|Samaipata, Bolivia - January 2012|
I've done a lot of traveling in the last year, but haven't written many trip reports. For one, it takes time. Also, I spend many days and dollars visiting locations that are not good for photography. For example I wanted to visit the salt plains near Cordoba, Argentina. The birding companies go to San Jose de Salinas, but a tourist office showed me on the map another town more easily accessed by bus. I tried that, and ended up losing a whole day. Perhaps I have been feeling selfish giving away all of this information when tour companies rarely give free advice, and even photographers like Alan Morris sell travel tips.
So recently, when my only recent travel report was a negative one I felt I had to write, I was refused a visit to a well known bird reserve. The reserve was worried I would write a 'scathing' report if something went wrong. I am still trying to work this out, and will explain that my few negative reports have been extreme incidents involving, in my opinion, my personal safety or outright fraud. But perhaps I need to reassess my 'selfishness' with information, and now I want to write a good report.
I hadn't planned to visit Bolivia on this last trip, but when I was in the south Pantanal I learned that many tourists cross the border from Corumba to the Bolivian city of Puerto Quijarro. BirdBolivia.com does a great job of outlining many of the best spots, but I wanted to write a little about Samaipata, a tourist town in the Andean foothills near Santa Cruz. It seemed the easiest way to get the the Andean forest and 'yungas', as you can take a shared taxi (trufi) for around $5. The ride to Samaipata goes through very nice forest, but Samaipata itself is in an area this is both cleared and/or naturally forestless. Accessing the forest from this town involves a taxi or tour. The hostal I used was Andoriña Hostal, who provide great service and breakfast for an unbelievably low price. The nearby Chane Tours were very in touch with my needs as a bird photographer, and could have arranged great trips for me. I am just very averse to using personal guides, and always try to find a way to do it on my own.
In Samaipata I spent a number of days in the fields around the town. But the birds are not that intersting, and include the Red Pileated Finch, Ultramarine Grosbeak, White-collared Seedeater, Glittering-bellied Hummingbird, White-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-billed Saltator, and others. I did one tour to the forest, perhaps best described as drier pre-yungas, but it was short (and cheap) and I managed only to see the Masked Trogon (Peru/Bolivia foothill subspecies) and I believe a Montaine Woodcreeper. Just as we were leaving, the bird activity seemed to pick up.
I hope to revisit the area. One birding option is the very expensive (for Bolivia) Los Volcanes hotel, and I am trying to arrange a visit to a local farm near the forest, about which I may write more later.