- 1 Park Overview
- 2 Geography
- 3 Biological Richness
- 4 Indigenous Culture
- 5 Tourist Attractions
- 6 Activities in the Park
- 7 Practical Information for Visitors
- 8 Conservation and Threats
- 9 The Importance of TIPNIS
- 10 Photo Gallery
Located in the heart of Bolivia, the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory(TIPNIS) (in spanish: Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure) offers an unparalleled view of pristine nature and the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous tribes in the region. This region of exceptional biodiversity serves as home to a mighty array of flora and fauna, as well as diverse indigenous communities that have cared for and protected these lands for centuries. A visit to TIPNIS provides a unique experience, where visitors can discover the mightiness of untouched forests, winding rivers, and vibrant indigenous cultural life.
History and Establishment
Established on November 22, 1965, and later declared as an Indigenous Territory in 1990, thanks to the struggles and demands of the indigenous peoples of the region. Encompassing an approximate area of 1,236,296 hectares (12,363 km²), it is located in a region of high biological diversity, covering four main vegetation formations. It is considered one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, second only to Madidi National Park.
TIPNIS is situated between the departments of Beni (Moxos Province) and Cochabamba (Chapare and Ayopaya Provinces). The municipalities included in its territory are San Ignacio de Moxos and Loreto in the Beni department, and Villa Tunari and Morochata in the Cochabamba department. This park has been recognized for its natural beauty and was described by the French naturalist Alcide D’Orbigny in the 19th century as "the most beautiful jungle in the world" in his work "Journey to South America." It can be geographically located by the coordinates: 15°27′00″S 66°40′00″W / -15.45, -66.66666667.
Due to its vast expanse, the climate of Isiboro-Sécure National Park varies based on altitude, ranging from temperate to cold in highland areas, and warm in lowland areas. The average annual temperature varies depending on the location within the park. In the Mosetenes mountain range, in the highlands, the average annual temperature is around 15°C. In the foothill and forested plain areas, located in the central part of the park, the average annual temperature is around 32°C. In the Moxos plain or pampas, situated in the northern sector of the park, the average annual temperature is around 25°C. These climate variations contribute to the diversity of ecosystems and landscapes within TIPNIS.
Yearly Rainfall Variations
The amount of annual precipitation in the Isiboro-Sécure Park Territory varies across different zones of the park. In the northern sector, near the confluence of the Isiboro and Sécure rivers, the average annual precipitation is around 1900 mm. In the vicinity of Puerto Patino, on the southeastern boundary of the park, the average annual precipitation is around 3500 mm. Approximately 80% of the area falls within a range of 2000 to 3000 mm of average annual precipitation.
During the winter months, the park experiences the influence of cold fronts, resulting in reduced rainfall. During this season, rains are less frequent, and precipitation is lower compared to the summer and spring months.
These variations in rainfall contribute to the different ecosystems present in Isiboro-Sécure and play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and the health of ecosystems within the park.
Diversity of Elevations in TIPNIS: From Mountains to Plains
The Isiboro-Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory cover a wide range of altitudes, ranging from 180 to 3000 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.), with an average elevation of 300 to 400 m.a.s.l. This characteristic gives it a diverse and unique physiography, as it is located in a transitional area between the Sub-Andean Foothills and the Moxos Plains. The southern and western parts of the area are mainly composed of mountains with steep slopes, with the Mosetenes and Sejeruma ranges standing out as foothills of the Sub-Andean region.
Regarding its hydrographic basin, it belongs to the Amazon sub-basin of the Mamoré River, represented by one of its main tributaries, the Sécure River. This river is the main recipient of the waters of the Isiboro River, which in turn has several important tributaries. The Sécure and Isiboro rivers are located to the north and south of the park respectively, and both are navigable. Additionally, the Ichoa River, a tributary of the Isiboro, crosses the central part of the park and receives several minor tributaries.
In biogeographical terms, the park falls within the subregions of the Yungas Montane Moist Forest and the Madeira Moist Forest. These subregions stand out for their high biodiversity and for hosting a wide variety of species adapted to the different altitude levels present in the park.
The altitudinal range, coupled with its transitional position between mountains and plains, contributes to the uniqueness of this territory, offering a variety of landscapes, ecosystems, and environmental conditions that harbor remarkable biological and cultural diversity.
Assortment of Ecosystems
This vast expanse of land is characterized by a variety of ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to wetlands, lowland tropical forests, and mountain forests, hosting some of the rarest plant and animal species in the world.
