- 1 Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve: Key Information
- 2 Geography
- 3 Biodiversity of Tariquía
- 4 Tourist Attractions
- 5 Recommended Activities
- 6 Importance of Tariquía Conservation: Present and Future Risks
- 7 Visitor’s Recommendations Guide
- 8 Photo Gallery
Feel inspired to explore one of the best-preserved protected areas in Bolivia: the Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve, known in Spanish as "Reserva Nacional de Flora y Fauna de Tariquía". This biodiversity paradise offers unforgettable nature, wildlife, and flora, as well as impressive tourist attractions.
Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve: Key Information
Located in the southwest of the Tarija department in Bolivia, the area of the Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve spans various provinces, including Arce, Cercado, Burnet O’Connor, and Gran Chaco. It involves the municipalities of Padcaya, Tarija, Entre Ríos, and Caraparí, all of which are part of this vast protected area.
The geographical coordinates of the reference quadrant are:
- South Latitude: 21° 45′ 17.2″ to 22° 20′ 11.3″
- West Longitude: 64° 36′ 10.6″ to 64° 05′ 13.1″
History and Establishment of the Reserve
Established on August 2nd, 1989, the Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve is one of Bolivia’s most significant protected spaces. Its establishment took place through Supreme Decree No. 22277 in 1989 and was later solidified under Law No. 1328 on April 23rd, 1992, with the management category of Flora and Fauna National Reserve, equivalent to a Wildlife Reserve according to the General Regulation of Protected Areas (RAP).
These legal measures granted it a special status and official protection to safeguard its rich biodiversity and maintain ecological harmony in the region. Since then, the place has been an invaluable refuge for numerous species of plants and animals, and a captivating destination for nature and conservation enthusiasts.
It was established with clear and fundamental objectives for the conservation and protection of the Andean Yungas ecosystem, specifically the Cloud Forest. Among its main goals are:
- Biodiversity Conservation: The reserve’s primary objective is to protect the diversity of plant and animal species that inhabit the Andean Yungas ecosystem. As a zone rich in flora and fauna, the aim is to preserve and maintain endemic and threatened species, as well as promote the recovery of endangered species.
- Hydrological Function: Tariquía plays a crucial role in the production and purification of water for the Bermejo and Grande de Tarija rivers. By conserving the forested areas and aquatic systems within the protected boundaries, the availability of freshwater is ensured for both human use and maintaining the balance of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
- Economic and Sustainable Functions: In addition to its ecological importance, the reserve has valuable economic functions. It promotes responsible and sustainable tourism, generating income and employment opportunities for local communities offering tourism and accommodation services. This tourism activity is carried out with a conservation focus, avoiding harm to the natural environment and respecting current regulations.
- Ecological Fund Protection: It acts as an "ecological fund," helping to maintain ecosystem stability and the environmental services it provides. These services include local climate regulation, protection against floods and landslides, and mitigation of the effects of climate change.
Total Protected Area
According to the Creation Decree, the total area of the Tariquía National Reserve is 246,870 hectares. According to digital Geographic Information System (GIS) records, the area is 246,608 hectares.
The physiography of the Tariquía Reserve is characterized by its diversity of landscapes and reliefs. The region encompasses two distinct physiographic provinces:
- Subandean: This physiographic province is located to the east of the reserve and is characterized by the presence of mountain ranges, hills, plains, plateaus, and foothills. The altitude range varies from approximately 500 meters above sea level (masl) in the Cajón sector to higher altitudes as you move westward.
- Eastern Cordillera: This physiographic unit is found to the west of the area and displays a more dissected and mountainous relief. Here, the landscape is dominated by mountains, hill ranges, plains, and valleys at higher altitudes compared to the Subandean region. Elevations reach up to 3,300 masl at the summit of the Escalera ridge.
The combination of these two physiographic provinces provides a variety of habitats and microclimates, contributing to the richness of its biodiversity. Deep valleys, rugged mountains, and diverse landscapes make it a unique place for nature and conservation enthusiasts. The various ecosystems present in this region offer a sanctuary for numerous plant and animal species, making it an ideal place to explore and appreciate Bolivia’s natural beauty.
It is part of the Río de La Plata Watershed and is located within the basins of the Tarija and Orosas Rivers. This geographical situation makes it a zone of great importance for regional hydrology.
Within its boundaries, there is a diverse hydrographic network of rivers and tributaries that contribute to the flow and availability of water in the region. Some of the most prominent rivers and tributaries are:
- Tarija River: This river is one of the main water bodies in the area and crosses the reserve, providing essential water resources for biodiversity and local communities.
