Our trip to the Amazon was definitely the one that I was the most excited about. After watching so many documentaries from being a child, to actually visit it was an amazing opportunity.
Our Journey there:
Considering our tight timescale, well in comparison to fellow travellers we met who were away for months, we opted to fly from La Paz, Bolivia, down to Rurrenbaque. This knocked about 11 hours off our journey each way if we had opted for the bus.
Our small propeller plane flew through the surrounding snow capped mountains of La Paz, and within 40 minutes we were descending over the rainforest with some incredible views of the iconic winding rivers of the Amazon.
Rurrenbaque was a strange town as you often find with a lot of isolated places. The outskirts reminded me a bit of some of rural villages we visited in Malawi, but then the centre was busy with lots of local food places and shops selling cosmetics, electronics, clothing etc. It was well catered for tourists as you would imagine being a gateway to the Amazon, with dozens of tour shops. We had one night here before heading off on our 3 day trip to the Amazon.
Our journey carried on the following morning with a 3 hour drive on dusty, rocky roads to reach the river point where we were boarding in the Santa Rosa – Beni area. This was then followed by another 3 hour boat ride. We really were heading deep into the Amazon!
Indigena tours, who we booked with was an “Eco” tour company, who do their best to protect the environment whilst providing tourists with local knowledge through their guides to ensure an all round great experience.
It was incredible when we reached our Amazon boat, pinching ourselves as to exactly where we were. There was just the 8 of us in our group, a nice number. In a prime seat at the front of the boat, the journey to our site from here was amazing.
Our guide Heine was quick to point out and get us up close to the abundance of wildlife from a variety of birds to yellow monkeys, jungle pigs and caimans. The native pink Dolphins even swam next to us for a while.
We were in the heart of the Amazon so as you can imagine, everything was basic. Our base was a few small huts right next to the river.
We had electricity for just a few hours in the evening from a generator, and there were two outdoor toilets with showers in the same space. Our meals were made by a local cook Marian, more on the food to follow later! It was a beautiful, tranquil spot.
The Amazon at Night:
The other only similar place I’ve stayed in before was the Taman Negara Rainforest in Malaysia. The noises the Amazon made at night were similar to those in Malaysia. The place seemed to come to live at night, with the echoing noises of the various wildlife around us as we slept.
On our first night we went looking for Caimans, in the safety of our boat of course! Their glowing red eyes peeping out from underneath the river branches. It was a little scary yet exciting.
Searching for Piranhas & Anacondas:
On our second day in the Amazon we went looking for more wildlife. In the morning we walked around the nearby marshes searching for the Anaconda! After around an hour or so looking, our guide jumped into a bush and started wrestling with something. Out he pulled an Anaconda, which was around a meter and a half long. We were lucky to find one apparently.
After lunch we headed back out in the boat for another ride down the river, seeing many more caimans, birds and turtles.
We stopped after a while and were given some wire and bait and fished for Piranhas! Abi caught one straight away, it was a good size one, with small but extremely sharp teeth! The group caught 4 altogether that could be kept, the smaller fish we threw back in. These were to be our evening meal that night, I was looking forward to trying them!
Swimming in the Amazon!
After 2 days of seeing so much potentially dangerous wildlife like Caiman and Piranhas, you’d think that this would put us off jumping in the same stretch of water, but no it didn’t! Although I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a little apprehensive!
On our 3rd and last day of our trip, after watching a spectacular sun rise, we were taken to a spot where the native pink Dolphins live. They are an usual pink-grey colour and look slightly deformed. Our guide informed us that Caimans are scared of the Dolphins and that we would be safe swimming in the waters where they are. This reassured us slightly!
Half of the group jumped in initially from the boat into the murky waters, you literally could not see anything underneath us. We were all huddled together, holding onto the life ring waiting for the Dolphins to appear. There was suddenly splashing all around us as we saw glimpse of the Dolphins. They didn’t jump high out of the water as you see with performing Dolphins.
Our food in the Amazon:
We were certainly well fed during our time here. Marian was from Rurrenbaque and she was extremely generous with the portion sizes!
Lunch is the largest meal of the day in Bolivia, and often starts with soup which we had on both days, then followed by chicken or beef, rice, coleslaw and vegetables. It was all reasonably healthy, apart from the additional salt that was put on certain foods like cucumber and grapefruit! No spices were used in the cooking, but the food was still tasty and was cooked really well.
The Piranhas we caught were simply cooked in lemon and salt, with a delicious crispy skin. They weren’t very meaty, but tasted a little like cod, not too much of a overpowering flavour.
Marian excepted our invitation to sit down and join us after our meal on the last night. She explained to us, via one of our group who was fluent in Spanish, how traditionally indigenous Amazon people would cook their fish and meat in between giant bamboo leaves attached to bamboo sticks and roasted over fire.
Back to Normality:
Our boat on the way back broke down, which made for an interesting ride back. Fortunately another tour boat went past around an hour later and the two boats were tied up and rode back together.
We loved our Amazon trip, but I’m not going to lie, we also loved getting back to a nice hot shower and feeling clean again, when we got back to our accommodation in La Paz!