When you get to La Paz, you’ll quite quickly realize that this is a city that loves their tourists.

In a good way!

There are tour agents everywhere, all whom want to entice you into their door and book you on the next group tour to Uyuni Salt Flats, Death Road, Titicaca, Moon Valley, or in this case, a jungle tour to Madidi National Park.

Now, I know you’ve probably already done a LOT of research on this, and I’m guessing you’re still a little unsure as to which company to book with, who you can trust, what you should pay, and when you should actually book in order to get the best deal possible.

After all, there are a lot of forum posts out there warning potential Tarzans and Janes about the stark disparity between the top-ranked providers and the cheapest options out there.

Let me put this one on the table straight away. If money isn’t an object to you, then you’ve probably already heard of the most expensive option, Madidi EcoLodge, and I would highly recommend trusting them to give you the most comfortable, high quality service on the market.

You can’t go wrong. 

It’s like being on a luxury African Safari, but at a fraction of the cost!

But I’m guessing you’re reading this because paying over USD$300 a night to sleep in the jungle just doesn’t fit your budget and you’re now shuffling through all the other options to make the best value-for-money choice.

Amazon Jungle Tour Guide – Madidi National Park

When to Book

You’re a traveler who likes to be prepared and know where they are going at least a few weeks in advance.

You’ve got this urge to just get on a website, book in your dates, whip that credit card out, and receive that joyous confirmation email 2 minutes later.

I get it.

But if you’re looking for the best deal, there’s also a lot to be said for getting to La Paz and shopping around face-to face.

It’s the only way to get the best deal at the end of the day, and as you’ll realize, nearly every single tour company is situated on the same street in the middle of town (Sagarnaga), so it’s a piece of cake.

In fact, I finalized my Jungle Tour booking at 6:15pm the night before I flew to Rurrenabaque, the local town that services the National Park.

And although I would recommend leaving it to 15 minutes before closing, it’s certainly normal and possible to confirm your tour choice within 48 hours of commencement.

Read More: The Top Things To Do In La Paz, Bolivia

In La Paz, as with many tourist cities, the later you leave it, the bigger discount you can command to fill up their seats.

Now, if you’ve already done your research and you’re deadest on a company and date, by all means, book it online. Just don’t expect to get the best deal going around for that certainty.

Where to Book

As I said, La Paz is one of those cities that likes to bunch all of the same stores together. So if you’re looking for a quick and convenient transaction, head down to Sagarnaga Street, which runs off San Francisco Cathedral in the main tourist district.

I’m not here representing any one company, so my advice to you is to go from shop to shop, taking a pamphlet and getting the price written down.

Now, as I said before, most of these agents represent just a handful of legitimate providers.

The rest are unfortunately operating illegally on the park, providing substandard food and accommodation, and acting more like transport companies than wildlife guides.

The only three providers that have convinced me of their quality based on my on-the-ground research of their facilities in Rurrenabaque and Madidi are:

  1. Madidi Jungle Ecolodge
  2. Mashaquipe
  3. San Miguel Del Bala

So before you hand your credit card over, I highly recommend you confirm the tour provider with the agent first.

How Much to Pay

This is where it gets tricky.

You’re going to notice 3 price brackets when you get on the ground.

There are the tour companies that will compete around the 700-800 Bolivianos range. And for a 3 day tour, including lodging, transfers, food, and guides, this should ring alarm bells straight away.

Then there are the providers who price themselves at around ,1350 Bolivianos for the tour. These guys are most probably selling you a Mashaquipe or San Miguel Del Bala tour.

If you can lock your prices in for anything lower than that, then you’ve done well.

Finally, your Madidi EcoLodge reps will come in around the 2,000 Bolivianos price range.

Again, if you’re looking for the top of the pile service and amenities, you can book direct through http://www.madidijungle.com/

Now, when you’re booking your tour, the agent will ask you whether you already have flights.

I highly recommend you lock your flights in before booking your tour. There will always be a tour, but in a 12-seater plane, you may find yourself with a tour but no way to get there!

Getting There & Back

There’s one logical way to get to Madidi National Park, and one soul-crushing way.

The logical choice nearly all tourists take is a flight with Amaszonas from La Paz International to the local town of Rurrenabaque.

They offer a number of flights daily, some of which are timed to fit in perfectly with your Jungle Tour timetable.

Ideally, you would book at 7:10am flight out of La Paz, landing you in Rurrenabaque at 7:40am just in time for your tour operator to pick you up, sign you in, and get you on your way for the 9:30am start time.

3 days later, you’d have the 5:00pm flight booked, which you could hop straight on after arriving back in Rurrenabaque at 3:00pm.

That’s best case.

Unfortunately, this is the Bolivia, and this is the Jungle.

Because of the constantly changing weather in Rurrenabaque, your flight is just as likely to be delayed as it is to be on time.

