Bahia is the last settlement along the Paraguay River before the border with Bolivia. This is a very remote area with no significant populations nearby in neighboring Brazil or Bolivia. The town’s location makes it an ideal departure point for trips further upriver to see undisturbed wildlife. The river’s flora and fauna seem to increase exponentially just north of Bahia Negra (you are not very likely to see animal life within Bahia Negra itself). From Bahia Negra you can take day trips out onto the river, head inland, or visit the Guyra Field Station further upriver in order to truly immerse yourself in nature (see Venturing Farther into the Wild).
Bahia Negra exhibits the Paraguayan Pantanal’s raw beauty as well as the harsh realities faced by of one of the country’s most removed communities. The town was of strategic military importance during the Chaco War and housed a large military presence during the Stroessner dictatorship but has since declined in size and importance. Until recently, electricity for the entire town was provided by a generator that only ran from 6am to midnight. The town’s first cell phone tower (Tigo) was installed in 2008 providing Bahia Negra with a significant link to the outside world. As with most other riverside communities of Alto Paraguay, area cattle ranches are the main source of employment. Most of the town relies on fishing both as a business and for personal consumption. Daily you can see people in small boats out on the river as well as young children casting fishing lines from the shore. There is very little small scale agriculture and most rely on the Aquidaban boat for produce.
There is not much to see in the town itself, however BaMa negrenses, as they are called, are a friendly bunch. You can easily spend a couple of hours walking around town talking with folks, especially if you are willing to partake in terere or buy a couple of beers. The guys from the Naval base, most of whom are in Bahia Negra on assignment, tend to be especially talkative. If you arrive on the Aquidaban you are likely to be greeted by fellow passengers around town throughout the length of your stay.
The Municipal office can often provide basic tourist information and help arrange for lodging with area families. They will most likely send you to the Eco Club for tour information. Tel: 021 490 237 (however this number is not particularly useful as it rings in Asuncion), the office is a two-story yellow and red building on the right-hand side of JJ Sanchez about one block downriver from the docks.