Alto Madidi

by A. Bennett Hennessey

This is the best site in Madidi National Park, but with no tourism infrastructure, only the hardiest should attempt to visit this site. In order to visit the area you will need to get permission from the park headquarters in Rurrenabaque. You will have to camp, hike and carry food.

This until recently inaccessible site is now being promoted by the La Paz department as their latest ecotourism destination.  With the opening of an asphalt runway in 1999, the historically sleepy Tacana town of Ixiamas became the gateway to what will likely be the richest Amazonian forest site in Bolivia. Ted Parker in 1990 spent 14 days within just 6 kilometers of trail and left with a list of 403 species of birds and predictions that the site could easily hold 500 species (see the 1st CI-RAP report for his species list).  The site compares to some of the best sites on earth with 19 speciesof Ovenbirds, 42 species of Antbirds and 66 species of Flycatchers.  Alto Madidi, is found just within Madidi National Park, and is well protected with a park-guard station at the front door. The area lies beside Serranía del Tigre, a mountain range that traps and squeezes rain clouds and helps to maintain a habitat that supports some of the highest abundances of mammals and birds in Bolivia including the restricted ranged species Semicollared Puffbird, Scarlet-hooded Barbet, White-lined Antbird and Goeldi’s Antbird.  This is the “rainforest” in its full glory.  The forest here is teaming with foraging flocks both canopy and understory, and 24 hour bird song.  Alto Madidi offers twice the birding adventure of Chalalan with unfortunately none of the comfortable infrastructure.  The Rurrenabaque and Ixiamas tourism agencies can now take you on a no-frills tour of this spectacular place, or camping is an option for the experienced- leaf cutter ants may look nice in nature films, but wait until they get a hold of your tent.

Logistics: Presently there is no tourism infrastructure, actually no commercial
flights to this fine runway. Ask around in tourism agencies in Rurrenabaque. 
A few small tourism agencies exist in Ixiamas that may be able to provide a cheap tour, but the more developed agencies in Rurrenabaque are your best bet at the present time. There are small tourism agencies who will accommodate any adventure if the price is right, usually not a fortune in Bolivia. Make sure you have spoken to official in Madidi Park before you go. One can also ask at the Transportation Aero Militar (TAM) if there are flights to Ixiamas, because as soon as there are, one will be able to start their tour from this town.  Alto Madidi has a park guard station, so one could drive some of the way to the site and ask the park-guards where to camp and the trails.  Presently there is a very basic trail system, but it is enough. Note if you are going to visit this site, you will also pass through the town of Ixiamus. This town is at the end of large tracks of pampas grasslands and could be an interesting stop along before or after Alto Madidi.