- 1 Overview
- 2 Ecoregions
- 3 Biodiversity: Flora and Fauna in the Park
- 4 Geography and Climate
- 5 Archaeological Sites and Historical Heritage
- 6 Tourist Activities
- 7 Practical Visitor Information
- 8 Conservation Commitment
- 9 Photo Gallery
The Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado) is one of the mightiest and most pristine places on the planet. Encompassing an area of over 15,000 square kilometers, this park offers an array of ecosystems that are seldom found in other parts of the world. This guide invites you to explore its treasures, from its lush forests to its sprawling wetlands, and assists you in planning your journey to make the most of your visit to this ecological treasure.
Located in the lowlands of eastern Bolivia, the park is situated to the north of the Santa Cruz department, Bolivia, with a small portion extending into the Beni department. Encompassing a surface area of 1,523,446 hectares (15,234.46 km²), it can be geographically pinpointed using the coordinates: 60°13′ – 61°50′ West Longitude, 13°32′ -15°06′ South Latitude.
History of Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
The history of Noel Kempff Mercado dates back to June 28, 1979, when it was initially established under the name Huanchaca National Park through Supreme Decree No. 16646. At that time, its extent covered 541,200 hectares.
However, in recognition of the significant scientific contributions of Bolivian professor Noel Kempff Mercado, its name was changed to Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. This change took place on March 4, 1988, through Law 978.
In subsequent years, the park underwent significant expansions. In 1988, by means of Supreme Decree No. 21997, its boundaries were extended to 706,000 hectares. Subsequently, in 1996, through Supreme Decree No. 24457, a final expansion was carried out, bringing its current extent to 1,523,446 hectares.
These expansion decisions reflect the acknowledgment of the ecological importance and natural richness of the park, as well as the commitment to protect and preserve its unique biodiversity. Since then, the park has become a protected area of ecological and cultural interest for local communities and international tourists in the Bolivian Amazon.
Ecological and Cultural Significance of the Park
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000, the park is renowned for both its incredible biodiversity and cultural significance to the indigenous communities residing in the area.
What sets this park apart is its extraordinary diversity of ecoregions encompassed within its vast expanse. Within its boundaries, one can encounter a broad variety of habitats, ranging from Amazonian rainforests to flooded savannas and dry forests. This rich diversity of ecosystems creates a sanctuary for numerous species of plants and animals.
Noel Kempff Mercado holds importance on both a national and international level due to its ecological and cultural value. In addition to its biodiversity, the park is also home to indigenous communities that have inhabited the area for centuries, adding a significant cultural dimension to its global importance.
The designation as a World Heritage Site in the year 2000 underscores the international recognition of its natural beauty and the importance of preserving this ecological treasure. The park offers visitors the opportunity to explore and admire the astonishing diversity of wildlife and landscapes it hosts, as well as to learn about its history and conservation.
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park hosts remarkable biological diversity, closely tied to the extraordinary array of habitats found within its territory. Situated in a climatic transition zone in the northeastern part of the Santa Cruz department, the park combines elements of the Amazon rainforest with dry forests and savannas characteristic of the Cerrado ecoregion. The park’s main habitats are grouped into five distinct units:
Highland Wet Forests
These forests are located in the higher areas of the park, characterized by higher humidity and dense vegetation. Here, large trees and a wide variety of plant and animal species can be found.
Flooded and Riparian Forests
In low-lying areas near rivers, forests that experience periodic flooding thrive. These riparian forests are of vital importance to many species of plants and animals, providing unique habitats.
In contrast to the wet forests, the park also encompasses areas of dry forests. These are found in regions with a more arid climate and are characterized by vegetation adapted to water scarcity conditions.
Savannas stretch across extensive areas of the park and are mainly composed of grasslands and scattered shrubs. These ecosystems offer important habitats for various species of birds, mammals, and reptiles.
Some parts of the park host savanna wetlands, including lagoons, swamps, and stagnant water areas. These wetlands are vital for wildlife and provide refuge for numerous aquatic species.
Noel Kempff Mercado’s value as a global biological reserve lies in its vastness and pristine condition. It safeguards key habitats like dry forests, the Cerrado, and savanna wetlands, which are rapidly disappearing in other parts of the continent due to agricultural and livestock expansion. The park plays a crucial role in conserving these ecosystems and protecting the species dependent on them.
