- 1 Introduction to Otuquis National Park
- 2 Geographical and Climatic Features
- 3 Biodiversity in Otuquis National Park
- 4 Tourist Attractions
- 5 Recommended Activities
- 6 Tips for Visitors
- 7 Photo Gallery
Escape from the routine to explore the distinctive fauna and flora of the Otuquis National Park in Bolivia, through its lush landscapes. The vast natural park stretches across a tapestry of biological diversity, impressive landscapes, and unforgettable adventures. This guide offers a detailed insight to assist you in planning your visit to the heart of the Bolivian Pantanal.
Introduction to Otuquis National Park
The Otuquis National Park is an incredible natural area located in the southeastern region of Bolivia, representing one of the largest protected areas in the country. Known for its immense variety of species and diverse habitats, the park is a paradise for nature and adventure enthusiasts.
Situated in the southeast of the Santa Cruz department, Bolivia, the Otuquis National Park extends over the Cordillera and Germán Busch provinces, and is divided into two distinct blocks:
- Otuquis Block: This is the largest area of the park and is located to the south of the city of Puerto Suárez. It includes the municipalities of Puerto Suárez and Charagua. It is in this part where both the National Park and the Integrated Natural Management Area are located. Visitors will find a rich variety of natural habitats here, including tropical dry forests, lagoons, hills, and a great diversity of flora and fauna.
- Río Pimiento Block: This block is located to the north of the city of Puerto Suárez and is smaller in comparison to the Otuquis Block. It involves the municipalities of Puerto Suárez, Puerto Quijarro, and Carmen Rivero Tórrez. Although smaller, it also hosts interesting landscapes and unique biodiversity.
The strategic location of the park in the Bolivian Pantanal region makes it a sanctuary for nature conservation and offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in a lush and diverse natural environment. Travelers can head from the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra to the Pantanal region to access this wonderful park, where they can enjoy unforgettable adventures and observe the astonishing fauna and flora that characterize it.
The geographical coordinates of the Otuquis National Park are located in the reference quadrant between:
- South Latitude: 18° 41′ 12.85″ to 20° 9′ 41.079″
- West Longitude: 59° 30′ 20.476″ to 57° 42′ 14.857″
These coordinates delimit the extent of the park and encompass its geographic area.
Protected Area Size
According to the Decree of Creation of the Otuquis National Park, the total area is 1,005,950 hectares. According to digital GIS (Geographic Information System) records, the area is 1,022,423.531 hectares. These figures reflect a slight variation in the total protected area in the region by the Bolivian government, due to different measurement methods and updates of geographic information.
History, Creation, and Preservation of Otuquis National Park
Otuquis National Park was created on July 31, 1997, under the Spanish denomination "Parque Nacional y Área Natural de Manejo Integrado Otuquis". However, its history of conservation and protection dates back a few years earlier. Initially, it was declared an Immobilization Reserve by the PLUS of Santa Cruz through Decree No. 24124 on September 29, 1995. Subsequently, it obtained its official status as a protected area through Decree No. 24762.
Since its creation, the park has played a vital role in the preservation of the biodiversity of the Bolivian Pantanal and the protection of numerous endangered species. The Bolivian government and international organizations have worked together to ensure its conservation and promote sustainable tourism, leading to improvements in facilities and services for visitors. Over the years, it has gained popularity as a destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts, offering unique experiences in a magical and lush environment.
Objectives of the National Park and Integrated Natural Management Area
The main objectives for the creation of the protected area by Bolivian government laws, known as the National Park and Integrated Management Area in Otuquis, were as follows:
- Conservation of tropical dry forests: The park was created with the purpose of preserving and protecting the valuable tropical dry forests present in the region. These forests are considered of high priority for conservation globally due to their ecological importance and biodiversity.
- Preservation of biological and cultural diversity: Another key goal was to protect the richness of the biological and cultural diversity of the Otuquis area. This included conserving species of exceptional value, threatened species, and others typical of these ecosystems, thus ensuring their long-term survival.
- High-value tourist attraction: The aim was for the park to become a significant tourist attraction. The presence of large concentrations of waterfowl, Curichis lagoons, impressive hills, and a varied fauna of large mammals, including threatened species, makes it a fascinating destination for nature and wildlife enthusiasts.
- Protection of globally important wetlands: The Otuquis National Park hosts wetlands of great global importance and has been designated as a RAMSAR Site since December 17, 2001. This recognition highlights its value as a unique ecosystem and the need for its protection.
Regarding its management category, the Otuquis National Park was established as a combination of a National Park and an Integrated Natural Management Area. This allowed for a balance between strict conservation in certain areas and sustainable management in others, promoting responsible development of tourist and educational activities in the park.
Geographical and Climatic Features
Overview of the Landscape
It presents an impressive blend of landscapes, ranging from wet savannas and forests to lagoons and rivers. The vast wetlands of the park are part of the Pantanal system, the largest alluvial plain in the world and one of the most biodiverse ecosystems.
It is part of two distinct physiographic provinces, each with unique geological characteristics and landscapes:
- Chaco Benlana Plain Physiographic Province: This province covers a large part of the surface of the Otuquis Block and the Integrated Natural Management Area (INMA). Here, you’ll find plains, foothills (transition zones between mountains and plains), flatlands, and hills. The Chaco Benlana Plain is known for its extensive flat landscapes and a diversity of habitats, including tropical dry forests and Pantanal wetlands.
- Precambrian Shield Physiographic Province: This province covers the Río Pimiento Block and a part of the INMA in the northern sector of the Park. The Precambrian shield is characterized by the presence of mountains (ancient mountains) and foothills. These mountainous areas and transition zones provide an interesting landscape contrast compared to the flatlands of Chaco Benlana.
The hydrology in the Otuquis National Park and Integrated Natural Management Area is essentially part of the La Plata River Basin, and its main basins are the Tucavaca River and Caceres Streams. However, the highlight is the importance of wetlands within the park, such as the Otuquis marshes and the Grand Pantanal.
- Otuquis Marshes: These wetlands are a standout feature of the Otuquis National Park and the Integrated Natural Management Area (INMA). They experience the highest levels of flooding between January and March, creating a thriving aquatic environment during this season. These wetlands are fundamental to the surrounding ecosystem and are home to a great diversity of aquatic flora and fauna.
- Grand Pantanal: Another notable area within the park is the Grand Pantanal. This region experiences significant flooding from April to June, contributing to the creation of one of the most impressive wetlands in the world. The Pantanal is a unique ecosystem and vital for a wide variety of species, including waterfowl, mammals, and reptiles.
These wetlands are of great importance for the conservation and balance of the ecosystem present in the park. Together, they form a network of essential aquatic habitats for wildlife and contribute to the park’s tourist appeal.
The park has a subtropical monsoon climate, which entails distinct climatic characteristics throughout the year:
- Average Temperatures: The annual average temperature is around 25.8°C. During the hottest months, maximum temperatures can reach 40°C, creating a warm and humid climate typical of the subtropical region.
- Cold Fronts: During the cold front season, temperatures can significantly drop, reaching near 0°C in some cases. These episodes of cold weather are more common in certain months of the year and can pose challenges for visitors unprepared for colder conditions.
- Precipitation: The months from November to March experience the highest precipitation in the park, with an annual average of 1,000 mm. The Otuquis Marshes, a part of the park, have an average annual precipitation of 950 mm. Although there’s a prolonged dry season in this area, rains are abundant during the wetter months.
The varied climate in Otuquis adds an interesting component to the visiting experience. Travelers should be prepared to face both intense heat during the hottest season and occasional cold during cold fronts. The months of higher precipitation can lead to lush and vibrant landscapes in the park.
Biodiversity in Otuquis National Park
Together with the Integrated Natural Management Area (INMA), the park is located at the confluence of three ecoregions that contribute to its diversity and biological richness. These ecoregions are:
- Floodable Savannas: Within this ecoregion is the sub-ecoregion of Floodable Savannas of the Pantanal. These floodable savannas are a distinctive feature of the Bolivian Pantanal and provide essential habitat for a variety of aquatic species, birds, and mammals adapted to living in flooded areas.
- Cerrado: The sub-ecoregion of Chacoan Cerrado is present in the park. The Cerrado is a characteristic biome of Brazil but also extends to parts of Bolivia. This ecoregion is characterized by wide plains, savannas, and open woodlands, providing diverse habitat for a variety of plant and animal species.
- Chiquitano Dry Forest: Another ecoregion to which the park belongs is the Chiquitano Dry Forest. This type of forest is primarily found in the Chiquitania region of Bolivia and is characterized as a dry subtropical forest with a diversity of flora and fauna species adapted to dry and warm conditions.
The presence of these three ecoregions contributes to its biological richness and diverse landscapes. Visitors have the opportunity to explore and marvel at the variety of ecosystems offered by these ecoregions, allowing them to experience the wonderful nature of the Bolivian Pantanal and its surroundings.
Otuquis hosts a rich variety of flora species, each adapted to the different ecosystems present in the park. Among the notable species are:
- Cuchi (Astronium urundeuva): A large tree with resilient wood. Its leaves are compound, and its small white flowers are significant. It’s an important species for conservation due to its valuable wood.
- Tajibo (Tabebuia impetiginosa): Also known as lapacho, it’s a tree with spectacular pink or purple flowers. Its flowers cluster in showy inflorescences and attract a variety of pollinators.
- Verdolago (Terminalia argentesa): A tree with evergreen leaves and a grayish trunk. Its small white flowers and round edible fruits are distinct features.
- Curupaú (Anadenanthera colubrina): Also known as yopo, it’s a sacred tree for some indigenous cultures in the region. Its seeds are used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.
- Alcornoque (Tabebuia aurea): Another type of tree from the Tabebuia family, with bright yellow flowers. It’s an appreciated ornamental species in gardening.
- Cedro (Cedrela fissilis): A tree with valuable wood, known for its fragrance and resistance to insects. It’s used in construction and carpentry industries.
- Ajo-Ajo (Gallesia integrifolia): A tree found in drier areas, known for its shiny green leaves and white flowers.
- Bibosi (Ficus sp.): Ficus trees and shrubs, known for their aerial roots and symbiotic relationship with certain insects, such as pollinating wasps.
- Carandá Palm Groves (Copernicia alba): A characteristic palm species of savannas and flooded areas, known for its tall and slender trunk.
- Motacú (Attalea phalerata): Another palm species present in the park, mainly found in the floodable savannas.
These are just a few of the flora species found in Otuquis National Park. The diversity of plants and trees contributes to the beauty and richness of the ecosystem, providing habitats for various animal species and contributing to the conservation of biodiversity in the Bolivian Pantanal region.
The fauna within Otuquis National Park and INMA is quite similar to the fauna of the San Matías Pantanal area (Parker et al., 1993; Natural History Museum NKM, 1997; Natural History Museum NKM-WWF, 2000; WWF, 2002), which is a nearby region shared with similar characteristics.
Existing fauna studies in the mentioned area encompass diverse animal groups, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. The Pantanal region is renowned for its extraordinary wildlife diversity. Some of the fauna species that can be found in the Bolivian Pantanal area include:
The fauna of Otuquis National Park is surprisingly diverse and features a variety of species that call this lush environment home. Among the species inhabiting the area, some of the most notable ones include:
- Borochi: A mammal of the region, recognized for its distinctive appearance and nocturnal habits.
- Mountain dog: A small mammal species adapted to life in wooded and mountainous environments.
- American tiger, American lion, or jaguar: A feline that holds the top predator position in the region’s evolutionary scale.
- River otter: An enchanting semiaquatic mammal, also known as the giant otter, that is an adept swimmer and hunter.
- Londra: An aquatic animal, the londra (or neotropical otter) is renowned for its elegance and agility in the water.
- Anteater: A small mammal characterized by its habit of building underground burrows.
- Marsh deer: An iconic species of the region, adapted to life in wetlands.
- Bato: The large snake found in the area, being part of the diverse reptile group.
- Sicurí: A small bird of the region, known for its melodious song and vibrant colors.
- Lizard: Lizards are common in the area and play a vital role in the ecosystem balance.
- Piranhas: Piranha fish are known for their ferocity and are part of the aquatic biodiversity of the park.
Each of these species contributes to the richness of wildlife in the region, creating a vibrant and balanced ecosystem. The conservation and protection of these species are crucial to preserving the unique biodiversity of this area and ensuring that future generations can enjoy its natural beauty and magic.
Otuquis National Park offers a range of tourist attractions that captivate visitors with its natural splendor and rich biodiversity.
Laguna Cáceres and Canals (Caceres Lagoon)
This impressive lagoon, fed by the Paraguay River’s channels, creates an expansive water mirror that invites visitors for serene boat rides. During the journey, tourists can delight in magnificent landscapes, spot various bird species, and marvel at the spectacular fauna and flora inhabiting its surroundings.
These historical ruins date back to the Chaco War era and are located on Cerro Vitriones, surrounded by a fascinating forest. The nearby Corea Lagoon is the preferred habitat of yacarés (alligators), adding a touch of excitement and nature to the experience.
El Sombrerito (The Little Hat)
A rock formation resembling a hat’s crown, situated near the Quebracho estate. From its summit, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of a vast forest of carandá palm trees. Along the way, tourists may observe a diverse avifauna, including the striking red parabas.
Laguna de los Yacarés (Yacares Lagoon)
This lagoon is home to groups of tuyuyús or batos (Jabiru americana), offering a unique opportunity to observe these majestic birds in their natural environment.
Cuevas de Motacucito (Caves of Motacucito)
A hidden treasure in the park, these caves present crystal-clear waters and spectacular ancient geological formations like stalactites and stalagmites. Moreover, the presence of various fish species adds a special touch to this natural wonder.
