Posted by: ecodestination | November 3, 2009

Bolivia’s northwest: newest eco destination

One of the 7 cabins at San Miguel Del Bala's eco lodge

One of the 7 cabins at San Miguel Del Bala's eco lodge

The indigenous Tacanas of the Amazon are betting on ecotourism to protect their territory, increase their income, and improve their quality of life.

This population of 235 inhabitants has built an eco lodge in the village of San Miguel del Bala on the banks of the Beni River in northwestern Bolivia with the help of NGOs.

The eco lodge’s 7 cabins are scattered throughout the rainforest and were constructed with local dry palm leaves and wood. It recycles waste and uses a wastewater treatment system.

San Miguel del Bala

San Miguel del Bala

To get an idea of the remoteness of San Miguel del Bala, let’s just say you must take a 40-minute boat ride to get there, all the way from the town of Rurrenbaque.

The village consists of 44 families mainly made up of fishers and farmers. It is not surprising, then, that they lack electricity and health care, although they do have potable water and a school for the local children, according to the community leader, Biter Supa.

Guests can take excursions with native guides to learn of ancient hunting methods and medicinal plants and visit natural pools, waterfalls, and a salitral cave. They can even visit some Tacana families’ homes, which are built of palm leaves and bamboo.

Madidi National Park, San Miguel del Bala

Madidi National Park, San Miguel del Bala

The Madidi National Park – 4.5 million acres of land of rich biodiversity – hosts 1,000 species of fauna and 6,000 of flora. You might want to get a malaria shot, by the way.

Peru’s government has designated sections of the park, areas called Tierras Comunitarias de Origen (TCOs), reservations for the indigenous populations. This is fantastic; we’ve already had an obscene excess of what one of my college professors called the “white men with guns” phenomenon, where, well, white men with guns come and kill/enslave/brutalize indigenous communities to rape the land (and the people).

This way the native population will be able to benefit from the nascent ecotourism industry. In fact, the community members manage their collectively owned territory and promote the participation and representation of members of all ages and sexes.

Hell yeah.

Also, if you’re staying for at least 10 days, you can join their Volunteer Program and stay at the eco lodge for a special rate by working just 4 hours daily. Super sweet.



  1. They look cool – guess that’s netting under the thatch. Looks like the makuti roofs in Kenya…
    A really away from it all place to visit. I hope it works well for them.

  2. Looks like it would be a very authentic experience. Would like to visit there and see what it’s like first hand.

  3. Absolutely – I hope it works great for them too. Trying to protect their territory through this laudable effort is fantastic. Hope they kick ass.

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