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 BOLIVIA: A passport valid for at least six months after the date of your arrival and a visa are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Bolivia for any purpose. Visas are valid for five years from the date of issuance and can be obtained in advance from a consulate or embassy or at the airport upon arrival and cost $135 (in cash if at the airport).
Bolivia requires proof of Yellow Fever Vaccination upon application for a visa and arrival into the country.
ARRIVAL DATE: The tour starts upon arrival at Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz at approximately 8:10 AM on Day 1 of the tour. Anyone arriving on a flight later than this should plan on arriving the day before. We would be happy to assist you in making hotel and transportation arrangements in Bolivia before or after the tour.
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: Since most all birding areas are at least an hour from the hotel, early mornings and full birding days will be the rule, but we always try to be back at the hotel before dark and allow at least hour off before dinner. The pace is considerably more relaxed during our stay at Refugio Los Volcanes, as there will be no driving involved during our three days there.
During most of the tour, birding will be on dirt or paved roadsides, but at Refugio Los Volcanes and in the search for Oilbirds the trails can be steep and narrow, requiring good balance and reasonable leg strength. Some days we are away from the bus all morning, walking up to 2-3 miles in the course of our 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 opportunistically up rock-strewn washes with very uneven footing. Also, we may spend about an hour to look for Short-tailed Finch, where we will have to traverse a 50-meter section of large boulders and hopping on rocks over a stream, requiring a fair amount of agility; during the occasional hikes like this, one can stay with the vehicle.
Trails are the main access to Refugio Los Volcanes. Some of these are very flat and easy, but many are also narrow, quite steep in places, and potentially with washed-out or rock-covered sections. Also, we’ll have to rock hop across a stream in several places if the plank bridges are out. Walking sticks are highly recommended.
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.
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.
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.
Leishmaniasis: Phlebotomine flies carrying the Leishmania parasite do exist at lower elevations in Bolivia but the risk is low. If the insect is seen (it is active only at dawn and dusk), the leader will point it out; steps to avoid exposure are same as for mosquitoes.
Altitude: We will be going as high as 14,800 feet (4500 meters) on a couple days. Although we will do only a bit of gentle walking here, some will be on a surface resembling a stony golf course down at about 13,750 feet (4200 meters). Most people experience only a bit of lightheadedness and breathlessness; 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 once we return to moderate elevations. There are medications that will help alleviate the side effects of high altitude. If you are thinking about taking these or have a history of severe altitude sickness, please consult your doctor.
Insects: Mosquitoes will generally not be problem but may be locally numerous and there is the possibility of small biting gnats. The best defense against any insects is to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially at
Snakes: 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.
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.
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.
Miscellany: One can never completely escape the risk of parasites or fungal infections. Please consult with your physician. We avoid tap water but filtered and bottled water are readily available. Gastrointestinal problems are always a possibility while traveling; you may want to bring Immodium or some other reliable anti-diarrhea medication. Finally, you may wish to bring a broad-spectrum antibiotic in case of stubborn bacterial infections.
CLIMATE: We will likely experience 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, 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.
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 Refuigo 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 three nights here. All other hotels offer standard amenities.
FOOD: We will start most days with picnic breakfasts and also have 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.
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: September 2014