Hotel El Puente grounds (Villa Tunari)
by Lawrence Rubeyand A. Bennett Hennessey
At an altitude of 400 meters, Hotel Puente does not really qualify is a "highland" site, but it has long been the favorite terminus for birders doing the Chapare Road transect and thus is included here. After a couple days scouring the preceding sites, it makes a great place to relax, have a plate of surubi (the local freshwater fish) and fried yuca. The advantage of Hotel El Puente is that it is a bit outside of Villa Tunari and does provide access to some pleasant trails and secondary forest.
For whatever reason, Villa Tunari never seems to match other lowland destinations. Walking back on the entrance road and taking one of the trails to the right can be somewhat productive. Watch for Undulated Tinamou on the road. Noteworthy birds found in the secondary forest near Hotel Puente worth searching for include Reddish Hermit, Glittering-throated Emerald, Dot-fronted Woodpecker, Black-spotted Barbet, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Black-throated Antbird, Black-faced Anthtrush, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Round-tailed Manakin, and Nightingale Wren. Listen for Striped Owl at night.
Logistics: The entrance to the hotel is signposted on the right hand side just after the long bridge. The hotel is usually not crowded, but one can make reservations in Santa Cruz. If it is full, there are plenty of other options in Villa Tunari. There is also a nature park in Villa Tunari called Machia Ecological Park. This 36 hectare park has some nice trails and good interpretive maps and displays, although the birding is not that great. If the Hotel is booked or as a secong option there is a hotel near the entrance road to Hotel El Puente called Los Tucans, which is also very nice, with wonderful staff, just not as much nature around the area. In 2005, Los Tucanes was 45 USD a night (tel. 717-23044).
GPS reading at Hotel Puente, Villa Tunari: S 16 59.028' W 65 24.497'