If you ever get the chance, you absolutely must visit the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa in south-western Bolivia, a massive 1.7-million-acre reserve full of active volcanoes, thermal springs, erupting geysers, huge lakes and, incredibly, three species of flamingos (the Andean, Chilean and, one of the world’s rarest, the James’s flamingo).
The lakes are breathtakingly beautiful, not only because of their remote mountainous settings but also because of their colours, a result of the chemicals associated with the region’s volcanic activity. In the winter months it is very cold in this part of the Andean Altiplano, with temperatures frequently in the minus twenties and thirties. It seems incredible that flamingos could survive such extreme cold but, apparently, they have the ability to control their heartbeat, to allow themselves to sleep in the chilly water to try to avoid their enemies, the fox and the puma. However, when it’s extremely cold and the water has frozen, the flamingos can become trapped and are then almost literally sitting ducks.
At 4300 metres above sea level and with an area of 60km2, Laguna Colorada, or Red Lake, really is red. This is due in part to the volcanic minerals and sediments it contains and also because of the microscopic algae that thrive in its waters. The lake is shallow, only 30 to 50cm deep, which makes it the perfect habitat for flamingos. And, except for the grey and white juveniles, the plumage of these flamingos is more reddish than normal because of the algae in the lagoon – these really are pink flamingos!