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
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.