Note: The information below is intended to give readers a sense of what this tour is like. Fuller, printed information will be sent to registrants or to others on request; the information in that printed document supercedes the abridged version below.
ENTERING AND LEAVING BOLIVIA: A passport and visa are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Bolivia for any purpose. Your passport must be valid for at least six moths after the date of your arrival. Please visit the Embassy of Bolivia for the most current visa information. The phone number for the Bolivian Embassy in Washington, D.C. is (202) 232-4827 or (202) 232-4828. Visa services such as CIBT can also take care of your needs quickly and efficiently. Bolivia requires proof of Yellow Fever Vaccination upon application for a visa and on arrival in the country. Visas are valid for five years from the date of issuance and can be obtained in advance from a consulate or embassy or on arrival at the airport. An exit tax of US $24 (payable in cash) is charged when departing Bolivia by air; this amount is subject to change. Some airline ticket s already include this tax; ask your airline when you check in.
MAPS AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can view maps of Bolivia in the University of Texas series here. You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Bolivia here.
HEALTH: You can visit the CDC’s Travel Health website on line. Though malaria is very rare in the areas visited on this tour, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend a malaria preventative. You should contact your doctor well in advance of the tour departure, as antimalarial drugs must be initiated weeks before the period of exposure.
Innocuous but bothersome mosquitoes will generally not be a problem but may be locally numerous; there is the possibility of small biting gnats. The best defense is to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially at dawn and after dark. We recommend using insect repellents with at least a moderate (30%) concentration of DEET or newer products containing Picaridin. Phlebotomine flies carrying the Leishmania parasite are present at lower elevations in Bolivia, but the risk is not high. Snakes of any kind are rarely encountered in the tropics, and we will be lucky to see one.
The CDC also recommend the following vaccines: Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG); typhoid; as needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles. See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for immunizations to take effect.
Though tap water is said to be safe in Bolivia, we avoid it in favor of bottled or purified water, which is readily available.
ALTITUDE: We will be going as high as 14,800 feet (4,500 meters) on a couple of days. We will do only a bit of walking here, but will do some walking at about 13,750 feet (4,200 meters) over stony surfaces. The effects of altitude vary. Most people experience just lightheadedness and a need to take deeper breaths; many people find it exhilarating. Some people experience a delayed effect of nausea and headache, which can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water, and which will disappear after a day or two and once we return to moderate elevations. If you have a history of severe altitude sickness, please consult your doctor.
PACE OF THE TOUR: Most of our birding areas are at least an hour from the hotel, making early mornings and full birding days the rule, but we always try to be back at the hotel before dark and to have an hour or two off before dinner. There is no driving during our three days at Refugio Los Volcanes, making the pace there considerably more relaxed.
Much of our birding will be on the sides of dirt or paved roads, but at Refugio Los Volcanes, and on our search for the Oilbirds, the trails can be steep and narrow, requiring good balance and joint strength. On some days we’ll spend the entire morning away from the bus, walking two or three miles in the course of the morning’s birding. In the areas of highest elevation we’ll spend a short amount of time walking off the road on the tundra-like vegetation, and in some areas we may wander up rock-strewn washes with very uneven footing.
We may spend about an hour looking for Short-tailed Finch, where a fair amount of agility is required to traverse a 50-yard section of large boulders; we also have to cross a stream by hopping on rocks. One can choose to stay with the vehicle instead. Trails are the main access at Refugio Los Volcanes, apart from the entrance road, which is very steep in places (we’ll walk it at a slow pace). Some of the trails are very flat and easy, but many are narrow, quite steep in places, and potentially with washed-out or rock-covered sections. Also, we will rock-hop across a stream in a couple of places if the plank bridges are out. Walking sticks are highly recommended.
CLIMATE: We can expect a great variety of weather. Since we will be nearing the end of the dry season, it will be mostly sunny and hot in the lowlands and interior valleys. As we work our way up in elevation, the weather becomes much more unpredictable, and in cloud forest we could see persistent to intermittent rain, mist, or fog at any time. At the highest elevations, mornings are usually clear and cold and afternoons sunny and cool. Temperatures should be between 50 and 90 F for most of the tour; warmer temperatures are possible at the lowest elevations during the first half of the tour.
ACCOMMODATIONS: We’ll be staying in hotels and lodges with a wide variety of comfort levels, some excellent and modern. All offer rooms with private bathrooms. At Refugio Los Volcanes, we will be without telephone, but only 45 minutes from the nearest town and a couple of hours from Santa Cruz. Electricity there is provided by solar cells and battery, so the lighting is not that bright. Single-occupancy rooms may be available but cannot be guaranteed here. All other hotels offer standard amenities, though you may want to bring your own shampoo.
FOOD: We have picnic breakfasts and lunches in the field most days, with chairs and table provided by our ground agents. As we stay in small, out-of-the-way towns for most of the tour, dinners are at the hotel, where the food is usually simple but good, consisting of soup and rice, fries, cooked vegetables, and meat, fish, or chicken.
TRANSPORTATION: Our transport will be by minivan, small bus, or a combination of utility vehicles, depending on the size of the group.
SMOKING: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, we ask that you do so well away and downwind from the group. If any lodge, accommodation or location where the group is staying or is gathered has a more restrictive smoking policy than the WINGS policy, the more restrictive policy will prevail.
GENERAL INFORMATION AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS TOURS: Please take a moment to read the General Information and Conditions on the “About Our Tours” segment of the WINGS website. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours, and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.
FINAL INFORMATION: Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please let us know.
Updated: June 2013