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Safari in the Amazons: an adventure in the Pampas del Yacuma

Going to the Pampas of Yacuma was a coincidence of the destiny and turned out to be a “must” on the checklist if you are in the Bolivia. I had heard about Madidi Park in Rurrenabaque, but never about this hidden gem in the depths of Santa Rosa del Yacuma, a small city located about 8 hours from Riberalta (with the roads here, everything is relative as to the distances).

This municipal protected area was created in 2007 and covers a bit more than 616, 000 hectares, a huge Bolivian savanna with a great biodiversity of species that live in their natural habitat, fortunately ignoring captivity.

The entrance to this park has a cost of 150 Bs for foreigners and 50 Bs for nationals. Our tour, meanwhile, costs 700 Bs, but included three days and two nights with breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a friendly local guide called Bismarc.

In order to reach our camp in the Pampas, we sailed for three hours along the Yacuma River aboard a wooden boat called “Cobra V” with eight seats. With the sun hitting our faces, every alligator that we saw a few meters from us surprised and amazed us. Next to them, families of capybaras, turtles and dozens of bird species adorned the landscape, a perfect harmony of wildlife.

Searching for anacondas was probably the “wildest” experience in this Bolivian safari. Unfortunately, we have been walking for about four hours wearing rubber boots on swampy plains for nothing. There, you really don’t know if you were stepping on a branch, a stone or the body of a huge snake. It was undoubtedly a trekking full of adrenaline!

We also feel a knot in the stomach when we got into the river to swim with the pink dolphins. According to our guide, they protect their territory and that scares the snakes, piranhas and caimans of the place. But I am sure that despite enjoying this beautiful experience, none of us stopped looking at the caimans that were satring at us from just a few meters from where we were swimming. And we probably all had fallen into paranoia when something touched our legs even if it was just a piece of wood.

Piranhas are also another story. I was always thinking about the movie “Piranha” that I saw on television when I was a child, where they were portrayed as innate killers that can make you disappear in a couple of seconds.

The Amazon river shelters several types of piranhas, but the most dangerous are black and red. Bismarc warned us that if we fish any, we should warn him as a precaution because with an oversight we could end up with a “missing piece”.

Our incredible adventure ended with a delicious lunch of fried piranhas in the camp. And although they don’t have much meat to delight us, their sharp teeth remained intact in our dishes. I thought, “There is a reason why these fishes have such a bad reputation in the movies.”

Fernanda Carrera Pérez

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