Biodiversity: Flora and Fauna in the Park
Flora in the Park
The park is distinguished by its richness and diversity, making it an extremely interesting subject due to its endemism, adaptations, and uniqueness of certain communities. It is estimated that the park harbors approximately 4,000 species of vascular plants, showcasing the lushness of its vegetation.
Within the park, various species of orchids, bromeliads, passionflowers, heliconias, arums, and palms can be found, among many others. Prominent species include those of economic significance, such as the Mara, Oak, Cedar (Cedrela odorata), and rubber trees. A wide variety of palm species, like açaí or palmetto, are also observed. Additionally, the park hosts a diverse array of orchid species and typical plant communities of the phytogeographical province of the Cerrado.
Fauna: Notable and Endemic Species
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park harbors an impressive diversity of wildlife, encompassing a remarkable variety of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, and invertebrate species.
To date, around 149 mammal species have been recorded in the park, among which stand out the jaguar, puma, tapir, capybara, spider monkey, deer, and rare species such as the kinkajou, anteater, brocket deer, marsh deer, river dolphin, otter, and many more. The park offers protection to a total of 33 mammal species.
Approximately 677 bird species have been recorded in the park, representing about 20% of South America’s bird species. However, this number is expected to increase as migratory and occasional visiting birds are added to the list. Common birds include guans, macaws, parrots, toucans, hawks, partridges, ducks, herons, and kingfishers, among many others. Additionally, small endemic birds of the region, like the Sporophila nigrorufa, as well as rare and prominent birds like the harpy eagle and piyo, can be found. The park is home to a total of 29 species classified as threatened or endangered.
Approximately 74 reptile species are recorded in the park, including the black caiman, land turtle, anaconda, side-necked turtle, rattlesnake, and many more. Recent studies have revealed seven new records for the country, including three species that are new to science and therefore endemic to the region.
Amphibians and Fish
The park boasts a total of 62 amphibian species, all belonging to the anura order, which includes frogs and toads. As for fish, they are the least studied vertebrates in the area, but their importance lies in the dependence of the human population on this resource as a food source. A recent expedition has recorded a total of 250 fish species in the park.
Invertebrates are the most abundant organisms in the park but are also the least studied animal groups. A list of 347 insect species has been recorded in the park, highlighting the diversity and relevance of these invertebrates within the park’s ecosystem.
The fauna of Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is extraordinary and provides a vital refuge for numerous species, some of which are endemic to the region. Conserving this ecosystem is essential to ensure the survival of these species and the balance of the entire park’s ecosystem.
Threats to Biodiversity
Despite its richness, the park faces significant threats, mainly deforestation and poaching. Measures are being taken to protect and conserve the biodiversity of this precious ecosystem.
Geography and Climate
Overview of Geographic Features
The park is renowned for its impressive plateaus over 600 meters high, known as Caparuch and Huanchaca, which provide breathtaking panoramic views of the park.
Situated within the Amazon River macrobasin, an extensive hydrographic network covering a large part of South America, the park lies at the confluence of several river basins, with the Paragua and Verde rivers being the main ones.
Within the protected area, there are sub-basins of great importance. One of these is the Pauserna River, which is a tributary of the Verde River. These rivers play a crucial role in the park’s hydrological system, providing water and sustenance to the ecosystems and wildlife that depend on them. In turn, the Verde River is a tributary of the Iténez River, also known as the Guaporé River, which forms part of the border between Bolivia and Brazil.
These basins and sub-basins within the national park are vital for the ecological balance and biodiversity of the region. The interconnectedness of the rivers and their water flow contribute to a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, creating a habitat suitable for numerous plant and animal species.
Climate in the Park
The climate in the park is tropical and warm. Temperatures are generally high throughout the year, with distinct dry and wet seasons.
The average annual rainfall in the park ranges between 1,500 and 2,000 mm. During the dry season, from April to September, rainfall is less frequent and temperatures can be higher. In contrast, the wet season, which spans from October to March, experiences more intense and frequent rainfall, contributing to the maintenance of wet ecosystems and favoring the park’s biodiversity.
This warm climate and seasonal variations in precipitation have a significant impact on the park’s ecosystems and the wildlife that inhabits them. It’s important to consider the climatic conditions when planning a visit to Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, especially to make the most of outdoor activities and ensure a safe and comfortable experience.
