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The "Pantanal" (Marsh) is one of the world's greatest floodplains. It is located in the Department of Santa Cruz, in the east of the country; although most of its is shared by Brazil and Paraguay, the smallest part of it (10% of its total area), but in many ways the most important one, lies within Bolivia. Part of the Bolivian "Pantanal" is included in Otuquis National Park and the San Matias National Protected Area. The "Pantanal" is located exactly on the border of the natural areas of Chaco, Cerrado and the Amazonian Basin.
The Bolivian part of the "Pantanal" is on the east of the Department of Santa Cruz. Despite world attention being centered around Brazilian conservation efforts, the Bolivian "Pantanal" may have greater biological importance due to the existence of major areas of unexplored territory as well as dry forests that have never been studied, forming the western edge of this region. Notwithstanding the above, the area comprised by Otuquis and San Matias, which had been seriously damaged by human activity, became part of the National Protected Areas System in 1997.
The establishing of a reserves network and a national park could enable the protection of a large share of the biodiversity present in the "Pantanal". The Bolivian part of this area continues to be almost inaccessible and unknown due to a lack of hotel and transport infrastructure. There is, nevertheless, a great potential for tourism development, which if carefully controlled, could be very beneficial to the economy of the region. Puerto Suarez and Quijarro are towns offering services in the southern part of the "Pantanal", and San Matias (Bolivian Zone), in the northern part. In the south, there is a five-star hotel and a constantly developing tourist hotel industry, as well as other services to be found in the nearby town of Corumba.
Facing Puerto Suarez lies Lake Caceres, with abundant fishing and exit channels to the Paraguay river, where one can easily view a large concentration of yacares, tuyuyus, capiguaras and other animals. A few km away from Puerto Suarez lie the Caves of Motacucito, with stalagmites and stalactites in their interior. Towards the south lies the imposing Mutun Hill, with the highest concentration of iron and magnesium ore in the world. The place features a great biodiversity of natural resources, which have been created by natural processes such as the overflowing of rivers and the marshy or swampy quality of the ground, forming this ecosystem on gently undulating plains.
The fauna in this area is found in exquisitely beautiful landscapes framed by exuberant jungle vegetation, or on the river bank covered by camoletes(or camalotes), water plants that grow along the river and stream banks or on lake shores, bearing floating leaves and flowers. The fauna includes spider monkeys, jaguars, jungle foxes and ciervo de los pantanos (swamp deer). The climate is mild, as the average height is 350 meters above sea level, and the temperature varies from 12º to 24º Celsius, with sometimes significant changes from one season to another.
The Otuquis Reserve within the "Pantanal" covers 1,005,950 hectares, of which 903,350 ha are a National Park and 102,600 are a "Natural Area". Rainfall is estimated at between 900 and 1,100 mm a year, with 80% between October and January.
The soils are composed of Quaternary sediments of a pluvial nature. The internal hydrographic network does not have a definite water distribution pattern. However, most of the water pours into the Paraguay and Negro rivers. An exception is the Otuquis river in the northern area, that covers the east and south and drains into the "Pantanal",
With regard to the cultural diversity of the "Pantanal", the Otuquis National Park features the presence of two communities, the Chiquitanos and the Ayoreos, creole natives and descendants of Spanish conquistadors respectively. The population of Ayoreo (about 900), live along the railway line and lead a semi-nomadic life, while the population of Chiquitanos (about 3,000), is a sedentary group in the same area, having settled partly through the influence of Jesuit catholic priests, who came over during the Spanish conquest.
The following information may be of interest to tourists:
When to go
All year round
Fauna watching is the main attraction, and can be done at Puerto Suarez, Puerto Busch, El Mutun, Motacucito, Otuquis Baths, Caceres Lagoon and even La Gaiba.
How to get there
Links to neighboring countries are by road and rail, from Puerto Suarez and Puerto Quijarros to Santa Cruz. This is considered an "international corridor" for export trade. Only Puerto Suarez has a landing strip. .
Wildlife observation, eco-tourism, culture, history and paleontology study.
Its weather is hot and tropical, with an average temperature of 24 º Celsius and annual rainfall of 1,250 mm.
Tourist services and paperwork are available in Puerto Suarez and Puerto Quijarro.
Tucavaca Baths-Southern Region, La Gaiba Lagoon.
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