- Chiquiaca, Salinas, and Nogal Rivers: These are tributaries of the Tarija River that contribute to the flow and water richness of the region.
- Bermejo River: Another significant river that passes through the flora and fauna reserve is the Bermejo River, which is also part of the Río de La Plata Watershed. The Bermejo River is an important water resource in the region, and its basin includes various tributaries such as the Orozas, Emborzú, and Salados Rivers, among others.
These rivers and tributaries play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity, as they provide aquatic habitats for various species of animals and plants.
The area has a climate characterized by two distinct seasons:
- Rainy Season: Beginning from November to December and extending until March to April. During this period, the reserve experiences a significant increase in precipitation, contributing to the blooming of flora and the increase in biodiversity. Rivers and streams fill with water, and vegetation becomes more lush.
- Dry Season: Present from May to September. During this season, precipitation decreases considerably, and the climate becomes drier and sunnier. This time can be an excellent opportunity for visits, as the weather conditions are more stable and outdoor activities are more comfortable.
Precipitation varies depending on the location within the protected area. In the Subandean region, precipitation fluctuates between 1,000 and 2,200 mm, contributing to the presence of humid forests and abundant vegetation. In the Eastern Cordillera, precipitation is lower, around 600 to 800 mm, resulting in drier and more mountainous landscapes.
Temperatures range from 13°C to 23°C on average. The warmest months are December and January, while the coldest months are June and July.
Biodiversity of Tariquía
The ecoregions present in Tariquía are the Tucuman-Bolivian Forest and the Inter-Andean Dry Forests.
- Tucuman-Bolivian Forest: This ecoregion is characterized by the presence of a semi-evergreen forest and is typical of the Yungas. Within this protected area, the Tucuman-Bolivian Forest manifests its rich plant species diversity. Prominent botanical families in this ecosystem include Lauraceae and Myrtaceae. The abundant and diverse vegetation makes this forest an essential refuge for a wide variety of flora and fauna, including many endemic and endangered species.
- Inter-Andean Dry Forests: It is also represented in different zones of the protected area. It is characterized by a drier climate compared to the Tucuman-Bolivian Forest. Here, there are forests with adaptations to survive in drier conditions. Despite lower amounts of precipitation, the Inter-Andean Dry Forests also host an interesting variety of plant and animal species adapted to these specific conditions.
The coexistence of these two ecoregions within the Tariquía National Reserve contributes to the richness and diversity of the biodiversity present in the protected area. Both ecoregions offer unique and valuable habitats for the conservation of flora and fauna, making it a privileged natural space in Bolivia. Visitors who venture to explore this biodiversity paradise can admire and enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of these protected ecosystems.
With a total of 609 plant species belonging to 135 families and 382 genera. Among the most common botanical families present in the reserve are legumes, myrtles, laurels, and soapberries.
In areas near the Tarija River, tree vegetation predominates and is characterized by reaching heights of 20 to 25 meters in the forest canopy. There are emergent trees that rise even higher, exceeding 30 meters in height. This lush and diverse vegetation is part of the Tucuman-Bolivian Forest ecoregion present in the region.
The semi-evergreen forest of the Tucuman-Bolivian Forest harbors species typical of the Yungas, with a notable presence of plants belonging to the Lauraceae and Myrtaceae families. These botanical families are essential for the ecosystem’s structure and function, providing food and shelter for various animal species and contributing to the overall biodiversity of the area.
It hosts a rich and diverse fauna composed of various animal species. To date, approximately 867 species have been recorded, highlighting the importance of this protected area for biodiversity conservation in Bolivia.
- Mammals: 62 species of mammals have been recorded, including a variety of terrestrial and flying mammals. These include various species of bats, monkeys, felines like jaguars and pumas, and other emblematic mammals of the region.
- Birds: Especially rich in avifauna, with a record of 242 bird species. Birdwatchers will find an ornithological paradise, with a variety of species such as toucans, parrots, hummingbirds, and many other native and migratory birds.
- Reptiles: 19 species of reptiles, including snakes, lizards, and turtles. These animals occupy diverse habitats and contribute to the ecosystem’s biodiversity.
- Amphibians: 28 species of amphibians have been recorded. Amphibians play an important role in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and are key indicators of environmental health.
- Fish: There is a diversity of aquatic ecosystems, which has allowed the existence of 64 fish species in its rivers and streams.