Diversity of Present Ecosystems
From humid Amazonian forests to flooded savannas and dry forests, the park offers an impressive diversity of ecosystems in one place.
Archaeological Sites and Historical Heritage
The Piso Firme region, where Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is located, houses historically significant archaeological sites. These sites bear witness to ancient civilizations and offer a fascinating glimpse into the cultures that inhabited the area in the past.
In addition to archaeological sites, the park’s influence area contains places of great historical value, such as the colonial churches of the Jesuit Missions of Bolivia. These missions, located in the towns of San Ignacio de Velasco, Concepción, Guarayos, and San Javier, are a testament to the cultural and religious legacy of colonial times in Bolivia.
Exploring these archaeological sites and enjoying the historical heritage of the region provides an enriching experience that connects us with the past and helps us better understand Bolivia’s cultural richness.
It’s important to emphasize that when visiting and exploring these sites, it’s essential to do so respectfully and in accordance with the regulations set for their preservation. The care and conservation of these archaeological and heritage treasures are everyone’s responsibility to ensure their enjoyment and study for future generations.
Population in the Protected Area
There are no permanent settlements within the park. The park is characterized by its pristine state and preservation as a natural sanctuary. However, in the park’s influence area, various communities interact with the natural environment.
In the influence area, Chiquitano and Guarasugwe indigenous communities can be found, preserving ancestral traditions and ways of life. There are also peasant communities in the area, relying on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods.
Across the river, on the border with Brazil, there are Brazilian communities consisting of farmers and traders. These communities also have historical and cultural ties to the region.
In the western part of the national park, on the other side of the Paraguá River, lies the indigenous community of Piso Firme. This community has a close relationship with the park and its natural surroundings, reflecting the historical and cultural connection between local inhabitants and the region’s biodiversity.
Catarata Ahlfeld (Ahlfeld Waterfall)
The Ahlfeld Waterfall is one of the impressive natural attractions of Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. Located amidst lush vegetation, this waterfall offers a spectacular view and a unique experience in contact with nature. The water falls forcefully from above, creating a fascinating and energetically charged spectacle.
The Bay is another prominent spot in Noel Kempff. This area provides the opportunity to enjoy panoramic views and the tranquility of a water environment. With its scenic beauty and calm waters, the Bay invites relaxation and connection with pristine nature.
Catarata Arco Iris (Rainbow Waterfall)
The Rainbow Waterfall is another natural treasure of the park. With its evocative name, this waterfall presents a display of colors and beauty. The falling water creates a rainbow amid the mist, crafting a magical and captivating scene for visitors.
Laguna Bella Vista (Bella Vista Lagoon)
Bella Vista Lagoon is a place of great beauty and charm. With its crystal-clear water and surrounded by stunning landscapes, this lagoon invites contemplation and a connection with nature. It’s an ideal spot for enjoying water activities and appreciating the diversity of flora and fauna that surrounds it.
Río Itenez (Itenez River)
The Itenez River is a significant watercourse that cuts through Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. Its waters meander through the lush vegetation, providing a vital habitat for many species of flora and fauna. In addition to its scenic beauty, the river offers opportunities for navigation and wildlife observation within its riverine environment.
Practical Visitor Information
Entry Requirements and Park Regulations
It is essential for visitors to become familiar with the park regulations, including entry requirements and code of conduct rules, to ensure sustainable tourism practices.
Best Time to Visit
Given the park’s tropical climate, with a dry season from April to September and a wet season from October to March, the best time to visit is during the dry season.
Accommodation and Dining Options
The park offers limited accommodation facilities, as well as various camping options for adventurous visitors. Visitors are recommended to bring sufficient food and water.
Guided Services and Available Tours
Guided services and tours are available to help you explore the park safely and educatively, ensuring that you make the most of your visit.
Current Conservation Strategies
Measures are being taken to protect and conserve the biodiversity of this precious ecosystem, including the implementation of research and monitoring programs.
Involvement of the Local Community
The local community plays a crucial role in park protection, and there are several ongoing initiatives to engage the community in conservation efforts.
How Visitors Can Help
Visitors can contribute to park conservation through donations, participation in volunteer programs, and simply by respecting the park’s rules and regulations.
Enjoy a selection of images that showcase the incredible biodiversity found in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. Admire the breathtaking panoramic views of the park, with its unparalleled natural landscapes.