Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
The Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is located 600 Km northeast from Santa Cruz city. It is one of the largest ( 1.523.000 ha ) and most intact parks in the Amazon Basin. The Noel Kempff Mercado park is wonderful, has a unique beauty and is one of the most protected and bio diverse places on earth. This is why it has been declared ¨Natural Patrimony of the Humanity¨ by UNESCO in 2000.
The date of its foundation was June 28 1979. Its original name was Parque Nacional Huanchaca, but was then changed to Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado in honor of the late Dr. Noel Kempff Mercado, for his research and discoveries in the Park. In 1986 Dr. Noel Kempff Mercado, and two men with him had flown into the Park inadvertently landed at a clandestine cocaine laboratory, where they were killed by drug traffickers.
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park includes a large section of the Huanchaca Plateau and surrounding lowlands. The plateau is 150 km long and 50 km wide, and covers a total area of 6.800 square kilometers. The largest river in the area is the Iténez River which marks the border with Brazil, to the north of the park. It meets with the Mamoré River which, at the same time, meets with the Madera River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River. The park is part of the drainage system of the Iténez River Basin which includes the sub-basins of the Verde, Paucerna and Paraguá rivers. The Verde and Paucerna rivers have their origins on the plateau and their watercourses form beautiful falls such as the Fawcett, Federico Ahlfeld and Arco Iris. The Paraguá River dominates the lowlands to the west. This river flows into the Iténez and in the rainy season it overflows large extensions of flooded forests and savannah wetlands. To the west of the plateau, and in the lowlands, there are three great fields that become flooded at varying levels during the rainy season, and several lagoons of different size.
The story says that hundreds of years ago, a group of natives called Guarasug´we -originally from Paraguay- populated these Bolivian lands. On the north side of the Noel Kempff Mercado Park, several stones are found that show human facial characteristics, but have not been rigorously studied (yet)
With an altitudinal range of 200 m to nearly 1,000 m, Noel Kempff is a site of a rich mosaic of habitat types including evergreen amazon rainforests, palm forests, cerrado, swamps, savannahs, gallery forests, and semi-deciduous dry forests. The cerrado habitats found on the Caparú Meseta have been isolated for millions of years providing an ideal living laboratory for the study of the evolution of these ecosystems. An estimated 4,000 species of flora as well as over 621 bird species (21% of the total for South America), 74 species of reptiles, 62 species of amphibians and fish, 347 species of insects and viable populations of many globally endangered or threatened species live in Park Noel Kempff Mercado.
Park Noel Kempff Mercado is blessed with such convergence of different biogeographic characteristics that it houses a diverse array of plants and animals, which in some cases are unique to Bolivia and due to the isolation of the Caparú Plateau some are still waiting to be discovered!!
The Caparú plateau (980m), discovered by the English adventurer Percy Fawcet and later inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write his famous novel ¨The lost world¨, is an imposing and isolated table mountain of Precambrian origin (over a billion years ago), formed by sandy rocks and cuarcits and laced by crystal clear creeks and numerous waterfalls on a landscape characterized by open grasslands and forest islands.
How to get to this spectacular Park?
We offer different kind of programs for visiting both the North and the South side of Noel Kempff. All tours start from Santa Cruz and will take you by plane or over land to:
1. Noel Kempff Flor de Oro (North Side, by private charter airplane).
2. Noel Kempff Los Fierros (South Side).
Please read a letter of acknowledgement we received from the administration of Noel Kempff Mercado N.P.
´In July of 2008, my husband and I travelled to Bolivia with the express purpose of visiting Noel Kempff Mercado, a Bolivian national park listed as both fascinating and virtually inaccessible. After much research, we decided upon traveling with the tour company, Ruta Verde, as they came highly recommended by various books and other sources, particularly as pertained to meeting the needs of European and American travelers. Our research paid off in a spectacular trip. We were flown to Flor d'Oro by a pilot with over thirty years of experience (and as we are both pilots, we were reassured by the quality of both the aircraft and the pilot). We saw two jaguars, two families of river otters, capybara, caiman, and birds too numerous to list. We had comfortable lodging (though the camp is in a bit of a state of disrepair) and the food was excellent. Our guides were knowledgeable and passionate about the park and about their work. I only wish that we could have stayed for a month and then flown to the southern part of the park (Los Fierros), which is currently inaccessible. As to Ruta Verde, they are everything the guidebooks say and more - and unlike many of the guidebook writers, we have direct experience of their services. They are a full-service travel agency: smart, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful. They have extensive understanding of multiple cultures (and languages) and they understand their market and their product. We were accommodated at every turn, from simple requests for air travel arrangements (which turned out not to be so simple, but were made so by Ruta Verde's thoughtful management), to more complicated and highly individualized requests for local tours. Bolivia is a challenging country for first-world travelers. Without the thoughtful help and guidance of Ruta Verde, visiting Noel Kempff could be disastrous. We love the country - loved the trip - and love Ruta Verde, who is now our first choice for travel in eastern Bolivia. We will definitely return.´
´Gijs, we had a fantastic time in both Flor de Oro and Refugio Los Volcanes. The organisation of the trip was first rate and totally efficient. The pilot you chose for us was amazing. We were particulary glad that you were able to be so flexible and tailor the trip to our requirements. We had no idea that the flight would be such fun. Thanks again.´
