What to do in Rurrenabaque, what is the difference between pampa and selva, how much is a tour, what you should expect, where to eat, how to get to Rurrenabaque from La Paz… I’m sharing with you our experience in Rurrenabaque!
Difference between selva (jungle) and pampa tours:
Selva, or jungle, is a tour in the forest located at 1h from Rurrenabaque, going south with a boat you take directly in the city harbour. You should go until San Miguel del Bala to go to Madidi national parc (200bs entrance) or Real Beni to go to Pilón Lajas reserve (50bs entrance). You can find 1 day to 20 days tour, up to you! We’ve only been at the second one (2 days / 1 night), as Madidi was closed due to some problems between the communities and government. It looks to be the same forest and vegetation though…
Prices of Rurrenabaque agencies
Here are the prices announced without any negociation the 13th of February 2022 for a Selva (jungle) tour:
- Dolfin Travel 1000bs per person for 2d/1n and 2 options: Maldidi (200bs entrance) or Pailon Lajas (50bs)
- Donato tour 2800 for 3d/2n (for 2, 3, 4 and maybe more people)
- Amazonia Travel 1 day 400bs
- Sunset Travel with a “survival” experience of 3d/2n: 1500bs
- Incaland 2d/1n 900bs in a community in Pilon Lajas (50bs entrance) with a tour in Bala canyon (15bs entrance)
=> We chose Dolfin travel and negotiated 900bs adding el Cañón de Bala in the program.
Pampa, or savana, is a tour starting at Santa Rosa de Yacuma, 3h driving north from Rurrenabaque (on a shitty road). It’s mainly visited by boat even if you will walk a little bit to see the sunset or look for anacondas. You will see many more animals there as they live close to the river (crocodiles, birds, monkeys, dolfins, piranhas). The lodges are located around 1h30 from the entrance of Yacuma parc (150bs). 3 days and 2 nights is the minimum and also sufficient to our point of view.
Prices of Rurrenabaque agencies for 3d/2n tour
- Sunset travel 1000bs with shared room
- Dolphin travel 1400bs (price a bit more expensive as they’re the only ones to have real transport with 4×4 which stops to see sloth monkeys on the way, and their accommodations are quite nice but not as deep in the pampa as the others…)
- Donato tour 2800bs total (for 2, 3, 4 and maybe more people)
- Amazonia Travel 1200bs
- Incaland 1050bs
- Mashaquipe we didn’t even asked as they were offering 1200bs for 2 days and 1 night (which in my opinion is really short as you already spend 5h to go there)
=> We selected Sunset travel asking to have a separated room as we were travelling with an other friend, Tristan.
What is the best agency in Rurrenabaque?
To be true the agencies have quite the same program. It’s not because you pay more that you will have a best experience. So we picked up ours on the feeling and the price they offer. It’s also always possible to negociate.
Real costs (gathered during the tours and talking to people from Rurrenabaque, not sure they are right):
– Guide: around 150bs/day
– Accommodation in selva: 200bs/night for 2 people for the accommodation and to cook the food we brought
– Boat to selva: 200bs with return
– Boat rent for 3 days in la pampa: 400bs
– Taxi to pampa (Rurre-Santa Rosa): 10bs/person one way
Note: We don’t know how much was paid our cook in the pampa, neither the cost of the food. You also need to think about the insurance and the local costs of the agencies.
Entrance fees (fixed and not included in the tours):
– Madidi National Park: 200bs
– Pampas del Yacuma: 150bs
– Reserva de la biosfera y tierra comunitaria de origen Pilón Lajas: 50bs
– Cañón de Bala and natural swimming pool: 15bs
Don’t forget to take: toilet paper, a towel, a hat, solar cream and mosquito repellent (the green Off seems to be the best), a flashlight, long clothes (white for the pampa to avoid mosquito, dark in the selva), plastic cap for the rain, tennis to walk in the selva and swimsuit for the dolphins bath in la Pampa! Boots are included in the Pampa tour (to search for the anaconda).
Pampa tour from Rurrenabaque
- Long start
9.30am: we leave Rurrenabaque, after picking up a Bolivian and looking for gaz. Instead of having a private 4×4 as they say we would, it was a common taxi.
After around 3h through a very bad road (we lost the exhaust gaz circuit on the way) we arrived at Santa Rosa de Yacuma to have a lunch in a common restaurant.
- Discovering the river
We finally started our tour in La Pampa at 1.30pm. The taxi left us at Yacuma Parc where we paid 150bs for the entrance and we jumped into a small boat (no roof so be ready for the rain or the sun).
- Magic camp
We arrived at 5.30pm to the camp, taking the time to check the animals on the way. Our lodge was deep in the land but we’ve seen plenty before ours.
- Sunset and night tours
After a quick fresh drink we went to see the sunset on a nice spot and after diner we did a quick night tour to see the crocodiles’ eyes. We also saw fireflies in the camp!
- Anaconda search and dolfins
Second day after a great breakfast we went to look for the anaconda. This activity is really hopeless and it’s really rare to see this animal in a field where everybody goes (also you will have more chance to see it during the dry season). We asked to the guide to stop this activity (we spent 1h instead of 2 or 3h) and we went directly to swim with the dolfiins in a place with no crocodile.
Note: it’s more casual to see dolfins during rainy season as there is more water.
