Covering 1,523,000 ha, it is one of the most intact parks in the Amazon basin, situated in a transition zone where the Amazonian rain forests and the dry forest and savannas of Cerrado meet, at an altitude ranging from 200 to almost 1,000 meters above sea level.
The region where the park is located was firstly explored in the early 1900s by Percy Fawcett, an English archaeologist/explorer who disappeared under unknown circumstances in 1925 during an expedition.
Originally named "Parque Nacional Huanchaca" at the time of its creation - June 28, 1979 - it was later renamed to honour Noel Kempff Mercado (1988), well known Biologist and pioneer of Bolivia's conservation movement murdered on site two years earlier.
In fact, in 1986 Noel Kempff Mercado and two men with him had flown into the Park and inadvertently landed at a clandestine cocaine laboratory, where they were killed by drug traffickers.
Noel Kempff Mercadonational park is one of the world's most stunningly diverse natural habitats. With seven distinct ecosystems, it boasts the largest number in any single protected area, including evergreen rainforests, palm forests, cerrado, swamps, savannahs, gallery forests, and semi-deciduous dry forests.
With a staggering diversity of plant and animal species, it is believed the park - particularly the Caparú plateau, an imposing table mountain (meseta) of Precambrian origin - inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write his famous novel "The lost world."
2075 different species of plants have been identified within its boundaries. It is also home to more than 130 species of mammals (rare river otters, river dolphins, tapirs, spider and howler monkeys, the giant armadillo, giant anteaters and endangered jaguars, including a population of black jaguars), 620 species of birds (nine species of macaws) and 127 species of amphibians and reptiles.
Impressive waterfalls are part of the national park as well, enough to mention the 88 meters tall Arcoiris Falls and the 25/45 meters tall Frederico Ahlfeld Falls among others.
For visitors, there are 2 entrances to the park with tourism facilities: Flor de Oro on the North side and Los Fierros on the South side. Flor the Oro (located on the Itenez river) is mainly reached by private aircraft - 2.5 hours fly from Santa Cruz - provably the best way to appreciate the beauty of the park and the waterfalls as well. Los Fierros option involves private aircraft and private transport 4x4 inside the park.
Tours - four to seven day program - depart from Santa Cruz de la Sierra or San Ignacio de Velasco, including lodging, three meals a day and different means of transportation. Due to the remoteness of the area plus the use of private aircrafts in most cases, prices are understandingly a bit expensive.
You are expected to behave with outermost respect towards all living organisms inside the protected area. SERNAP - Servicio Nacional de Areas Protegidas - is the institutional body that regulates all activities within Bolivia's protected areas. In any case, remember the old adage...take nothing but a picture, leave nothing but a footprint.
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in the year 2000.