On the eastern bank of the Beni river, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia - affectionately called just Rurre - is your best gateway to the Bolivian Amazon, particularly to Madidi national park.
Rurre is basically the jumping off point to visit the Amazon rainforest (located to the South and West) as well as the Pampas (to the NE), in the area of Yacuma river.
Who knows?...you may even be able to swim with pink river dolphins, they love interacting with humans.
The town of Rurrenabaque is located in the North of Bolivia, in José Ballivián Province, Beni Department.
Its name comes from the Tacana language, meaning approximately "duck lagoon". The Tacana was one of the first tribes to settle along the Beni and Tuichi rivers, dating back to pre-Incan times. This nomadic group acted as a trade partner between Andean cities and Amazonian villages.
According to some historians, there were three unsuccessful attemps to conquer the Tacana and other Amazonian tribes in the region, but the jungle terrain protected them against the more powerful army of the Incas.
With the arrival of Spanish conquerors, they continued to live in relative peace, trading mainly wild chocolate with them. After several centuries of domination, Bolivia won its independence in 1825.
The Tacana people managed to survive, but times of hardship came in the late 1800s with the "rubber boom" (visit Manaus for more info about it), when the Tacana were forced to work in the rubber farms established by the Government, basically slave work that nearly wiped them out entirely.
They survived other hardships during XX century, namely special interest groups in foresting and mining in the region, but they slowly gained a voice and were granted a large territory by the Bolivian Government in the 1990s.
At present time, the Tacana community runs and ecolodge - San Miguel del Bala - and proud to be honorary park rangers of Madidi National Park, another proof of their capacity to adapt to the ever-changing world around them.
Even though small, Rurrenabaque has all you need, from restaurant options to bars for a night drink, including happy hour in the Butterfly Pub, from 7 to 8pm. You have Internet access and ATMs machines as well, but you are better off by carrying some cash with you, whether in local currency or dollars/euros to exchange onsite.
Coming from abroad, you are likely to land at El Alto Airport (La Paz) or Viru Viru Intl. Airport (Santa Cruz de la Sierra). You can get a connection flight through Amaszonas Airlines or TAM, for instance, and get to Rurrenabaque in just under one hour - from La Paz. To learn more about the country's main landing strips please visit Airports in Bolivia.
Alternatively, if you wish to travel overland, buses take around 18 hours to complete the 410 km (250 miles) distance. A taxi would take around 12 hours to do the journey. The route goes through Coroico, a popular destination for mountain biking fans willing to try the "death road", also known as the Old Yungas Road.
Rurre is a very small town of around 8,000 inhabitants (2001 Census), so do not expect to find a huge number of lodging facilities, however, you can review and book hotels in Rurrenabaque here. For budget accommodation, Book Rurrenabaque, Bolivia with Hostelbookers.com.
Alternatively, if you'd like to immerse in a deeper jungle experience, you may choose to stay at one of the eco-lodges found in the area...