Among the species of fauna present in the protected area, there are several that are threatened in the country, highlighting the importance of their protection and conservation. Some of these threatened species include:
- Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus): Also known as the Andean bear, this species is emblematic of the region and is endangered.
- Puma (Felis concolor): The majestic and carnivorous puma is also threatened in Bolivia due to habitat loss and conflicts with humans.
- Andean Deer (Hippocamelus antisiensis): This deer species is considered vulnerable and is at risk due to hunting and habitat degradation.
- Jaguar (Panthera onca): The jaguar, one of the most iconic large felines in the Americas, is endangered due to hunting and habitat loss.
- Armadillo (Dasypodidae): Some of its species are threatened due to hunting and illegal trade.
- White-Lipped Peccary (Tayassu tajacu): This peccary is threatened due to hunting and habitat loss.
- Black-Capped Capuchin Monkey (Sapajus apella): This primate, known as the capuchin monkey, faces threats due to habitat destruction and hunting.
These tourist activities and points of interest within Tariquía allow visitors to immerse themselves in the culture and lifestyle of local communities while supporting the region’s sustainable economy. The combination of nature tourism, ecotourism, and adventure with participation in cultural activities enriches travelers’ experiences and contributes to the conservation of the reserve and its natural and cultural environment.
In this canton, the communities of Los Campos, Santa Clara, La Misión de Salinas, and Lagunillas offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy unique experiences in contact with nature and local culture.
- Horseback Riding: Tourists can delight in horseback rides through the beautiful landscapes offered by the area. This activity allows exploration of the surroundings and enjoyment of the natural beauty in a relaxed and authentic manner.
- Bird Watching: The rich birdlife of the reserve offers rewarding experiences for birdwatchers. The diversity of bird species, including some rare and threatened ones, makes bird watching an exciting and enriching activity.
- Vejuco Crafts: Local communities have unique craft skills, and one notable craft is the creation of vejuco crafts. These handmade creations showcase the tradition and talent of local artisans and can be a beautiful souvenir from the trip.
- Beekeeping and Bee Products: Another activity that visitors can enjoy is learning about the process of beekeeping and other bee-derived products. This provides a valuable opportunity to learn about local beekeeping practices and the importance of bees in ecological balance.
A perfect place for those who wish to relax and connect with nature. Visitors can camp at Sidras and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the surroundings. Moreover, walking through the region allows you to appreciate the unique landscapes that make it a distinctive destination.
Salinas is another interesting place to visit within the reserve. Here, tourists can explore and learn more about salt production and the importance of this natural resource in the region.
La Cueva (Cave)
Visiting La Cueva is an exciting experience. Explorers can venture into natural caves and discover the fascinating geology of the area, as well as possibly encounter the wildlife that inhabits these underground spaces.
This canyon along the Grande de Tarija River offers breathtaking landscapes that captivate visitors’ attention. Additionally, it is an excellent spot to observe fish species such as robal and dorado, adding to the diversity of fauna present in the reserve.
Touristic activities that allow visitors to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty and diversity of the protected area are promoted. Among the permitted activities are:
Bird and Mammal Watching
Throughout the region, bird and mammal watching can be enjoyed, as it hosts a wide variety of species that call these natural habitats home.
Hiking and Trekking
Tourists can take hikes on authorized trails, enabling them to explore and appreciate the natural richness of the reserve. Additionally, the opportunity to camp in designated areas is offered to enjoy the experience of sleeping under the starry sky.
Bathing and Diving
Tourists can enjoy refreshing baths in waterfalls and natural pools, providing a relaxing and unique experience amid nature. For those interested in diving, some areas may offer this activity.
Adventure enthusiasts can traverse the area on mountain bikes, enjoying exciting routes and panoramic landscapes.
For those seeking challenges, mountaineering offers the possibility to conquer heights, providing spectacular views from the summits.
The rivers offer opportunities for canoeing, allowing visitors to enjoy exciting water journeys.
A different way to explore the protected area and see it from a different perspective, allowing for faster movement while gaining another viewpoint of the fauna and flora while horseback riding.
Nature Photography and Videography
Photography and video enthusiasts can capture magnificent landscapes, wildlife, and flora, creating unforgettable memories of their visit.
Participation in Local Festivals and Fairs
On certain occasions, exceptions may be made to allow visitors to enjoy local festivals and fairs, providing an opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture and folklore of the region.
Importance of Tariquía Conservation: Present and Future Risks
The Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve has significant potential for the development of wildlife management programs that benefit the entire region. Its designation as a protected area makes it invaluable for conserving genetic resources and preserving unique species.
