If you feel like taking the Amazon Tours in Brazil but you don’t have the time, nor the money, Bolivia offers a budget-friendly option to explore the rainforest. The Amazon basin covers nine South American countries, meaning that you don’t have to take an expensive tour in Brazil to see the jungle. Bolivia provides an amazing budget alternative from which to visit the basin. It’s cheaper, less crowded and it’s just as biologically diverse as Brazil.
The starting point for trips into the Bolivian Amazon is the town of Rurrenabaque. While you checkout a few tour agencies, you can find a guesthouse for around $5-$10 a night.
The pampas tours are the cheapest option and this is where you’ll see the most wildlife, including alligators, squirrel monkeys, and the giant rodent capybara. It may not be the classic Amazon jungle experience you imagined, though, as the pampas are a wetland savannah on the edge of the Amazon basin rather than deep in the jungle, but the lack of trees means it’s much easier to spot wildlife.
The trick is to choose a good guide as some may not be the most knowledgeable, especially if you go with a cheap operator. Since guides are so important to the overall experience, make sure you ask around for a company with good, knowledgeable guides. You can expect a three-hour jeep ride to the jungle, then a transfer to a motorized canoe and a further three hours travel along the river to your lodge. The river trip exposes you to an amazing amount of wildlife: hundreds of alligators, entire families of capybara (giant semi-aquatic rodents), turtles sunbathing on logs, and trees full of tiny yellow squirrel monkeys. All while birds such as egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, blue kingfishers, eagles, and hoatzin (pheasant-like birds with blue faces and spiky hair) fly and nestle close by.
For a more classic Amazon experience, opt for a jungle tour, but this can be more expensive. Serere Lodge is reached by a three-hour canoe ride and short trek through the jungle. You can choose from a range of activities, including canoe trips on the lake next to the camp (at night you can see the glowing red eyes of caiman), day and night treks in the jungle, piranha fishing, and making jewelry from nuts and seeds.
It is much more difficult to spot wildlife, but if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s interesting to see colorful spiders and giant bugs, and learn about the medicinal uses of trees and plants.
If you have the time and budget, we suggest you do The Pampas and The Jungle for an overall great experience.