I'm traveling for three months in South America ( Jan 2010-April 2010). I want to explore some of the amazon while i'm in Bolivia without having to spend an arm and a leg on a tour. Is there any way to do this cheaper? Or any companies that you would recommend?
I'm hoping to head into the jungle some time in July. I don't have as long there as you, but I have been doing some research and it appears that the cheapest trips into the Amazon jungle leave from the Equador end of the river (rather than the Brazil end). I still haven't booked anything at this stage, but I have found some trips that look ok here http://www.happygringo.com. I have booked through these guys for an Equador short trip and they have been fantastic to deal with.
Sorry if that;s a bit vague, but I'll post again if I find anything else that might be of use. Also if you find anything I'd love to hear about it!
Assuming you mean the rain forest (the river Amazon to my knowledge doesn't run through Bolivia), I've heard that the best place of departure is Riberalta, Beni. The other big tourist hub in the area is Rurrenabaque, which is the gateway to one of Bolivia's most accessible national parks (Madidi, famed for its birds).
You kind of have to go with a tour: going solo is usually illegal, often dangerous, and you can unintentionally inflict major harm on the environment if you don't know what you're doing. Moreover, the jungle is a rather inaccessible place, so you wouldn't get far without a tour anyway.
In my experience (which was in Peru, not Bolivia), booking tours in advance is both unncessary and a waste of money. I simply turned up in places like Riberalta a couple of times, searched around for a good offer, and generally got off a lot cheaper than tourmates who booked from home.
Thank you so much for the advice. Its helpful to know I don't have to book something in advance.
I recently went to Madidi park in Bolivia and it was fantastic!
As bentivogli mentioned, the Madidi park in Rurrenabaque (Bolivia) is loaded with tourist, BUT considering that Bolivia is perhaps the cheapest country in South America and the fact that I had the best tour guides ever in terms of knowledge, adventure-driven, hearty and fun loving indigenous people - it was great. The company is called MOGLI TOURS. It costs 200 Bolivianos per day (same as all other companies) and there is a minmum of 3 days.
However, I have heard that the Beni park is even deeper in the jungle...