Despite its ecological value, Tariquía also faces various threats that endanger its conservation status. The expansion of agricultural and livestock frontiers and deforestation on steep slopes, as well as logging, have led to habitat degradation. Additionally, the presence of cattle, sheep, and goats in forested areas impacts biodiversity and ecosystem quality.
Another challenge is the implementation of unregulated tourism programs. While tourism can be a significant source of income for the local community, unchecked development can negatively affect ecosystem stability and the environmental quality of the protected area.
Exploitation of Hydrocarbons
One of the most controversial topics is the hydrocarbon exploitation within the reserve. The signing of contracts for the exploration and exploitation of natural gas has generated protests and concerns among local residents and conservation organizations. Although promises have been made that these activities will not take place, recent reports indicate that the risk still persists.
During the presidency of Evo Morales in 2018, contracts were signed for hydrocarbon exploitation in the areas of San Telmo and Astillero, both located within the Tariquía protected area. This decision sparked protests from local residents and the Civic Committee of Tarija, who sought to protect this valuable natural sanctuary.
In response to the demands of the local communities and social pressure, the government of Jeanine Áñez was urged to cancel the contracts for hydrocarbon exploration in Tariquía. In 2020, the Minister of Hydrocarbons, Víctor Hugo Zamora, stated that there would be no exploration or exploitation of natural gas in the reserve.
However, in May 2022, it was reported that machinery had entered the Tariquía Reserve to initiate hydrocarbon exploitation activities. This report was confirmed by a deputy from the ruling party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). The news raised concerns and questions about the enforcement of protection and conservation measures in this important protected area.
Visitor’s Recommendations Guide
How to Get There
Accessibility to the Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve can be challenging due to its topographical features and lack of vehicular roads within. Nevertheless, there are main routes through which it is possible to access:
- From Tarija to Emborozú: This route offers the possibility to enter the reserve through places known as Sidras or Bermejo, located in the Cajón region. Access from Tarija, the nearest city, may involve a car journey or transportation to the vicinity of Emborozú, followed by paths or trails further into the reserve.
It’s important to note that due to the lack of vehicular roads, being prepared to walk or use non-motorized means of transportation once inside the reserve is necessary.
The complexity of access is one of the reasons why Tariquía remains one of Bolivia’s best-kept treasures, as it has helped maintain its biodiversity and natural beauty in a relatively intact state.
Best Time to Visit
To enjoy a pleasant visit, it’s recommended to visit during the dry season, which lasts from May to September. During this period, rainfall is lower, allowing for outdoor activities to be more comfortable and for enjoying drier and sunnier landscapes. The decrease in rainfall during this season makes tourist activities easier and offers the opportunity to observe wildlife more easily, as many animals tend to gather near water sources.
Basic Visitor’s Kit
Bringing water, sunscreen, appropriate clothing, and always respecting nature are some of the recommendations to fully enjoy your visit.
Prices / Fees
The entrance fee to the Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve varies based on the visitor’s category:
- Foreigner: The entrance fee is 80 Bolivianos.
- National: The entrance fee is 40 Bolivianos.
- Student: The entrance fee is 15 Bolivianos.
Visitors looking to enjoy nature tourism, ecotourism, and adventure will find a unique and diverse natural environment to explore. From lush flora and fauna to stunning mountain landscapes and diverse ecosystems, the Tariquía Reserve offers an unforgettable experience for those who venture into this protected area in Bolivia.
Regulations and Visitor’s Guides
It’s important to follow the regulations to protect the reserve’s biodiversity and ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.
Accommodation and Services around the Reserve
There are several accommodation and service options in the surrounding areas.
- Tarija: The capital city of the department of the same name is one of the main towns near the park. In this city, tourists can find a wide range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to budget hostels and inns. Tarija also offers a variety of restaurants and cafes serving delicious local cuisine and international dishes. Visitors can take the opportunity to stock up on supplies and equipment for their adventures in the reserve.
- Caraparí: Located at the southern end of the Tarija department, it’s also nearby. This town offers simple and comfortable accommodation options for those seeking a quieter experience away from the city. In Caraparí, tourists can learn more about the local culture and enjoy the hospitality of its residents.
It’s important to note that while there are accommodation and service options in these nearby towns, it’s essential to respect the nature and biodiversity of the reserve. Visitors should follow the regulations and visitor’s guides to ensure a safe and sustainable experience in this valuable natural sanctuary of Bolivia.