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Flora and Fauna

Bolivia stretches from almost sea level to over 6000 meters above it. Add that to the somewhat unique geographical configuration (dry slopes on the pacific side, wet slopes on the Amazonian side, an enormous sedimentary basin wedged between two mountain ranges) and the result is an incredible variety of climates and landscapes, as well as flora and fauna. There are very few countries that can really match it. On the high plateaus, you will see the “highest shrub on the planet”, the quenua, which grows at over 4000 meters on the sides of the Sajama volcano, or the Puya Raimondi cactus, which flowers only once every 100 years (close to Viacha, in the vicinity of La Paz). The yareta, an oily plant of the Altiplano that resembles foam stuck on large stones is also found here. The plant itself is actually as hard as rock and has grown concentrically for several centuries. In the isolated villages of the Altiplano it is used for heating, as its resin generates a huge amount of energy. Lower, forests are still uncommon but it is possible to observe the appearance of various species of cactus, thorny shrubs and groups of eucalyptus. Lower still, are the Yungas, the humid slopes of the Amazon, then the low valleys, and finally, the wild forest or the savanna or the forest corridor along the river that is flooded for part of the year. It would be of little use here to mention the remarkable species encountered in these areas as that would require unwarranted webspace!

 
Altiplano

In the first place, the Altiplano is home to llamas and alpacas, revered by the Aymara and Quechua Indians for their contribution. Alpacas differ from llamas by their flatter snouts and longer hair. Llamas are thinner and more willowy, while Alpacas sometimes resemble enormous cuddly toys. Both have been domesticated and, contrary to what is written in certain guides, do not live in the wild. The former you will see throughout the Altiplano. The alpacas, on the other hand, are concentrated in the Sajama region. As far as their reputation for spitting is concerned, it is very rare to see some irritated to the point of spitting on a tourist!
Their cousin, the vicuña, is wild and protected by the government. Its wool is famous and reputed to be worth its weight in gold. It is easy to see them in Sajama Park (and in Lauca Park in Chile, adjacent), in South Lipez and the Apolobamba Cordillera (Ulla Ulla National Park). During your excursion in the Altiplano, you will also certainly see viscachas (rabbits with long tails whose presence is guaranteed on the Salar islands of Uyuni and in Lauca Park), nandus (small wild ostriches, beep beeps and all!
– guaranteed to be in Sajama and in the south of Lipez but rarer). And, of course, the superb pink flamingoes of South Lipez. There are 3 species: the St. James flamingo, the Chilean flamingo (barely tolerated!) and the Andean flamingo. They flock in great numbers around the lagoons of South Lipez. More difficult to see are foxes, wolves or condors. The condor is the heaviest raptor, with a wingspan of up to 3 meters, and is able to carry up to 40lbs in its claws! A bit of luck is needed to see this revered animal. They usually have a higher probability of being seen in:
- the Santa Cruz zoo: a poor condor is dying there attached to a chain…
- South Lipez: towards the Uturuncu volcano;
- the Apolobomba cordillera;
-on the sides of Illampu (Sorata – royal cordillera);
- on the sides of the Sajama volcano.

 
The Amazon Basin
The Amazon Basin shelters the most diverse density of fauna in the world. In no particular order: parrots, jaguars, caimans, monkeys, tortoises, butterflies, snakes such as the anaconda, otters, peccaries, tapirs, anteaters, bears,… From Rurrenabaque or Trinidad, many tours will allow you to appreciate this wonderful variety.


   

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