Amboro National Park, Bolivia
Dawn's arrival over this untainted wilderness is accompanied by sounds of the awakening jungle. High overhead in the tops pairs of toucans greet the morning with shrill whistles. In the dense canopy of mara trees, howlers groan loudly at the birdish babble upstairs while hundreds of feet below on the forest floor can be heard the gentle rustlings of peccaries and horned curassows in search of breakfast.
This is Amboro. For many the idea of exploring an untouched junglescape is but a distant dream: however, a three hour drive west from Santa Cruz will take the adventurous tourist into one of the most pristine and, as of yet, unspoiled tropical habitats in the world.
Amboro National Park, covering and area of over 630,000 hectares, lies within three distinct ecosystems: the foothills of the Andes, the northern Chaco and the Amazon Basin. The park was originally established as the Reserva de Vida Silvestre German Busch in 1984 but, with the help of native biologist Noel Kempff, British zoologist Robin Clark and others, the park was expanded to its present size.
The park hosts an incredible variety of flora and fauna. Because of its unique geographical locations, both highland and lowland species are frequent visitors. One can find many trees valued for their fine wood such as the Mara (Swielenia), palms like the Chonta (Astrocaryum) a huge variety of bromeliads and orchids, and limited forests of giant fern and bamboo. Recent studies place the number of plant species at 638, though many species have, as of yet, not been clearly identified.
Because the park straddles different ecosystems, the animal population is also extremely diverse. Perhaps most impressive is the huge number of birds that inhabit the area including such rarities as horned curassows, quetzals, cock-of-the-rocks (found almost exclusively in Bolivia), and the more frequent chestnut-fronted macaws and cuvier toucans. According to park zoologist Robin Clark, the bird species count has already passed the 700 mark.
Most mammals native to Amazonia are also represented. They include capybaras, peccaries, tapirs, several species of monkey such as howlers and capuchins, jungle cats like the jaguar, ocelot and margay, and the increasingly rare, spectacled bear, the only species of bear found in South America.
"Amboro is an ecological masterpiece" says Clark. "712 species of birds have been discovered already and only 50 per cent of the park has been thoroughly explored." He also pointed out that while people eulogize a place like Costa Rica which contains a total of nine life zones. Bolivia has a total of 13.
"I've dedicated so much time to this place because I believe this is one of the richest places on earth", he stated matter-of-factly. "And I think there's still hope. The fact that horned curassows still exist in relatively large numbers is reason enough to keep the park".
Although Amboro National Park remains off the beaten track for tourists, Clark hopes to increase awareness of the importance of its beauty. He has recently set up the quaint and very comfortable Hotel Amboro to accommodate people wishing to experience the park first-hand.
Amboro National Park will appeal mostly to those hardy souls who don't mind making the outdoors their home. There are numerous tributaries of the Yapacani and Surutu rivers (which form the northern border of the park) to explore, the most notable being the Isama, Macunucu, and Colorado. There are endless waterfalls and cool, green swimming pools, moss ridden caves and, of course, the fragile yet awe-inspiring presence of the virgin rain forest.
Amboro is a place of special beauty. One visit is enough to convince even the most cynical that it is truly one of the last untouched wildernesses on earth.
Amboro National Park lies three hours northwest of Santa Cruz just off the main highway to Cochahamba.
Buses, taxis and four-wheel drives can easily be hired at fairly reasonable rates in Santa Cruz. Zingara Travel in La Paz (326287) and Uimpex Travel (330785) in Santa Cruz also run all-inclusive fours of the park.
Hotel Amboro in Buena Vista is located just outside park boundaries. Call Robin Clark, the hotel owner, 591(0) 9322054, who also runs guided tours into the park.
The best time of year to travel to the park is during the May to October dry season. Access often requires fording of rivers and a horseback ride or hike into one of the main camps which include toilet, cooking, and basic sleeping facilities.
Special thanks to the Bolivian Times, Pasaje jauregui 2248 (Sopocahi), Cassila No. 1696, La Paz, Bolivia, for providing this material.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication