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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Bolivia: Northern Andes, Madidi National Park, and Barba Azul

Tour Information

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

MAP AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Bolivia at

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 6:00AM. and sunset at 6:30PM. While we are driving, daily departures from the hotel are usually around 5:00AM to 5:30AM, depending on the length of the drive, and we are back to the hotel by about 4:00PM to 4:30PM. Days are long, but walking distances will be short. While at Sadiri and Barba Azul, days are more relaxed as we’ll be on foot most days and will have chances for siestas after lunch as well as the option to quit earlier in the morning. However, keep in mind we’ll be on our feet for more hours of the day, which some find even more tiring despite the time off for siestas.

During the first part of the tour, birding will be on dirt or paved roadsides, though we’ll occasionally want to walk off the road in the tundra-like puna, which will have some uneven footing and perhaps some slopes. Such off-road walks will be optional. At Sadiri and Barba Azul, the farthest we walk from the lodge is about a mile and a half. Walking sticks are highly recommended.

Everything at Sadiri is hilly – it’s located on the crest of the outermost ridge of the Andes. The cabins farthest from the dining hall require ascending about 175 steps over 200 meters to get to the dining hall. Some trails have short steep sections, and having a hiking stick will be useful for many of these sections. Barba Azul is very flat, but the trail surface is often very uneven with roots or dirt clods. There is also much less shade there, so be prepared to have a hat and carry water.

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

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: Highly recommended as a prophylaxis for altitude sickness is Acetazolamide, known as the prescription drug Diamox in the United States. Please consult your doctor if you think high elevation may be an issue for you. We will be going over a pass of 15,230 feet (4640 meters) on two days, although if we stop there we will do only a bit of walking on the roadside. But keep in mind that El Alto International airport is the highest in the world at 13,325 feet (4062 m), and our hotel is at 12,630 feet (3850 m). At these altitudes, many people experience nothing more than lightheadedness and a need to take deeper breaths with only a little exertion; some just find it exhilarating. But some experience a delayed effect of nausea and headache which will eventually disappear after you acclimate in several hours. While these effects can be mitigated by taking aspirin or ibuprofen and drinking plenty of water, taking Acetazolamide the day before you arrive in Bolivia is a good way to avoid them altogether.

Insects: Mosquitoes will generally not be problem in the highlands, but there may be small biting gnats, especially in the cloud forest when it is sunny. Sadiri is in foothill forest, so mosquitoes or sand flies could be here in the evenings, and one should be protected. There are few biting insects at Barba Azul until dusk, when close to the marshy areas many mosquitos emerge; these do not carry any diseases here, but one should be prepared; 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.

In the Neotropic lowlands and humid areas, chiggers are the main invertebrate nuisance, causing itchy and often persistent welts, usually on ankles and waistbands. These appear a full day after the nearly microscopic critters have imbibed their fill of externally digested epidermis and have fallen off otherwise undetected. The best prevention against chiggers (and ticks) is to treat your clothing with permethrin one to a few days before you leave home. This non-staining, odorless chemical is non-toxic to humans and protective on clothing through several launderings. Camping supply and drug stores sell sprays containing 0.5% permethrin, while online sources also offer pump sprays as well as a more economical 10% concentrate which you dilute and then treat clothing (pants, shirts, and sock cuffs – no underwear) by soaking it in a large bag and then hanging it out to dry; be sure to look into this option well in advance of the tour, especially if you live in a cooler, moister climate.

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. Gastrointestinal problems are always a possibility while traveling; you may want to bring Imodium or some other reliable anti-diarrhea medication. You also may wish to bring a broad-spectrum antibiotic in case of stubborn bacterial infections. 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. Still, it’s always something to keep in mind.

CLIMATE: We will be nearing the end of the dry season and at the beginning of the rainy season, so weather is highly unpredictable and according to elevation quite variable. It will likely be mostly sunny and hot in the lowlands and cool with cold mornings in the high elevations. The highest elevations will likely be sunny and dry with morning temperatures around freezing. The cloud forest areas could get persistent to intermittent rain, mist, or fog at any time, and the approach of a late cold front could alter things rapidly anywhere, bringing similar weather to every elevation, where even in the tropical lowlands low temperatures could drop to the upper 40’s and highs only into the 60’s. Otherwise temperatures should stay between 50-90?F for most of the tour; warmer temperatures are possible at the lowest elevations during the latter half of the tour.

ACCOMMODATIONS: We’ll be staying in hotels and lodges with a wide variety of comfort levels, some excellent and modern, others basic but clean and safe. Most offer rooms with private bathrooms and all have hot water showers (usually heated with an electric coil at the shower head, some with gas). At Apolo we’ll be staying in a monastery; rooms are very simple but clean and have private bathrooms

Sadiri has six large, very nice double-occupancy cabins, each with a private bathroom, so single rooms may be available but not be guaranteed here, depending on the group size and makeup. The cabins are quite spread out on a complex of branching trails; the farthest is about 200 meters from the dining hall and down a series of 150+ steps, so this place isn’t ideal for anyone with weak knees or who has trouble with steps.

Barba Azul has four rustic, solidly-built double cabins with private bath and four dorm-style rooms with two shared bathrooms. Depending on group size, doubles will be given preference in the cabins, and anyone requesting single supplement may be in the dorms. The cabins are very spread out and private with amazing views of the Omi River marsh right out the front door, the farthest cabin being about 350 yards from the common area and dining hall, howler monkeys often providing a natural wakeup call in the morning. The shared bathrooms in the dorm do not have hot water showers, but they are just a few yards from just a few yards from the dining hall. The dining hall is also right on the marsh, and excellent birding can be done during breakfast and other meals.

Our hotels in Titicaca and Trinidad are modern but simple, while our La Paz and final night’s hotel in Santa Cruz are much more upscale. All 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 early breakfasts. While on the road at the start we’ll have picnic lunches, but the rest will be at our lodges. Dinners will usually be at our hotels or lodges and usually include a simple but delicious cut of meat or fish with sides of steamed vegetables, rice and french fries.

Coffee on our picnics and in simpler restaurants all over Bolivia is instant (usually Nescafe), but we should have the real thing at our lodges. But if you require something of higher quality, you might consider bringing your own.

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. While at Barba Azul we’ll occasionally take a short (10-minute) boat ride down the Rio Omi to get to the opposite side; each boat seats five and is an open, aluminum outboard. To and from Barba Azul we’ll be in 500-kg capacity, 5- passenger Cessnas; one flight is about 30 minutes, the other 45 minutes.


Updated: 15 January 2018