walls with a bed in the middle - as nothing else is out there) and food. First day you visit the Salar which is a massive saltplain. The next few days you visit areas further south, incl. a nationalpark called "Parque Nacinal de Andina" Ė or something like that. Here the three flamingos are virtually guaranteed and so is the beautiful Andean Avocet. Other species I saw several times included Andean Goose, Crested Duck, Puna Teal, Andean Gull, Puna Tinamou, Giant Coot, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Puna Plover, Andean Condor and other highland birds. Two other species that perhaps are more noteworthy are the Red-backed Sierra-finch (common) and Horned Coot (a single pair seen). VicuŮa's were all over the place. It may be possible to make special arrangements (if you have less days at your diposal). Just contact one of the many travel-agencies in Uyuni. Many of them have web-pages. Remember that this area is located in 4000+ meters, so be careful to acclimatize or you will get altitude sickness. This trip is also good if you want to go to Chile. It is possible and easy (many do it) to cross the border into Chile (the famous Chilean national park of Lauca is just across the border) on the third day and from there it is no problem to get a bus to Arica on the coast. In other words, if youíre doing a big trip where you need to go from Bolivia to Chile, it would be logical to go to Uyuni in south-western Bolivia, and from there cross into Chile. From Uyuni (Bolivia) to Arica (Chile) takes three days including stops for the sights on the way, but perhaps it is possible to do it in just two (loooong) days. Even if you are a hardcore birder make sure you get to see the unique saltplain (called the Salar), as it is close to Uyuni, strikingly beautiful and unique. As said previously, donít even think about doing this without a local guide.

Inquisivi:

This is a village roughly halfway between La Paz and Cochabamba. Write an email to Sjoerd Mayer [removed his private email from this post, check his site mentioned previously] for precise info (what maps to buy, how to get there, etc.). It was here Sjoerd discovered the endemic Bolivian Spinetail and it can be seen easily in the dry scrub near the village (especially if you have a tape, but as always - use tapes with care). However, to get to the really good areas, you need to be prepared for several days of camping and long hard walks in areas where very few people ever go. I would say at least 5 days would be needed. However, it is worth it! The real birding begins on the slopes above Inquisivi and the valleys further away. Goodies include what may be a new species of antpitta, the Huayco Tinamou, Stripe-faced Wood-quail (heard it), Black-and-Chestnut Eagle (saw one) and Rufous-bellied Saltator (saw a pair). The best may be that I finally connnected with the fourth and final Andigena - the Hooded Mountain-Toucan - in a valley ~2 full days of hiking from Iquisivi.

Lago Titicaca:

I never did any serious birding on Lago Titicaca from the Bolivian side. I did make a typical tourist tour to Isla del Sol y de la Luna, but no birds of any real interest here. The price would of course be the Titicaca Grebe, but I didnít see it there (and didn't really try). A good place to look for it would perhaps be en route to Sorata, a town some 5 hours northwest of La Paz. Berlepsch's Canastero has been recorded near Sorata (but I didnít see it). I found the Grebe easily near the city of Puno on the Peruvian side of the Titicaca, but the situation is apparently changing quickly and this species is rapidly becomming rarer. Also check the various reeds along the coast of the lake for Many-coloured Rush-tyrants and Yellow-winged Blackbirds. Of course I also saw many other waterbirds there. Note that the border between Bolivia and Peru on the south side of Lago Titicaca (the one most people use) is notorious for policemen trying to rip people off for a bribe.

The Pantanal:

Neither did I do the Pantanal in Bolivia (I've spend a significant amount of time in the Brazilian Pantanal), but I am sure it is possible (and probably cheaper than in Brazil). The Hyacinth Macaw is recorded frequently from the Pantanal in Bolivia, though only quite close to the border with Brazil. It has also been recorded a few times in the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park.

The far Southeast:

There are several nice and highly localized species in far SE Bolivia (Red-faced Guan, Alder Parrot, Rufous-throated Dipper, etc.). I can't provide much info on this area as I didn't visit it, but rather chose to visit NW Argentina instead where the same things are possible and as far as I can understand easier (except the Guan, probably).