- Green afternoon
Back to lunch we had a break until 3pm and went a bit further on the river to see more monkeys and birds. We went back at 6.30pm when the rain started, right on time!
- Sunrise missed but not the fish!
Third day we were supposed to see the Sunrise but as it was raining we decided not to wake up for nothing. We enjoyed a last 2h tour in a quiet branch of the river where we finally fished a piranha! (note: we left it in the water but the agency said you are allowed to fish 4 per person. Also during rainy season it’s really rare to find some).
- Lunch and back
After lunch at 11am we went back to the harbour where hopefully 2 tourists just arrived so we didn’t need to wait and took their taxi back to Rurrenabaque (arrived at 5pm).
Jungle tour (selva) from Rurrenabaque
We were at the agency at 9am and left at 9.30 to the river. The boat get us to Real Beni in 1h and we waited during 1h30 for the lunch at the “lodge” (a family place). The guide occupied us with a demo “how to make artisania with Motacu coco, Lagrima Maria and Silari seeds“. Result was nice but he did most of the job. 2pm we finally left after a great lunch prepared by the family.
1st day: Mirador
In the afternoon we walked 4h to see the Mirador. No rain, nice and quite easy walk with our guide teaching us trees and plants uses. We asked to the agency if it was possible to pass some time with the community. So after the walk, when we paid our entrance at Real Beni, the guide asked the girl we met to tell us more about her community! It seemed very weird for this poor girl who didn’t have a clue of what we wanted… Hopefully I have a good Spanish and I used to work as journalist, so asking questions and listening is not a problem. So we had a nice 15min chat about their personal life, the community, the school, the covid…
We had a nice dinner with candles as there is no electricity there, and we decided not to do the night walk proposed by the agency (too tired).
2nd day: Bosque Primitivo
Second day we left at 9 for a 4h walk into “el bosque primitivo” where you can appreciate old and huge trees.
We’ve also asked to the agency to go to Bala canyon where you’re supposed to pay 15bs at San Miguel de Bala to do a 10min walk to a natural swimming pool and a nice canyon. Instead we only passed through the Bala stretch by boat (the guide wasn’t sure the pool was accessible with the trouble the community has with the government).
Note: You will ear a lot of animals but it’s quite rare to see some as this jungle is very dense (we crossed a Capuchin group but I guess we were very lucky that day).
What to do in Rurrenabaque
Rurrenabaque is a very nice city you should discover before and/or after the tours! Every sunday you have a huge market by the river where all the communities around come to sell their local products.
Places to see in Rurrenabaque:
To have the best viewpoint of the city you should climb to the Cruz Mirador. Only 30min from the center and 20min going up!
You also have a nice laguna where you can sometimes see caimans and capybara, the biggest rodent of the World!
Our best of restaurants and bars in Rurrenabaque:
You have plenty of restaurants serving lunch (almuerzos) with soup and main course for only 15/20bs, but here are a list of what we prefered:
- Rustica (happy hour from 7pm to 10pm and good pizzas)
- Luz de Mar good and cheap menu changing every day, and they have great breakfasts
- Perezoso Hostel with their nice garden and good and cheap food (if you don’t want to walk the tuktuk is only 3bs from the center). They also organize local dance show every saturday.
- Luna Lounge animated by night where people play pool and cards
- Oscars and Carlos with their panoramic terrasse and swimming pool (20bs to use the pool, or 10bs if you stay at Perezoso)
To sleep in Rurre: Perezoso Hostel (97bs/night double room with breakfast)
Tuk Tuk from the bus station to the center: 5bs/person
Bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaque
As the flights are still suspended (February 2022), you need to take a bus from Villa Fatima area in La Paz (50bs taxi from the city center). On calle Virgen del Carmen you will find plenty of buses leaving every day between 3pm and 5pm but the only company offering Cama seats is Flota Yunguena (office on avenida de las Americas). Sadly for us there wasn’t any cama the day we left (and they only know few days in advance if they will have one). We paid 70bs for a semi cama, and the cost is 90bs for a cama. On the other way (Rurrenabaque – La Paz) the cama is 120bs.
From La Paz we left at 3.30pm and arrived at 6.30am (15h trip with a quick bathroom break around Coroico and a 40min break in Caranavi to have dinner). From Rurre we left at 7.30pm and arrived at 8am in La Paz (Villa Fatima).
Best period to visit Rurrenabaque
We were there in February, during the rainy season. Advantage is you can see a lot of dolfins in La Pampa as there is a lot of water. You can also see the monkeys on top of the trees more closer, as the water is raising. There are less tourists and you can be alone in the tours (we were only 3 in la pampa and only 2 in the jungle). Bad thing is the huge rain you can have (but we were lucky and it didn’t last long). Also the anacondas are looking for a dry place so you can only see them in the trees which isn’t included in the pampa tour. Piranhas are rare as there is too much water.
Best period they told us is between June and September, during the dry season where you can have more piranhas and see dozens of caimans and crocodiles in la Pampa.
Rurrenbaque during CoVid
I guess because/thanks to the COVID (and the flights still suspended) the city was quite empty and we were very lucky to be just us 3 for the pampa tour and only 2 for the Selva. We’ve seen groups of 9 people on a boat on Yacuma river, very different approach…