Rio Caine

by Lawrence Rubey and Bennett Hennessey

Before there existed the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve site, Rio Caine was the best site to see the endangered Red-Fronted Macaw. Both are equally interesting, but the Rio Caine road is horrible, and we like the idea of supporting the community conservation efforts at the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve and Ecolodge. The road to this area can be in very bad condition, making a 4x4 with a good suspension and high clearance absolutely necessary. A comment from Melinda Walton who visited the area in 2006, "Beautiful place but I don't think it is worth the drive!" The area is best suited to an overnight trip as the macaws "commute" along the river valley and thus are best seen just after dawn and just before dusk. A new bridge was built over the Rio Caine in 1999, making access to the area much easier. The Red-Fronted Macaw, or Loro Buro, is the only regularly occurring macaw in the area and nests in cliff face crevices. It is a beautiful medium-sized macaw with red head, orange-red shoulder patches, blue flight feathers and olive-green back. The total wild population may be no more 700 birds.

The entire area is dominated by cactus and thorny scrub (altitude is 2100 meters). The macaw is also found frequently in cultivated areas. In fact, the Red-Fronted Macaw is regarded as a pest by many farmers during the peanut cultivating period between late July to early September. When searching for the macaws, watch for them flying high following the riverbed. The 10 kilometers of Toko from the turn to Cliza). About 5 kilometers. The very small village of La Viņa (but still on the Bolivia 1:1.000,000 map) is just before the bridge.

Using public transportation, there are regular buses to Cliza and then on to Anzaldo. There are also buses two or three times a week to Torotoro from Cochabamba bus station. Instead of going all the way to Torotoro, for birders the best bet would be to get out at the Rio Caine bridge crossing and begin searching for macaws.

Torotoro is a charming town of about 5000 persons well off the beaten track (perhaps destined to become a stop on the gringo trail?). Altitude is at about 2750 meters. Clean and reasonably priced pensiones are available and there is one nice hostel near the centre. Torotoro has limited restaurants, although as tourism grows, undoubtedly the selection of restaurants will too. For campers, the banks of the Rio Caine near the bridge is a great place to pitch a tent. There are secluded spots near the river and plenty of side tracks to the left (toward the river) that offer potential camping sites.

Torotoro National Park was created in 1989. It is relatively small (only 16,570 ha) but offers dinosaur footprints, many hidden caves and good hiking. The park receives few visitors and 80 percent of them are Bolivians. Guides can be hired at the Municipality of Torotoro offices. Admission for the park is about $4.

GPS reading at Represa Angostura: S 17 31.692' W 66 05.088'
GPS reading at Cliza (southern edge): S 17 35.977' W 65 55.963'
GPS reading at Toko town plaza: S 17 37.622' W 65 55.631'
GPS reading at Anzaldo town: S 17 46.785' W 65 56.188'
GPS reading at Rio Caine bridge: S 17 58.283' W 65 51.947'
GPS reading at Torotoro town plaza: S 18 07.867' W 65 45.698'