Bañados de Otuquis (Otuquis Marshes)
The Bañados de Otuquis are a unique and fascinating ecosystem characterized by their flooded plains. This wonderful mosaic of wetlands provides a unique opportunity for nature enthusiasts to spot a great diversity of birds and mammals, including the iconic marsh deer. During a visit to this area, tourists can immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the flooded plains, observing exotic birds soaring through the skies and mammals gracefully navigating between the water and vegetation.
Serranía de Mutún (Mutún Mountains)
A geologically significant area, the Serranía de Mutún houses one of the world’s most significant concentrations of iron and magnesium. Its mineral wealth is astonishing and has drawn the attention of scientists and geology experts. Aside from its geological value, the Serranía del Mutún also offers breathtaking landscapes and a variety of flora and fauna adapted to the specific terrain conditions.
Considered the world’s largest floodplain and one of the richest ecosystems in biodiversity, the Pantanal is one of Bolivia’s most valuable protected areas.
This vast expanse of wetlands is home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna, making it a paradise for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. The Pantanal is particularly renowned for its abundance of bird species.
Hiking and Trekking Trails
Otuquis National Park offers numerous hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the natural beauty and diversity of wildlife in the park. Always remember to follow the park’s guidelines to ensure a safe and environmentally respectful visit.
Birdwatching and Wildlife Spotting
With its incredible diversity of birds and animals, **Otuquis is a paradise for nature and photography enthusiasts**. From exotic birds to impressive mammals, there’s always something to discover.
Camping and Accommodation
For the more adventurous, there are designated camping areas within the park. There is also accommodation available in nearby towns and cities for those who prefer the comfort of amenities.
Tips for Visitors
Best Time to Visit
The season with less rainfall and milder temperatures in Otuquis National Park is the dry season, which usually extends from May to September. During these months, rainfall significantly decreases, resulting in clear skies and drier conditions.
In the dry season, temperatures are typically more moderate, meaning it’s not too hot or too cold. Maximum temperatures can reach around 30°C during the day, while nighttime temperatures can drop to 15-20°C, creating a pleasant and comfortable climate for outdoor activities.
This time of year is ideal for those who prefer to avoid intense heat and heavy rains.
Accommodations Inside the Park and Nearby Lodging
In the towns near Otuquis National Park, various types of accommodations are available for visitors. Some of the main towns to consider for staying overnight include:
- Puerto Suárez: Located in southeastern Bolivia, it is one of the main gateways to Otuquis National Park and Integrated Natural Management Area. Here you’ll find a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to more budget-friendly hostels.
- Puerto Quijarro: This town is also situated in southeastern Bolivia and, like Puerto Suárez, is an option for those who want to stay close to the park.
- Puerto Busch: This settlement is located within the park itself, making it an ideal choice for those who want to be closer to nature and enjoy the park’s tranquility.
- Santa Cruz de la Sierra: If you prefer to stay in a larger city with a greater variety of accommodation options, Santa Cruz de la Sierra is an excellent choice. From here, you can plan your trip to the park and then head to the nearby towns.
Local Cuisine and Dining Places
In the towns near the park, you can enjoy authentic Bolivian cuisine. Don’t miss the opportunity to try local dishes such as saice (a type of meat stew), llajwa (spicy sauce), and salteñas (Bolivian pastries).
Getting to Otuquis National Park
To reach the park, travelers typically fly to Santa Cruz de la Sierra and then drive to the Pantanal region. Regular bus services and car rental options are available.
Santa Cruz is the most recommended starting point for accessing Otuquis National Park. From Santa Cruz, visitors can take various routes to reach the park:
- Via Puerto Suárez: From Santa Cruz, travelers can take a flight to Puerto Suárez, a city located in southeastern Bolivia, and then drive to the National Park. The road trip offers the opportunity to enjoy changing landscapes and the nature surrounding the route.
- Via Puerto Quijarro: Similar to the previous route, visitors can fly from Santa Cruz to Puerto Quijarro and continue the journey by vehicle to the park. Puerto Quijarro is another option for accessing the park from southeastern Bolivia.
- Via Puerto Busch: Once in Puerto Suárez or Puerto Quijarro, travelers should continue their journey to Puerto Busch, a settlement located within the park area. From Puerto Busch, easy access to the park’s attractions is available.
Safety and Health Precautions
It’s always important to follow safety guidelines when visiting the park. Stay on marked trails, bring enough water and sunscreen, and be cautious around wild animals. Additionally, vaccination against yellow fever and malaria is recommended before visiting the region.
Conservation Guidelines and Conduct in the Park
As a visitor, you play a crucial role in park conservation. Please follow the park rules, which include not feeding the animals, not littering, and maintaining a safe distance from wildlife.
The visitor centers of Otuquis National Park provide detailed information about the park, its trails, its fauna and flora, as well as safety and conduct regulations. Feel free to visit them for any inquiries or needs.