Madidi National Park and Integrated Natural Management Area

From the heights of the Andes to the depths of the Amazon jungle, the Madidi National Park or Madidi National Park and Integrated Natural Management Area (in Spanish: Parque Nacional y Área Natural de Manejo Integrado Madidi (PN-ANMI Madidi)) in Bolivia offers unparalleled biodiversity and a mighty and towering landscape that will leave you breathless. This hidden treasure of Mother Nature is a paradise for ecotourism enthusiasts, nature photographers, birdwatchers, and all those wishing to escape from urban life to immerse themselves in the rich and vibrant diversity of wildlife.

Introduction to Madidi National Park

Madidi National Park and Integrated Natural Management Area

Geographical Location

The Madidi National Park and Integrated Natural Management Area is situated in the northwest of Bolivia, spanning an extensive area from the sub-Andean mountain ranges to the grasslands of the Bolivian Amazon. It is globally recognized as the protected area with the mightiest and towering biodiversity in terms of species. Administratively, it is located in the provinces of Abel Iturralde, Franz Tamayo, Bautista Saavedra, and Larecaja, to the north of the La Paz department. It shares borders with other protected areas such as the Apolobamba Integrated Natural Management Area, the Biosphere Reserve and Pilón Lajas Communal Lands of Origin, and to the west, with the Tambopata National Reserve and Bahuaja Sonene National Park in Peru. Madidi can be geographically pinpointed using the coordinates 14°20′00″S 68°20′00″W.

Access to the Park

To access the Madidi National Park, there are different entry points.

  • South: Points of entry are Pelechuco and Apolo.
  • East: Rurrenabaque is a very popular access point.
  • Northeast: Tumupas is located here.
  • North: The Madre de Dios River runs along this border.

If you wish to travel from La Paz to Rurrenabaque, there are flight options available. The TAM airline offers two weekly flights, while Amaszonas provides three daily flights connecting La Paz to Rurrenabaque. These flight options ease access to the park from the Bolivian capital.

History and Establishment of the Park

The Madidi National Park and Integrated Natural Management Area was officially created through Supreme Decree No. 24123 on September 21, 1995. It covers an area of 1,880,996 hectares and is divided into three management zones: two fall under the category of a national park, and one under the category of an integrated natural management area.

The administration of the Madidi National Park is under the responsibility of the National Service of Protected Areas (SERNAP), which is part of the Ministry of Environment and Water (MMAyA). SERNAP is tasked with managing and protecting the park, ensuring its conservation and preservation of natural resources.

Biological Diversity of Madidi

Madidi stands out for being the protected area with the mightiest biodiversity in the world, both in terms of flora and fauna. Its geographical range spans from perpetual snow zones in the mountains to the Amazonian plains, granting it a wide diversity of ecological zones. Moreover, its territory is home to various community ethnic groups.

This recognition of its biodiversity has led the National Geographic magazine to declare it as one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet and one of the top 20 places of interest globally for tourism. The park is valuable not only from an environmental perspective but also generates significant economic benefits for the region through conservation and ecotourism development.

Studies conducted have demonstrated the economic benefits that the park brings to the region, both in terms of environmental conservation and the promotion of sustainable tourism (Fleck et al., 2006a; Malki et al., 2007).

Flora of Madidi

The Park stands out due to its wide altitudinal range, stretching from 200 to 6,000 meters above sea level. This results in a diverse array of ecosystems and altitudinal zones within the area.

Among the present ecosystems are nival zones and periglacial environments, Yungas Páramo, Cloud Forest of the Eyebrow, Very Humid to Perhumid Yungas Rainforest, Sub-Andean Rainforest, Dry Deciduous Forest of San Juan del Asariamas, Very Humid Footslope Forest, Basal Seasonal Humid Forest, Floodplains, and Swampy Palms of royal palm (Mauritia flexuosa and Mauritiella aculeata).

It is estimated that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 species of higher plants within the entire protected area. Notable among these species are the Polylepis racemosa triacontranda, including a new species for science, Weinmannia microphylla, Weinmannia boliviensis and W. crassifolia (iotavio), Juglans boliviana (walnut), Miconia theaezans (yuraj huaycha), Podocarpus spp. (montane pines), Eugenia sp. (wild coca), Alnus acuminata (alder), Escallonia myrtilloides (chachacoma), Hesperomeles ferruginea and H. lanuginosa (yarumas), Myrica pubescens (red alder), Randia boliviana (arrayán), Myrsine coriacea (limachu), Sambucus peruviana (elderberry), Ocotea spp. and Nectandra spp. (laurels), Byrsonima indorum (coloradillo del monte), Cinchona officinalis (quina), Tetragastris altissima (isigo), Anadenanthera colubrina (bilka), Ficus spp. (bibosi), Didymopanax morototoni (guitar tree), and Miconia multiflora (bizcochelo).

