We’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to spend a few days in the jungle. We were originally trying to plan something in Ecuador or Peru, but are extremely happy with our decision to hold out for Bolivia! When deciding on a place to visit the jungle, you can’t go wrong with Chalalan Lodge in Madidi National Park. Our top five reasons why you should visit:
1. Location, Location, Location
Madidi National park is home to more protected species than any other park in the world. Many tour companies and eco-lodges will advertise that they are located within Madidi and they are, but just on the border. Chalalan Lodge is located in the heart of Madidi National Park. It’s hours away from other lodges and tour operators making it a remote rainforest getaway.
Getting to Chalalan Lodge is an adventure in itself. From La Paz it’s a hellish 20 hour bus ride (so we hear) or a quick 40 minute plane ride to Rurrenabaque (Rurre), the launch point into the jungle. With Chris’ back history, we decided to take the unmarked plane that holds 16 passengers. From our seat, you could see the cockpit and their “trusty” GPS system. From Rurre, it’s an incredibly scenic 6-hour boat ride up the Rio Beni and Rio Tuichi and then a short 2 km hike before you reach the lodge. Don’t be deterred by the long boat ride, it was one of the highlights of the trip and an opportune time to view tons of different species of birds and wildlife.
2. Wildlife & Plant Life
Madidi National Park is home to more than 1,000 species of birds, 445 of all new world species of mammals, an estimated 28% of all neotropical amphibians and more than 10% of bird species known to science. Some people that visit the jungle complain that they don’t see any wildlife – they must not have stayed at Chalalan Lodge.
We won’t spoil the surprise by listing every species of insect and animal we saw– you just have to see it for yourselves to believe it. However, the highlights included swarms of yellow squirrel monkeys, capuchin monkeys, macaws and parades of wild pigs.
3. Lake Chalalan
Chalalan Lodge is perfectly situated on a beautiful lake providing the opportunity to take a dip to escape the heat, view animals from the water or fish.Each afternoon, we’d climb into the canoe to fish for piranhas and other carnivorous fish. All we needed was a spool of fishing line, hook and hunk of beef!Chris used a sardine I caught as bait and ended up catching a snapping turtle (which we safely returned back into the lake). We’d also canoe across the lake each afternoon to visit the yellow squirrel monkeys and brown capuchin monkeys who would come out at dusk to find food. There were literally hundreds of monkeys swarming our canoes around the lake.
4. Eco-friendly Lodge
Chalalan Lodge is an eco-lodge made from all natural materials found in the rainforest. Each one of the cabins is made from palms and includes solar-powered lighting, but this doesn’t detract from the comfort we experienced for three nights/four days. We were fortunate to stay in a private cabin with a large bathroom adorned with hammocks and mosquito nets.During one of our hikes, we learned about the materials used to build the lodge and even tried weaving part of a roof ourselves from jatata trees with the help of our guide.
5. Community Owned & Operated
Most importantly, Chalalan Lodge is community owned and operated. 100% of the profits from the lodge are used to support the community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas. All of the staff in the lodge, Rurrenabaque and La Paz are all from the community. From spending time with several members of the staff – we can vouch that they are all amazing people. And boy can they cook! We indulged ourselves at breakfast, lunch and dinner in their delicious homemade local cuisine.
We were even able to learn more about their community and culture one evening during a traditional party with local music, coca leaves, drinking and dancing. That evening, all five female staff members couldn’t get enough of Chris – they each asked him for a dance and complimented him on his moves.
Our trip to the Amazon rainforest completely surpassed our expectations! If you are looking for an opportunity to get off of the beaten path and to spend a few days relaxing in one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, Chalalan Lodge in Madidi National Park is for you!
For rates, packages or to learn more about Chalalan Lodge and Madidi National Park, visit their website.