Northeast of Rurrenabaque, the dense forests of the Andean foothills quickly give way to the Pampas del Yacuma: the vast, swampy grasslands that dominate much of the Beni. Though they have been grazed by cattle for hundreds of years, the pampas still support a great deal of wildlife, particularly along the forested banks of the great rivers that meander across them. The pampas themselves are not that impressive: a great expanse of swamp and tangled cattle pasture with the occasional lake. Tours with the agencies listed here (many of whom now have shared or private lodges in the pampas) are nevertheless worth it just for the amount of wildlife you’ll see along the Río Yacuma.

The Río Yacuma

In the rainy season (roughly Nov–April), the Río Yacuma river bursts its banks and floods great expanses of the surrounding grasslands, causing wildlife to become more dispersed and breeding ferocious mosquitoes. In the dry season, however, it’s reduced to a narrow river that attracts an amazing abundance of fauna. Sinister black-and-white caymans – some over 2m long – lounge on the muddy banks, slipping quietly into the water as you pass; turtles queue up to sun themselves on logs protruding from the water; groups of capybara, the world’s largest rodent, watch with apparent indifference as canoes pass right in front of their noses. Most spectacular of all, though, are the pink freshwater dolphins, known as bufeos, that fish and play in the wide bends of the river. In addition, all manner of birds live on the banks, including herons, three different species of kingfisher, elegant roseate spoonbills, massive storks and the clumsy hoatzin.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Bolivia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Bolivia: make time for South America’s most misunderstood country

Bolivia: make time for South America’s most misunderstood country

Bolivia brims with unique and barely-visited landscapes and cultures. It offers everything from the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, to the Par…

28 Dec 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
8 must-visit places in South America you've probably never heard of

8 must-visit places in South America you've probably never heard of

Access to even some of the more remote parts of South America has improved in the past few decades, establishing a now well-etched tourist trail. But if you wan…

15 Feb 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right