The park is also home to numerous timber species such as Swietenia macrophylla (mahogany), Cedrela odorata (cedar), Calophyllum brasiliense (maria wood), and Hura crepitans (sandbox tree). Additionally, a great diversity of palms can be observed, including Ceroxylon pityrophyllum, jatatas (Geonoma megalospatha, G. lindeniana, and G. deversa), Socratea exorrhiza (pachiuva), Iriartea deltoidea (copa), Scheelea princeps (motacú), several chontas (Astrocaryum spp.), Phytelephas macrocarpa (marfil palm), Dictyocaryum lamarckianum (icho), Euterpe precatoria (açaí), and Mauritia flexuosa (royal palm).

This extensive plant diversity contributes to the richness and uniqueness of the Madidi National Park.

Fauna of Madidi

It harbors a diverse and abundant fauna due to the variety of habitats present in the area.

  • Vertebrates: Approximately 2,000 vertebrate species have been recorded in the park, representing around 66% of Bolivia’s vertebrates and 3.7% globally.
  • Mammals: About 270 mammal species have been identified in the park. Notable among them are the Andean bear (jucumari), Andean cat, puma, jaguar, tigrillo, taruca or Andean deer, peccary, marsh deer, otter, and a variety of monkeys including spider monkeys, capuchins, howler monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. An endemic rodent species called Akodon dayi has also been discovered, and recently, a new species of primate from the Callicebus genus, Callicebus aureipalatii, has been established.
  • Birds: The park hosts a rich avifauna, with over 1,250 different species, representing about 83% of the country’s bird species. Notable birds include the scarlet macaw, eight species of macaws, tyrant flycatchers, crested eagle, Andean condor, harpy eagle, and several endangered species like the Grallaria erythrotis, which is endemic to the region. The park is known for being a place where large flocks of macaws and parrots can be observed, with more than 700 individuals gathering in mixed groups of different species.
  • Amphibians: Madidi is home to around 213 amphibian species, representing approximately 85% of the country’s amphibians. It is estimated that there are more than 30 endemic species in the park.
  • Reptiles: Approximately 204 reptile species have been recorded in the park, accounting for about 70% of the country’s reptiles. Species such as boas, anacondas, snakes, large lizards, and aquatic and terrestrial turtles are found, many of which are threatened due to subsistence hunting, leather production, and the pet trade.
  • Fish: The park is home to about 496 fish species, representing approximately 51% of the country’s ichthyofauna.

Furthermore, the park hosts a great diversity of insects, being home to over 120,000 different insect species, making it the top-ranking location in terms of diversity and number of species globally.

Habitats and Representative Ecosystems

Madidi is characterized by its diversity of ecosystems, including Andean cloud forests, tropical jungles, savannas, and wetlands, each with its own characteristic flora and fauna.

Human Settlements in the Park

Within the protected area, there are 46 communities settled, belonging to various ethnicities and family groups. These communities have diverse origins, including Tacana, Leco, Quechua, Aymara, Chama, Maropa, and T’simanes, who have historically inhabited the area. Some of the communities present in the park are:

To the north: Asariamas, Suyo Suyo, Buena Vista, Raviana or Santa Elena, Los Altos, Altuncama, Mamacona, Fátima, Santa Teresa, Machua, Tigri Rumy, and Cruz Pata. To the south: Santa Catalina, San Pedro, Atén, Suturi, Puchahui, and Huaratumo. To the east: Curiza and Chipilusani. To the west: Santa Cruz del Valle Ameno and Mohima.

These local communities have a close relationship with the park’s natural environment and play an important role in the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. Their presence adds a unique cultural and traditional element to the experience of visiting the park. Additionally, the local crafts produced by these communities provide an excellent way to support the local economy and value their cultural heritage.

Main Attractions of Madidi National Park

Tuichi, Beni, and Tequeje Rivers

These rivers are true natural gems that traverse the Madidi National Park. They offer the opportunity to enjoy beautiful river landscapes, engage in activities such as kayaking or sport fishing, and appreciate the aquatic biodiversity and birds that inhabit their shores.

Cañón de Bala (Bala Canyon)

Bala Canyon is a stunning gorge located in the park. Its towering rock walls and the force of the river that runs through it create a spectacular landscape. It’s an ideal place for hikes and to admire the natural beauty of the region.

Parabal de Caquiaguara

This archaeological site hosts ancient petroglyphs and rock paintings. It provides a window into the past, where one can appreciate the artistic expressions of ancient cultures that inhabited the area. It is an attraction for enthusiasts of archaeology and history.

Trekking Trails within the Jungle

The park features a network of well-preserved trails that allow visitors to venture into the jungle and explore its lush flora and fauna. These trails provide the opportunity to observe various species of birds, mammals, and plants, and to enjoy the serenity and natural beauty of the forest.

Laguna Santa Rosa y laguna Chalalán (Lake Santa Rosa and Chalalán Lake)

These lakes are true hidden treasures in the heart of the park. They offer a tranquil and beautiful setting surrounded by lush vegetation. Visitors can take boat rides, observe waterfowl, and enjoy the peace and serenity of the environment.