´Having umed and ahed about whether or not to attempt a visit to Noel Kempff on a budget that couldn't afford a plane we made the decision that we would go with our friends to Santa Cruz and see what was on offer. What we found was that out of the 4 companies we asked about tours only 2 came anywhere near what we could afford and only one of those was straight up about the costs. That company was Ruta Verde. We were quoted one price for a standard 7 day trip to the Noel Kempff Park , the costs for extra days were equally transparent. unlike some other companies there were no hidden costs (except of course the very reasonable fees for renting equipment, such as tents and binoculars), we were provided with as much water as we wanted and plenty of top notch grub. Our guide was great, despite what he described as poor English it was miles better than any of our Spanish and was always happy to talk. His background as a biologist really shone through as he was constantly pointing our plants animals and insects with a boyish enthusiasm that was really infectious. Both he and the local guide we met up with in la Florida were more than happy to allow us flexibility in the schedule and this gave a much more relaxed atmosphere. We never felt like we were pressured into doing anything, nor we were ever rushed, except to escape the bees...which none of us minded at all. The time spent in the park was fabulous. From arriving in la Florida we really started to get a sense of how remote we were, especially on the night time walk to see huge frogs, glowing bugs, fishing bats and to hear the snap of an alligators jaws somewhere in the river. Upon arriving in at Los Fierros, we attempted to make it the waterfall, but we foiled by some very large trees on the road. Slightly disheartened at this set back we were much relieved to hear we would go when we got back from the Meseta and to make sure this happened the guide and the boys spent all afternoon clearing what turned out to be up three trees. That evening we went on a night walk and despite only seeing a fox, the sounds of the jungle were more than enough entertainment. the morning before we left for the Meseta was one that started with us being awoken by the loud squawks of parrots in the trees outside our hut. that excitement over we headed for the Meseta. The walk up was hot but not too hard and the views more than made up for what little discomfort we felt. The view from the top was amazing, miles and miles of jungle beyond our sight. It's no surprise that this place inspired the The Lost World (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). The red rock faces and the rich green of the jungle really did give the impression of being in another time and place. After all that jungle it was something of a shock to find ourselves on open savannah with the odd oasis of palms and parrots dotting along the various water sources. Camp was in a small jungle clearing and dinner was enjoyed by all. The following day saw us swim in a divine water hole that was so refreshing it seemed a shame to have to walk back down. however on the way back we came face to face with a monkey, who checked us out, decided we weren't his mates and promptly swung off into the jungle, king of the swingers, jungle vip, indeed. On the way home we encountered both the incredibly cool armadillo and the rather huge anteater. Serious highlights indeed. As a final trip we made it too the waterfall and it was more than worth the wait, my personal highlight of the trip, though the armadillo runs it close. the water was freezing and the swim didn't last long but the waterfall itself was so grand that it didn't really matter, add to that the 6 foot plus boa that was just chilling by the lake and you have yourself a very good trip indeed. All in all I have to say money well spent indeed. Go and do it because well not many people do and it won't be there forever. Can't recommend Ruta Verde enough, they did all they said they would and all with a smile.´
- The Netherlands
´It is a lot of hassle and trouble to go to Noel Kempff National park independently. I went with Ruta Verde. It is a great tour operator in Santa Cruz . The guide is a biologist who works in the park and knows a lot about the nature. During the trip we drove up to 2 Jesuit missions before we went on to the park. The night before we went in we slept at Campemento Florida and our guide took us alligator spotting and night fishing. The first day in the park we hiked up the Meseta and camped there, the next morning we hiked up to a waterfall and had a swim before we headed down. We slept again in a campemento and the next day we made it to a huge waterfall and swam there. On the last day we drove back to Santa Cruz . I have had 7 great days without hassle and worries. The food was good, the guide was great, the accommodation was good and we saw a lot. (monkeys, puma, foxes, butterflies, bugs, trees, flowers and plants). I think it was great value for what you get and would recommend it to everybody.´
- The Netherlands
´I had a very nice and adventurous trip with Ruta Verde in the remote national park noel Kempff. On the way there we visited the impressive Jesuit missions. So it became a very mixed trip with nature, adventure and culture. The friendly guide (a biologist) could tell a lot about the nature, area and the people. He also happened to be a good cook, a perfect driver and an awful singer. The help in the office in Santa Cruz was great. The office has a nice atmosphere and Maug and Gijs (the owners) were very helpful with finding the right tour for an affordable price. It also helped that they know there way around in Santa Cruz and that they are willing to share all the information you need. If I would have stayed longer I would have definitely booked another trip with Ruta Verde.´
- The Netherlands
Ha Gijs, de tour naar Noel Kempff was echt geweldig! De locatie was goed, het eten en drinken perfect en het park zelf vonden we echt prachtig! Ook de vlucht er naartoe is heel spectaculair! Fernando sprak geen woord Engels, en wij geen woord Spaans, maar toch heeft hij ons goed kunnen begeleiden tijdens de tochten. We hebben veel gezien: kaaimannen, pink river dolphins, otters, vier verschillende soorten apen, capibara, een zwijn, slangen, tarantula's, prachtige vogels en de meest enge insekten. Veel beter dan de dierentuin! Bedankt voor alle tips en hulp en bovenal bedankt dat je ons aanbevolen hebt om naar Noel Kempff te gaan en niet naar bijvoorbeeld Madidi. We zullen Ruta Verde zeker aanbevelen! Deze tour was duidelijk het hoogtepunt van onze reis door Peru en Bolivia.
Hi gijs, before heading on to sucre while Nathalie is on her flight back home I just wanted to mention that we had a magnificent time in the park, been lucky with the weather and also with wildlife, seen so many animals that this trip will possibly be my most interesting time in the jungle for my entire life. Fernando was a good guide (though sometimes hard to understand his mumbling 😉 ), had seen so many things we would have missed otherwise, and Pepe the pilot was a very nice person, too. And not to forget the food simply delicious (not only for Bolivian standards)! thanks for your honesty about the (monetary and journey) risks, you have been a good 'consultant' to us. take care, Gérard