The Amazon Basin around Rurrenabaque is divided into two distinct zones: the “Selva” or Rain Forest of Madidi National Park, and the Municipal Reserve of the Pampa of the River Yacuma, a large, flat area of swamps along this river which is used for the excursions by boat. Most tourists head for the “Pampa”, because that is THE place to see animals: lots of different birds of course, Capybaras, Caimans, many kinds of Monkeys, Turtles and if you are lucky, Anacondas.
After our very positive experience in the Madidi National Park we booked the trip to the pampas with Bala Tours as well, clearly saying we wanted Yadmani to be our guide again. But this time we decided for the shorter 3 days / 2 nights tour: Heidi was not very motivated for a longer one, especially since it includes a day on horse-back, which Heidi could not even think of doing in this heat and considering the zillions of mosquitoes about to attack.
Due to previous heavy rain the ride in the jeep to the camp was like being on an ice-rink and took us four hours. It was worse than any road we have traveled, even in southern Senegal or Mali. This is also partly the road linking Rurrenabaque and La Paz and considering the state of the road we were sooo happy to have taken the plane, even considering the major delay we had.
We were a group of 5 people, a Dutch couple and a young man from Tasmania. The Dutch people joined us later since they arrived late from La Paz by bus. It took them 22 (!) hours for 410 kilometers on the kind of road we just described…
There were two other groups at the Caracoles Lodge, which was a major change to the Tacoaral Lodge in the Madidi National Park were we were alone, but they were all fun people and we enjoyed each others company greatly.
Unfortunately the service and comfort offered by Bala Tours in the Caracoles Lodge in the Pampa was far from what we experienced in the Rain Forest and was actually a joke considering the price we paid, more than twice as much as the cheaper tours.