Pampas del Heat

The Pampas del Heat are extensive flooded plains that host a rich diversity of wildlife. Exciting river safaris can be undertaken here to observe caimans, anacondas, waterfowl, and other animals characteristic of wetland areas.

Cascada Ticucha (Ticucha Waterfall)

This beautiful waterfall is a perfect spot to enjoy nature and refresh in its crystal-clear waters. Its jungle surroundings and the relaxing sound of water create a tranquil and revitalizing atmosphere.

Nevados de Puina (Puina snow-capped mountains)

The Nevados de Puina are impressive snow-covered mountain formations. They offer breathtaking panoramic views and the opportunity to engage in activities such as hiking, mountaineering, and observing high-altitude flora and fauna.

Azariamas Dry Forests

These dry forests are a unique ecosystem within the park, with vegetation adapted to arid conditions. They offer a contrasting landscape and the possibility to observe flora and fauna species characteristic of this type of forest.

Indigenous Originario Communities

Indigenous communities like San Miguel del Bala, Villa Alcira, and San José de Uchupiamonas provide an opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of local populations. Visitors can engage in cultural activities, taste traditional cuisine, and experience the hospitality of these communities.

Petroglyphs of Beo

The Petroglyphs of Beo are a fascinating archaeological site located within Madidi National Park. These ancient rock inscriptions offer a glimpse into the past and reveal the presence of ancestral cultures in the region. Exploring this site allows for an appreciation of the art and history of these ancient civilizations.

Trekking Trails within the Jungle

The network of well-maintained trails allows visitors to delve into the jungle and explore its lush beauty. These trails take you through dense vegetation and provide the opportunity to closely observe native flora and fauna. Walking these trails is an immersive experience in the jungle, where you can discover the diversity of wildlife and marvel at the natural beauty surrounding you.

Community Festivals and Traditional Cuisine

Local community festivities and traditional celebrations offer a chance to immerse yourself in culture and enjoy authentic experiences. Additionally, you can savor delicious traditional cuisine that offers unique dishes and flavors reflecting the cultural richness and connection with the region’s nature.

Culture and Local Communities

Indigenous Peoples and Their Traditions

Madidi is home to several indigenous groups that have lived in harmony with nature for centuries. Their rich culture and traditions add a unique element to the experience of visiting the park.

Local Crafts and Cuisine

Local crafts made by indigenous communities are an excellent way to support the local economy. Additionally, local food, prepared with fresh jungle ingredients, offers unique and unforgettable flavors.

Community Ecotourism Programs

Participating in a community ecotourism program can provide an enriching experience, allowing visitors to learn about local traditions and contribute to park conservation efforts.

Tips for Visitors and Visitor Guidelines

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Madidi is during the dry season, between April and October, when the trails are less muddy and wildlife observation is easier.

What to Bring

It’s essential to bring appropriate clothing for the tropical climate, insect repellent, sunscreen, hiking boots, and a camera to capture the incredible beauty of the park.


Madidi offers a variety of accommodation options and ecolodges that provide visitors with the opportunity to experience the beauty and tranquility of the Amazon jungle. Some of the highlighted accommodations and ecolodges in the area include:

Chalalán Ecolodge

Located on the shores of Chalalán Lake, this ecolodge offers a unique jungle experience. Its traditional cabins built with local materials allow you to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy activities like hiking, birdwatching, and canoe rides.

San Miguel del Bala Lodge

This community-run lodge, managed by the indigenous community of San Miguel del Bala, offers an authentic cultural experience. Here, you can stay in cozy cabins, participate in community activities, and learn about the traditions and worldview of the community.

Madidi Jungle Ecolodge

Situated in the community of San José de Uchupiamonas, this ecolodge allows you to explore the jungle and learn about the park’s biodiversity. Its cabins are designed with sustainable materials and focus on conservation and responsible tourism.

Sadiri Lodge

This lodge is located in a prime location near the Madidi River, surrounded by lush vegetation and wildlife. It offers comfortable accommodation and activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and visits to local communities, providing an enriching experience in the Amazon jungle.
These accommodations and ecolodges are committed to environmental conservation and the local community, offering visitors a unique experience in Madidi National Park. Each has its own focus and special features, but they all share a connection with nature and the opportunity to explore and enjoy this natural treasure.

Park Rules and Regulations

It’s important to respect the park’s rules to ensure the conservation of its rich biodiversity. This includes not feeding the animals, staying on designated trails, and not littering.

Threats and Conservation

Conservation Challenges

Like many natural parks, Madidi faces challenges including deforestation and climate change that threaten its biodiversity. It is the responsibility of all visitors to help protect this natural paradise for future generations.

Conservation Efforts and Protection

Despite the challenges, ongoing conservation efforts exist to protect and preserve Madidi. These include research programs, patrolling, and sustainable management of natural resources.

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