It hosts an astonishing diversity of flora, with a record of 402 plant species and an estimated existence of around 3000 higher plant species. This park is a true botanical treasure, where a wide variety of notable species can be found.
Prominent species include alder (Alnus acuminata), mountain pine (Podocarpus spp.), walnut (Juglans boliviana), cedars (Cedrela lilloi and Cedrela odorata), mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), palo maría (Calophyllum brasiliense), and tajibo (Tabebuia). These species contribute to the beauty and diversity of TIPNIS’s forests and play a significant role in the ecological balance of the region.
Palms also play a prominent role within TIPNIS’s flora. Açaí palm (Euterpe precatoria), jatatas palms (Geonoma deversa, Geonoma spp.), palma palm (Dictyocaryum lamarckianum), and royal palm (Mauritia flexuosa) are emblematic species that form extensive palm groves in the flooded forest areas. These palms are not only ecologically important but also hold cultural significance for local indigenous communities, who have utilized their fruits and other resources for generations.
The richness and abundance of plant species reflect the health and vitality of the ecosystems present in the park. These plants play a fundamental role in soil conservation, water cycle regulation, and providing habitats for fauna. Moreover, they represent a valuable natural and cultural heritage that deserves protection and conservation for future generations.
The Isiboro-Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory is a true wildlife paradise, with diverse and abundant fauna. Prominent species include the Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), spider monkey (Ateles paniscus), howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), jaguar (Panthera onca), marsh deer (Odocoileus dichotomus), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), black duck (Cairina moschata), and various endemic birds such as the gray antwren (Myrmotherula grisea) and rufous-faced antbird (Grallaria erythrotis).
TIPNIS also hosts a rich diversity of aquatic species, such as catfish (Pseudoplatystoma spp.), river dolphins, black duck, and river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis). Additionally, the mighty black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), an emblematic species of the region’s wetlands, can be found.
In terms of birds, the park is a paradise for birdwatchers, with over 992 recorded species. This avifaunistic wealth includes endemic birds, threatened species, and a wide variety of species that fill the skies with their beautiful colors and melodies.
In total, the park is home to around 218 mammal species, 131 reptile species, and 157 amphibian species. These numbers position the park as one of the most biodiverse and species-abundant places globally, ranking third after Madidi National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area and Manu National Park in Peru.
Description of Endemic Species
The park is renowned for its biodiversity, featuring a range of endemic species found nowhere else on the planet. Particularly notable are the presence of the pink river dolphin, a type of freshwater dolphin, and the butterfly diversity, with more than 200 registered butterfly species.
Indigenous Tribes Inhabiting the Park
TIPNIS is home to various indigenous tribes, including the Mojeño-Trinitario, Yuracaré, and Chimán. These communities have lived in harmony with nature for centuries, conserving and protecting the natural environment.
Traditions and Customs
The traditions and customs of these communities are alive and a fascinating testament to the harmonious relationship between humans and nature. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about these customs and appreciate the importance of environmental conservation.
The Indigenous Peoples’ Relationship with Nature
The indigenous peoples of TIPNIS maintain a very special relationship with nature, based on respect and sustainability. Their connection to the environment is evident in their daily practices, from their diet to their traditional medicine.
Laguna San Francisco (San Francisco Lagoon)
San Francisco Lagoon, located along the Plantota River, provides a view of the towering trees, valuable timber species, and medicinal plants. Additionally, you can marvel at the diverse wildlife in its natural habitat. A visit to this attraction is done via river travel from Puerto Geralda, navigating the Mamoré River and then the Isiboro River until reaching the confluence of the Sécure River. From there, you can reach the Puerto San Lorenzo community, where you can immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture.
Streams and Lagoons of Lower Ichoa River
The streams and lagoons of the Lower Ichoa River offer incredible beauty. This area provides the opportunity to observe a variety of waterfowl and mammals such as jaguars, otters, and deer. To visit these attractions, you can embark on a river journey from Puerto Geralda, navigating the Mamoré River and the Isiboro River until reaching the Ichoa River.
Pampas de Moxos
The Pampas de Moxos is another interesting spot within the park due to the landscapes it offers. You’ll be able to observe yomomos (marsh deer), pampas lagoons, and a diversity of fauna. Prominent species include marsh deer, tapirs, jaguars, a variety of waterfowl, lizards, and the mighty black caiman. This impressive landscape stretches along the Isiboro River, as well as in surrounding streams and lagoons.
