The Peruvian Amazon
Introduction to the Peruvian Amazon
You’ve seen the coast, you’ve more than likely seen the mountains, so now you want a bit of jungle! The more visited Puerto Maldonado and the pristine, but harder to reach, Manu National Park offer great options for riding down chocolate brown rivers with endless green rainforest and diverse wildlife on either side.
Puerto Maldonado, just half an hour plane ride from Cusco, is the capital of Madre de Dios and the gateway to three beautiful Amazon National Parks – Tambopata-Candamo, Bahuaja-Sonene and Pampas del Heath. An accessible 3 hours from this bustling hub of foresters, locals and tourists, you can be at one with nature in the middle of the captivating Peruvian Amazon Rainforest! A trip here can include early morning bird watching, late night jungle walking, or fishing for (and if you’re brave, even swimming with!) piranhas, not to mention a visit to the world’s largest macaw’s clay lick where hundreds of birds meet to feed – a truly colorful sight! Almost all the lodges here were built with the support of local tribes (the ones we work with are even run by them) who are really committed to improving the wildlife population.
If you have more time (and money!), like adventure, and want a pure nature experience, then consider a trip into the Manu National Park. No people, no towns, no buildings, just the Amazon, its flora and fauna in all its glory – that’s probably the best way to describe this enormous and exceptionally beautiful area that extends from the Andean highlands to the lowland tropical rainforests, taking in cloud forests and other habitats in the middle.
Designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1977, and a World Heritage Site in 1987, visitors can only go into a very small part (the Reserved Zone) of the Manu National Park. Spot giant otters, black caiman, jaguars, tapirs…there are 200 mammal species, over one thousand birds varieties and countless plants. The rest of the park is pretty much untouched by modern man but the park is inhabited by different native groups such as the Mashco-Piro, the Machiguenga, the Yaminahua, the Yuras and there are also uncontacted tribes.
What not to miss in the Peruvian Amazon
Stay in a Jungle Lodge
The best way to experience the Amazon is to stay in a lodge. It takes usually around 2 to 3 hours by boat to reach the lodge. All lodges are built, respecting its surroundings and by using local materials. There is generally no electricity and the lodges have open structures.
Tambopata Research Center
The Tambopata Research Center (TRC) is located in the uninhabited 1,060 miles² (2,747km²) area of the Tambopata Nature Reserve. It was built to lodge tourists and to protect the world’s largest macaw clay lick which is located within the Reserve. Packages including the Tambopata Research Center have a minimum of 4 nights.
Bird Watching at a Clay Lick
Within the Peruvian Amazon is an incredible clay lick where hundreds of macaws, parrots and parakeets descend to eat the clay – this is a truly unforgettable and colorful experience!
Trails & Hikes
Guided hikes along the numerous trails in the Peruvian Amazon are a great introduction to the rainforest. Whether exploring the rainforest by day or by night you’ll be surrounded by the incredible sights and sounds of the Amazon’s unique wildlife.
Nocturnal Nature Hikes
Once the sun sets in the Peruvian Amazon, the rainforest takes on a very different character. Night hikes often result in amazing encounters with bizarre insects that look as if they come from another planet, monkeys that leap through the canopy of the forest, and beautiful frogs with bizarre shapes and sounds.
Kayaking or Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
Some of the Amazon lodges offer stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking to explore your surroundings further. As well as being fun and easy activities these are both great ways to get closer to wildlife as you silently paddle your way down a river flanked by the rainforest.
During a short walk close to your lodge, you will encounter the relationship between local indigenous tribes and the plants. Plants are incorporated into the daily lives of the indigenous population as food, medicine, clothing and also used as building materials! Interpretive guides will accompany you on this walk.
Some of the lodges offer canopy climbing as an activity for its guests. It was first developed for researchers so they could easily access the canopy for their research, but this is now also offered for guests (prior reservation needed). This experience gives an amazing and close up perspective of the canopy, high above the forest floor.
What you need to know
When to go
The best time to visit is during the dry season from May to October, though rains only become unbearably heavy during January and February. In May and June, the beginning of the colder and dry season, the odds increase of seeing jaguars, which come out to sun themselves on river logs. From July to November, near the end of the dry season, macaws, parrots, and parakeets are especially abundant around the riverside clay licks.
How to get there
The most convenient, comfortable and safe way to arrive to Puerto Maldonado is by airplane. Daily flights depart from Lima and Cusco and fly directly to Puerto Maldonado’s Padre Aldamiz International Airport. The journey takes approximately one hour and 45 minutes when flying from Lima and from Cusco it is only a 30 minute flight.
Upon arrival the lodges will meet you at the airport and a short drive to the harbour where you will board a motorized panga (or peke-peke, what they call them in Peru). The lodges are between a 2 hour and 3 hour boat ride away.
Where to stay
Many jungle lodges are available in the surrounding area and offer complete packages. A boat ride up the Tambopata River or Madre de Dios River is necessary to reach these accommodations. The Posada Amazonas Lodge is adjacent to the pristine rainforests of the Tambopata Research Center and offers comfortable accommodation but no electricity. The Sandoval Lake Lodge is located on the beautiful oxbow lake of Sandoval, and is equipped with hot water, electricity, and comfortable rooms. The Tambopata Research Center can be found in the Tambopata-Candamo Nature Reserve and offers rooms with beds and patios but no electricity or private bathrooms. The Reserva Amazonica Lodge is the oldest in the area and offers luxurious private cabins with full bathrooms but limited electricity. Corto Maltes Amazonia is located on the Madre de Dios River and is smaller than the other lodges. There are 22 bungalows available, with hot water, electricity, comfortable beds and an outside deck.
Transport in the jungle area is exclusively by boat or on foot. In the city, there are taxis or “mototaxis” a hybrid taxi with a small cab in the back, available to get around.
The cuisine is limited to the lodge’s discretion but vegetarian or other gastronomic accommodations can be provided while the food in the city is also limited to the local produce.