Between Rurrenabaque and Trinidad stretch the vast, watery plains known as the Llanos de Moxos (or Mojos). Spanning the area between the ríos Mamoré and Beni, the region is largely covered by seasonally flooded savannah or natural grassland interspersed with swamp and patches of forest. During the November to April rainy season, the whole area is flooded for months at a time and the road between Rurrenabaque and Trinidad becomes impassable, while during the dry season between May and September the grasslands become very dry, resembling the savannahs of Africa much more than the lush greenery usually associated with the Amazon basin. This is cowboy country, and the economy of the plains is dominated by enormous ranches, stocked with the semi-wild descendants of the cattle first introduced by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century. The Llanos are also home to semi-nomadic indigenous groups such as the T’simane (or Chimane), for whom hunting is still an important source of food, though shotguns have largely replaced bows and arrows as the weapon of choice.

Away from the former mission towns of San Ignacio de Moxos and San Borja, the Llanos remain a sparsely populated wilderness where most of the wild animal species of the Amazon still thrive, and because of the open vegetation they can be easier to spot than in the forest. Even from the road, the birdlife you’ll see here is spectacular and abundant, with water species like storks and herons being particularly evident. Jaguars abound, and you may also spot species not found in the forest, like the maned wolf, a long-legged, solitary hunter that moves through the high grasses with a loping stride, or the rhea, a large flightless bird similar to the ostrich. A few hours west of San Ignacio de Moxos, a large area of this distinctive environment is protected by the Reserva de la Biosfera del Beni, Bolivia’s longest-established protected area.

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