The Red-fronted Macaw Reserve is the destination for a wildlife and bird watching ecotourism holiday in Bolivia that supports indigenous communities.
The reserve attracts nature lovers and birders, as the spectacular sheer cliffs of the Andean valleys provide a backdrop to a unique wildlife watching experience. Flocks of charismatic Red-fronted Macaws nest in the cliffs, giving tourists the rare opportunity for a close encounter with a Critically Endangered species that is found nowhere else on Earth.
The best time to visit the reserve is during the Red-fronted Macaw breeding season (November to early May), as the macaws are constantly present and seen flying in pairs, families, and groups. Outside of the breeding season the Red-fronted Macaw is less common, but groups are seen daily as the birds forage near the river and group for a communal roost at dusk.
The reserve is a haven for bird watchers as it is home to 184 bird species, including Mitred Parakeets, Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Turquoise-fronted Parrots, and Cliff Parakeets, as well as frequent visits by Andean Condors and Peregrine Falcons. This desert habitat holds a regional specific bird community, with such distinctive species as the White-eared Puffbird, Greater Wagtail Tyrant, White-tailed Plantcutter, Gray-crested Finch, Spot-fronted Woodpecker, Apolomado Falcon, Ultramarine Grosbeak, and Cliff Flycatcher. (See the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve Birds List for full details).
For an insight into the fascinating history of Bolivia, you can explore the reserve’s archaeological site and the region’s many cave paintings. You will also discover the culture and traditions of the Quechua indigenous communities, who run the reserve and directly benefit from your visit. Over the years, we have witnessed how these poor communities – who have been marginalized by society – have grown in confidence and gained greater pride in their cultural heritage thanks to the interest and respect shown by tourists.
Your visit will support the conservation of Bolivia’s natural heritage and the empowerment of its people through the Red-fronted Macaw program.
Photo gallery of the reserve
What’s it like to visit?
“I was lucky enough to visit the truly magnificent Red-fronted Macaw Nature Reserve in June 2012. The comfortable lodge, with its riverside setting, is a birdwatchers’ paradise. Colourful Red-fronted Macaws can be seen in the red cliff face and Condors soar the sky’s overhead. I highly recommend visiting.”
– Ruth Canning
“I’ve been busy telling people about bird watching in Bolivia, and I can truly say that the Red-fronted Macaw trip was the highlight of my South American journey, and one of the most memorable things that has occurred in my life so far. I am looking forward to coming back and trying for the Blue-throated Macaw, plus a currasow or two.”
– Matt Hamo
“Our trip to the Red-fronted Macaw Lodge and to Los Volcanes was the highlight of my year.”
– Patsy Bailey
“Thank you so much for everything. All was perfect. The Red-fronted Macaw lodge was breathtaking. It was one of the highlights of my stay in Bolivia. I have huge respect for your organisation and just want to thank everybody again.”
– Marcus Mailer
How to make it happen
There is an ecolodge within the reserve that is run by the local indigenous communities. The lodge can receive up to 14 guests and costs US$150 per person per night, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Ecotourism provides an alternative, extra income for the 3 indigenous communities that co-run the project; they split the profits from tourism 4 ways, so each community receives one quarter and the remaining quarter is returned to sustain the reserve and ecolodge. In this way, communities receive direct financial benefits from conserving macaws and their habitat.
It is possible to travel independently to the Red-fronted Macaw Nature Reserve, either with your own vehicle or by public transport, but you must book your accommodation at the ecolodge first by contacting us.
To drive to the reserve, you must travel across some unpaved roads with tight turns and a few steep high altitude climbs, so ensure that you have a suitable vehicle. It takes about 7 to 8 hours to drive from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 5 hours from Cochabamba, or 4 hours from Sucre to get to Perereta, the nearest small town to the reserve. When you arrive in Perereta, you must park your car and walk 2 kilometers to the reserve’s ecolodge. For detailed driving directions to Perereta and on how to walk from Perereta to the ecolodge, please contact us.
Traveling by bus to the reserve is possible but not easy. There is a bus from Santa Cruz to Perereta on Tuesdays and Fridays and another from Perereta to Santa Cruz on Thursdays and Sundays. (Make sure you check the most up-to-date bus schedule). There is also a daily micro bus to Saipina, where you would have to contract a taxi to Perereta. Another option would be to catch the daily buses that travel to Sucre from Santa Cruz, but they pass through Perereta at about 3am. You must walk 2 kilometers from Perereta to reach the ecolodge. It is possible to wave a bus down at around the same time to return, but we recommend trying to reserve a prepaid seat, although this is not always possible. For directions on how to walk from Perereta to the ecolodge, please contact us.
Traveling with a tour
If you do not wish to travel independently to the reserve, we can recommend a local tour agency that specializes in bird watching, wildlife and photography tours that are lead by English-speaking guides.
Download the Red-Fronted Macaw Nature Reserve Info Sheet for ecotourists.