For a park that boasts so many superlatives, Parque Nacional Kaa-Iya (est. 1996) in Bolivia's Chaco region has surprisingly few visitors. Not only is the park the biggest in South Americaâ€”the area is roughly the size of Costa Rica at 3.4 million hectaresâ€”but it is also said to have the highest diversity of large mammals on the continent, with no less than 70 different species roaming its lands, including jaguars, pumas, deer, giant armadillos, peccaries, a number of reptiles and over 100 endangered guanacos. That said, the flora and fauna are likely to be the only signs of life visitors will encounter in the region, as the park is sparsely populated with absolutely no services or tourist infrastructure; only the most adventurous and strong willed of travelers should attempt to navigate such a barren, unpopulated landscape.
The Founding of Kaa-Iya
Those who do live within the parkâ€”and there aren't many of themâ€”are primarily of indigenous descent, with the IzoceĂ±o, Chiquitano, Guarani and Ayoreo people being the most common, and there are designated areas allotted to specific indigenous group. The Guanrani, for example, own 800,000 hectares of land, while the Ayoreos control 300,000 hectares. In fact, if it weren't for the strong indigenous presence in the area, the park itself may not have ever existed; it was the The Capitania de Alto y Bajo Izozog (CABI), an organization that represents the IzoceĂ±o population, that spearheaded the campaign to create the park. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), The World Bank, The Bolivian Ministery of Development and The Swiss Government were also key contributors to the plan to protect these unique lands. Notably, the park is the only one in the Americas established by an indigenous organization.
Kaa-Iya Landscape and Climate
The park is covered primarily by semi-arid desert forests and lowlands, but also encompasses the BaĂ±os de Izozog Wetlands. There is little to no agricultural production practiced within the park, perhaps in part because the area receives less than 20 inches of rain each year. As a result, residents typically make a living by raising cattle. In addition to being quite dry, the park is also extremely hotâ€”arguably one of the hottest spots in South Americaâ€”with normal temperatures in the 30sÂ° C (90sÂ°F).
Although the park has tremendous touristic potential, to this day it remains quite inaccessible and remote. One day, however, it is likely that a tourist infrastructure based upon eco-tourism and adventure travel will develop. While there are a few tour operators that advertise trips to the park, such tours will be quite expensive, and visitors should know that they will have to rough it. See Getting To and Away From Parque Nacional Kaa-Iya for more information.
Other places nearby Parque Nacional Kaa-lya del Gran Chaco: Camiri, Buena Vista, Vallegrande, ConcepciĂłn, Yacuiba, Santa Cruz, San Miguel de Velasco, San Ignacio De Velasco, La Higuera and San Rafael.