Laguna Bolivia (Bolivia Lagoon)
Admire Laguna Bolivia, where you can enjoy beautiful landscapes that include yomomos, natural pampas, and hills with ceramic remains from ancient cultures. Observe the diversity of birds and mammals, such as marsh deer, jaguars, and tapirs. Immerse yourself in this unique experience as you explore the natural richness of TIPNIS.
Activities in the Park
Catch and Release Golden Dorado Fishing
For fishing enthusiasts, catch and release fishing for golden dorado can be done in two highlighted areas of TIPNIS. Enjoy the lush vegetation, rivers, and lagoons, while marveling at the richness of wildlife. In both the Upper Sécure River and the Upper Ichoa River, local indigenous communities maintain traditional forms of natural resource management. You can participate in this environmentally respectful activity and contribute to community-based tourism development.
With over 500 bird species, TIPNIS is a paradise for birdwatching. Visitors can observe everything from colorful parrots to majestic harpy eagles.
Jungle Walks: Hiking and Trekking
Jungle walks are another popular activity in the park, with various routes that allow visitors to explore the rich biodiversity of the area.
Cultural tours allow visitors to learn about the traditions and customs of local indigenous communities and offer a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the region’s rich cultural heritage.
Experience the thrill of navigating rivers in an exciting canoeing adventure. Explore waterways while admiring the natural landscapes and wildlife surrounding you.
If you’re a fishing enthusiast, the park offers an excellent opportunity for sport fishing. Dive into the rivers and lakes of the park in search of challenging fish and enjoy the tranquility of nature.
Descend the rapids of the rivers that cross the national park. Navigate turbulent waters while enjoying stunning landscapes and challenging yourself in this exciting water activity.
Immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature and enjoy a unique camping experience. Get closer to wildlife, marvel at the starry sky, and relax in the midst of this unparalleled natural environment.
Capture memorable moments of wildlife on a photographic safari. Explore animal habitats, exotic birds, and stunning landscapes, and take visual memories of this unique experience with you.
Flora and Fauna Observation
Admire the diversity of flora and fauna through careful observation. Observe colorful birds, fascinating mammals, lush landscapes, and exotic plants, and be amazed by the natural beauty of the park.
Practical Information for Visitors
Getting to the Park
Access to TIPNIS can mainly be done by plane and then by road from the city of Cochabamba. You can take a flight to Cochabamba from Bolivia’s main cities and then continue by car to the park.
By Car and Private Vehicle
To reach the park, you can choose to take the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway and then turn north from Villa Tunari onto a secondary route. From Trinidad, you can follow a route passing through San Ignacio de Moxos and San Lorenzo until you reach the Santo Domingo community, located on the banks of the Sécure River.
It’s also possible to access the park through river routes from Trinidad, navigating the Mamoré River and then entering the Isiboro River.
Accommodation and Facilities
Various accommodation options are available in the park, ranging from rustic cabins to basic jungle camps. Some indigenous communities also offer lodging in their homes as part of community-based tourism.
When visiting TIPNIS, it’s important to follow some recommendations to ensure safety and the preservation of the natural environment. These recommendations include respecting the rules set by indigenous communities, not leaving trash behind, not interfering with wildlife, and following the instructions of local guides.
Conservation and Threats
TIPNIS faces several conservation challenges, including illegal deforestation, natural resource extraction, and pressure from unsustainable economic activities. These challenges threaten the biodiversity and indigenous culture of the region.
Impact of Climate Change and Deforestation
Climate change and deforestation have a significant impact on TIPNIS. Rising temperatures, habitat loss, and decreased rainfall affect both flora and fauna, as well as indigenous communities that rely on natural resources.
Current Conservation Efforts
Ongoing efforts are being made to protect and conserve TIPNIS. Local, national, and international organizations are working on conservation projects, environmental education, and sustainable development to preserve the biodiversity and indigenous culture of the region.
The Importance of TIPNIS
TIPNIS plays a crucial role in conserving the biodiversity of Bolivia and the world. Its ecosystems house endemic species and act as biological corridors connecting different protected areas, facilitating genetic flow and maintaining biological diversity.
TIPNIS also holds significant cultural importance, as it is home to indigenous communities with rich cultural heritage and ancestral knowledge about the environment. Preserving these indigenous cultures is essential for enriching cultural diversity and respecting human rights.
Relevance for Bolivia’s Future and Global Conservation
The protection and conservation of TIPNIS are important not only for Bolivia but also for global conservation. Preserving its unique biodiversity and indigenous culture provides an opportunity for sustainable development and the promotion of conservation practices worldwide.