For example, due to fog and engine maintenance, both of my flights for delayed for 3 hours.

But don’t worry, you’ve got 2 choices:

Give yourself an extra day in Rurrenabaque to cover any risk of lost time, or sit back, relax, and know the tour operators are all waiting for you at the airport and will adjust your tour accordingly. 

Either way, return flights should cost you around USD$200 total.

And then there’s the illogical way, a 31 hour bus from La Paz Bus Terminal into the jungle. 

Don’t bother. For the money saved, it will kill your buzz heading into an experience you really want to be up and about for.

What’s Involved

Now that you’ve got your flights and tour booking strategy sorted, its time to get the low down on what exactly you’ll be getting up to on this 3-day adventure into the wild.

Now, I need to start with a disclaimer.

Whilst this is the jungle, and whilst you will definitely be encountering as many (or more) mosquitoes on your journey, this is no Africa.

With the thick jungle lack of safari trucks, your wildlife count will be nowhere near that of a Serengeti Plains tour in Tanzania.

This tour is all about the Amazon, the people that live there, their symbiotic relationship with the environment around them, and of course, a chance to encounter some of the shiest animals in the world.

Day 1

After arriving at Rurrenabaque airport (literally a building smaller than your house) in the morning, you’ll be picked up by your operator and driven 5 minutes into town.

You’ll notice the place features 3 types of stores:

  1. Tour operator office
  2. Cheap clothes
  3. Cheap food 

Once at the office, you’ll be signed up, and within 15 minutes, whisked off to the river where a motorized canoe with seating will be waiting for you.

Then it’s a relaxing 2-3 hour ride up river where you’ll switch between dozing and taking in the intensely beautiful aquatic scenery of the Amazon.

Half way through the ride, your driver will stop off at what you’ll excitingly think is your stop, but its just the spot where you’ll need to pay an additional cash payment of 80 Bolivianos per person as a park entry fee. (Don’t worry, it’s legit).

A local community visit will probably be your first major stop. It will be a chance to see how the local families live and peruse through some trinkets you may or may not be interested in purchasing.

Just one more hour in the boat and you’ll find yourself at your lodge.

Built on what is probably the land of a local who is also a part owner in the tour operator company, you’ll be greeted with some fresh juice, shown to your cabin, given a wholesome local rice, meat, and fruit-based lunch, then introduced to your guide.

Hopefully, your guide will prove to be the most fascinating and knowledgeable man about his own land over the next 2 and a half days.

He’ll go out of his way to make you comfortable, surprise you will his knowledge of local flora, his resistance to mosquitoes, and his ability to track and identify monkey, pecari, and bird species whilst you are making a ruckus trying to keep up behind him.

Your first afternoon will include a 3-4 hour hike through the jungle and hopefully it will be full of highlights.

Once you get back, it will be dinner time, featuring a buffet of local carbs and meats.

You’ll then have the choice to take a one-hour night hike if you have the energy. You’ll be on the hunt for nocturnal monkeys, armadillos, jaguars, tarantulas, and tapir.

Day 2

Day 2 will have you wake up early for another 4 hour hike. This time it will be all about tracking howler monkeys, capuchins, and Pecari.

I was lucky enough to encounter them all!

After lunch, you’ll be ferried off to a campsite 30 minutes downstream.

Here, you’ll sleep under a mosquito net on a wooden platform, enjoy the marvellous food from the camp cook, and spend the afternoon chasing Macaws.

Day 3

The morning will be all about the Red & Green Macaws too. But this time you’ll trek to all the way up to the top of a cliff where you’ll be right on top of their nests, watching them fly in and out at eye level!

From here,  you’ll head back to camp, pack your things, and hike back to the river where you’ll be tasked with building your own raft (with help, of course) to float back down to the lodge on.

Because the current is so fast here, not only will you be safe to swim without fear of caiman, anaconda, or piranha attack, but you’ll also float all the way back without even needing to paddle.

Back in the lodge, you’ll be fed another hearty lunch before preparing to head back to Rurrenabaque at 2pm.

The downstream ride will have you back at around 3:30pm, just in time for your flight home if you so choose.

Otherwise, I highly recommend spending the night in Rurrenabaque where you can support the local town by trying some great cheap food and smoothies, and perusing the all the local shops.

Pampas Tour

Many people combine the Jungle Tour with the Pampas Tour. This will have you head straight from the jungle to the pampas, where you’ll be focusing on encountering pink dolphins, anacondas, capybaras, piranhas, and caiman.

You’ll spend most of your time in more of a safari-like situation, but this time you’ll be based mainly in the boat for the time.

Adding this on is totally possible with your agent and is a good way to get a total jungle experience if the waterways of the Amazon take your fancy.

If you loved this article, please share it with your friends on facebook!

  • Have you been on the Madidi Jungle Tour before?
  • Which operator did you choose?
  • Was it one of the most memorable experiences of your life?