by Lawrence Rubey and A. Bennett Hennessey
On the shore of Lake Huyñaymarka, a southern extension of Lake Titicaca, the small town of Huatajata makes a pleasant base for exploration of the Lake Titicaca area. Since most of the attractions are waterbirds, an early start is not necessary. Less than two hours from La Paz, the Huatajata lakeshore makes a good day trip.
Although the area can be birded using public transportation or as part of Lake Titicaca package tour, the best strategy is to have your own vehicle. This gives you the freedom to stop at various places that look interesting. Bird concentrations and best locations depend greatly on the water levels in the lake. The following plan of stops is usually good: Leave El Alto for the paved road to Lake Titicaca and Copacabana (re-set odometer to zero at the tranca--see GPS reading at introduction).
After leaving La Paz, the fields near the turn-off to Batallas can offer good birding if they are flooded. Continuing on, look for an area where the lake is very close to the road, just
before the village of Huarina (see GPS waypint below). Walk through the fields to the west (left) to the shore of the lake for a variety of waterbirds. Continuing on, a third stop is on the causeway at marshy area just before the Hotel Titcaca (see GPS waypoint). A last stop, (before a trucha lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area) is the five-star Hotel Inca Utama. The pier of the hotel is a good spot to scan for Short-winged Grebe (photo). The trucha (salmon) at Hotel Inca Utama is excellent, if a bit more expensive than neighboring restaurants. From here one can also negotiate with one of the local boat captains for a tour of the lake and some of the nearby islands.
Logistics: The birding strategy outlined above should make reaching Huatajata relatively straight-forward. The road is paved all the way from La Paz to Huatajata and gets a good amount of traffic, especially on weekends. Public transportation is easy to find, particularly since Copacabana, a major destination, is further along the same road. Huatajata is a hub in the steady tourist industry of the area. Several hotels at varying price ranges dot the shoreline.
GPS reading at good roadside spot before Huarina: S 16 14.870' W 68 34.184'
GPS reading at causeway before Hotel Titicaca: S 16 11.484' W 68 37.270'
GPS reading at Hotel Inca Utama, Huatajata: S 16 11.934' W 68 37.832'