This is how I would do the trip you are talking about [OBS: This was aimed specifically at the friend I wrote this to originally: He did a trip from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Santiago in Chile]:

* Santa Cruz (incl. Lomas de Arena, the Okinava wetlands, the road to the Viru Viru Airport and the new Botanical Garden)
* Trinidad (incl. Laguna Suarez and Hacienda El Cutal for the Blue-throated Macaw)
* Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
* Back to Santa Cruz
* Samaipata (incl. the El Fuerte Ruins)
* Tambo/Comarapa-area
* Serrania da Siberia
* Cochabamba (incl. Cerro Tunari/Liriuni road and Laguna Alalay)
* Villa Tunari (incl. the road to Cochabamba and the Oilbird Caves)
* La Paz (incl. the road to Chulumnani and Coroico)
* The Apa Apa Forest near Chulumani
* Back to La Paz
* Lago Titicaca (from Puno in Peru)
* Back to La Paz
* Inquisivi
* Back to La Paz (perhaps it is possible to drive directly south towards Uyuni from Inquisivi without having to go back to La Paz first - but I don't know)
* Uyuni (The four/three day trip described previously)
* Arica (in Chile)

You could perhaps forget Villa Tunari if you donít care about the Oilbirds. Also, the habitat on the road from Cochabamba is not as good as what you can see in the Apa Apa Forest and near Inquisivi. All the important species are much easier to see at Apa Apa and Inquisivi. It is similar with the road to Coroico from La Paz, even though the high parts of the road certainly are worth a visit for a few specialities that can't be expected elsewhere. Otherwise, the main species are much easier in Apa Apa and Inquisivi (although Inquisivi require camping and some serious walking that perhaps can't be recommended unless you are used to wilderness hiking).

FIN! Again, do note that my visit was ~2 years ago, meaning that several significant changes may have taken place since then. Good luck!
I'd just add that the grebe was easy near Copacabana, Lake Tititcat and we found Berlepsch's Canestero fairly easily at Sorata. Whether it is worth the effort of going to Sorata for one bird depends on you but it is a very pleasant place to unwind from the pressure of an intensive birding trip.

Steve
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Old Monday 4th July 2005, 00:05   #18
lgoldfrank
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Unhappy New problem re Bolivia

Hi again,
We thought we had our trip to Bolivia all planned, but we just got an e-mail from Aero Sur cancelling the flights from Santa Cruz to Trinidad. Now what? Should we do the 12 hour overnight bus or should we hire a car and driver somehow or what? Anyone gone there without flying? There are 4 of us travelling together.

Thanks for any insight,
Lois
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Old Monday 4th July 2005, 11:17   #19
albatross02
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Bolivia

Hallo Lois,

in different traveller forum, I reed about problems in Bolivia.
There are some information in german forum.
I recommend ask some people in english speaking forum ( e.g. Britan, US ).
Ask if it is possible the drive this way. Maybe the streets are completely blocked ? Ask at Your foreign ministery for the situation in Bolivia or a hotel in Santa Cruz.


Best regards
Dieter
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Old Monday 4th July 2005, 15:32   #20
Edward woodwood
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Hi Steve

There are a few problems in Bolivia

i believe one of the roads out of La Paz is being regularly blocked by one of the indigenous communities. Away from the capital though i expect things are okay

Tim
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Old Monday 4th July 2005, 17:07   #21
Steve Babbs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lgoldfrank
Hi again,
We thought we had our trip to Bolivia all planned, but we just got an e-mail from Aero Sur cancelling the flights from Santa Cruz to Trinidad. Now what? Should we do the 12 hour overnight bus or should we hire a car and driver somehow or what? Anyone gone there without flying? There are 4 of us travelling together.

Thanks for any insight,
Lois
I' d get the bus, some of the Bolivian buses aren't too bad at all, although we flew this route. There should be several going each day. A bus is likely to be more comfortable than a car with driver, although it is certainly possible to hire taxis by the day - and surprisingly cheap- they are knackered old wrecks. I presume that you've checked that none of the other airlines cover this route. One problem with road travel is occasional road blocks, as mentioned by Tim. I think this is more of a highland problem.

Have a good trip it is a wonderful place.

Steve
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Old Monday 4th July 2005, 23:05   #22
Edward woodwood
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Stevo

I think it's the El Alto road that is being blockaded at moment

it's not being reported well in our media though...

Tim
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Old Tuesday 5th July 2005, 00:03   #23
lgoldfrank
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a bus it is

Thanks everyone, I think if we don't find a flight we'll scrap the car idea, seems a bus will be better. As far as I can tell, the roads to Trinidad are ok, the situation is calmer there now in anticipation of a new election.

One LAB site has a possible flight listed, but they don't answer our e-mail reservations. ? The other LAB site doesn't have a flight when we want to go....

Lois
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Old Tuesday 5th July 2005, 18:45   #24
Steve Babbs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lgoldfrank
Thanks everyone, I think if we don't find a flight we'll scrap the car idea, seems a bus will be better. As far as I can tell, the roads to Trinidad are ok, the situation is calmer there now in anticipation of a new election.

One LAB site has a possible flight listed, but they don't answer our e-mail reservations. ? The other LAB site doesn't have a flight when we want to go....

Lois
It's worth going to the 'thorn-tree' on lonely planet web-site to keep up with the political situation from people there.

Steve
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Old Tuesday 5th July 2005, 19:15   #25
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The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office website gives country-specific advice and seems to be pretty up-to-date for Bolivia - see http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?...=1007029390590

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