Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Bolivia. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they took this tour. Although we do our best to make sure what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.
ENTERING AND LEAVING BOLIVIA: A passport valid for at least six months after the date of your arrival and with at least one blank page for an entry stamp, and a visa are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Bolivia for any purpose. Citizens of other countries should contact their nearest Bolivia Embassy or Consulate.
Bolivia requires proof of Yellow Fever Vaccination upon application for a visa and arrival into the country.
For more information, visit the Bolivian consulate web site at http://www.boliviawdc.org/consulate/visas/tv.
MAP AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/bolivia.html and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Bolivia at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bl.html.
PACE OF THE TOUR: Early mornings and full birding days will be the rule, but we always try to be back at the hotel well before dark and allow at least hour off before dinner. Sunrise is around 6:00 a.m., so daily departures from the hotel are usually around 5:00 to 5:30, depending on the length of the drive, and we are back to the hotel by about 4:00 to 4:30. The pace is considerably more relaxed during our stay at Refugio Los Volcanes, as there will be no driving during those days.
During most of the tour, birding will be on dirt or paved roadsides, but at Refugio Los Volcanes we’ll be on trails and the main entrance road. The road itself is very steep in places with loose gravel, and footing can be difficult. Some of the trails are very flat and easy, but many are also narrow, quite steep in places, and they may have washed-out or rock-covered sections. We’ll have to rock hop across a stream in several places if the plank bridges are out. The farthest we walk from the lodge is less than a mile each way, often much less. Walking sticks are highly recommended.
In the areas of highest elevation at Cerro Tunari we’ll spend a short period walking off the road on the tundra-like vegetation, and in some areas we may wander opportunistically up rock-strewn washes with very uneven footing. We may spend about an hour to look for Short-tailed Finch up to a ¾ kilometer away but within sight of the vehicle. We’ll have to traverse a 50-meter section of large boulders and hop on rocks over a stream; this requires a fair amount of agility. During the occasional difficult hikes like this, one can stay with the vehicle.
Throughout the tour we do lots of standing and watching, and we generally move very slowly. If this tends to tire your lower back a small, lightweight travel stool that you can carry with a strap over your shoulder would be useful.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/bolivia.
Malaria: Malaria is very rare where we are. Please consult your physician as to the advisability of taking a prophylaxis.
Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.
Leishmaniasis: Tiny phlebotomine flies (technically called sand flies but not related to the gnats that bite in sandy areas) carrying the Leishmania parasite do exist at lower elevations in Bolivia, but the risk is not high, as we rarely see the insect, and not all are vectors. If the insect is seen (it looks like a tiny, pale mosquito and is active only from dawn to dusk), the leader will point it out; steps to avoid exposure are the same as for mosquitoes.
Elevation: We will be going as high as 14,800 feet (4500 meters) on at least one day. Although we will do only a bit of walking here, some will be on a surface resembling a stony golf course down at about 13,750 feet (4200 meters). Some people experience just lightheadedness and a need to take deeper breaths with only a little exertion; some just find it exhilarating. But many experience a delayed effect of nausea and headache, which can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water, and which will eventually disappear after several hours. Acetazolamide is an effective drug that alleviates side effects of high elevation. While this is a prescription drug in the United States (Diamox), it can be purchased over the counter in Bolivia. Please consult your doctor if you think high elevation may be an issue for you.
Insects: Mosquitoes will generally not be problem as we are here during the end of the dry season, but there may be small biting gnats, especially in the cloud forest and at Refugio Los Volcanes when it is sunny. Refugio is a transition zone to Amazonian foothill forest, so mosquitoes or sand flies could be here in the evening, and one should be protected. The best defense against any insects is to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially in the evenings and to use repellent on exposed skin. Roadside vegetation may harbor chiggers in the lower elevations, and we’ll do our best to avoid them.
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 nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.
Miscellany: One can never completely escape the risk of parasites or fungal infections. Please consult with your physician. We avoid tap water; filtered and bottled water are readily available.
Sun and UV exposure in the higher elevations can be very intense. Please bring adequate protection, including a sun hat and a strong sun screen of at least 15 rating.
Snakes of any kind are rarely encountered in the tropics, and we will be lucky to see one. Furthermore, venomous species are in the minority in the Americas, and we spend very little time on trails in the humid lowlands where one would have the greatest chance of finding one.
CLIMATE: Since we will be nearing the end of the dry season, it will likely be mostly sunny and hot in the lowlands and interior valleys. As we work our way up in elevation, weather becomes much more unpredictable, and the cloud forest areas could get persistent to intermittent rain, mist or fog at any time. In the highest elevations, mornings are usually clear and cold and afternoons sunny and cool. Temperatures should stay between 50-90?F for most of the tour; warmer temperatures are possible at the lowest elevations during the first half of the tour. There is also the slim chance of a late cold front, where even in the tropical lowlands low temperatures could drop to the upper 40’s and highs only into the 60’s.
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 and hot water showers (usually heated with an electric coil at the shower head). 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 is provided by solar cells and battery there, so while there is lighting in the rooms, there are no electrical outlets; batteries can be charged at the dining room, but electrical appliances such as razors and electric toothbrushes cannot be used. Single occupancy rooms may be available but cannot be guaranteed during the two nights here. All other hotels offer standard amenities, though you may want to bring your own shampoo and washcloth.
Internet and WiFi: There’s no internet in the rural portions of our tour and even in the cities, service is spotty and slow.
FOOD: We will start most days with picnic breakfasts and also have (mostly) picnic lunches in the field. Dinners will usually be in our hotel restaurant and are typically simple meat or fish cuts with sides of steamed vegetables, rice and french fries.
WINGS tours are all-inclusive, and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip.
Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
TRANSPORTATION: Our transport will be either minivan, small bus, or a combination of utility vehicles, depending on the size of the group. Participants should be able to sit in any of the vehicle’s seats.
Updated: March 2015