The Amazon – Tambopata National Reserve

ISA Peru Trip 2024: part 1

As the planet’s largest rainforest, the Amazon is roughly the size of the contiguous U.S. and covers nearly half of the South American continent.  Although two-thirds of it is in Brazil, the mighty Amazon River starts in Peru, outside Arequipa.  It flows eastward, from the Andes mountain range to the Atlantic Ocean, and encompasses perhaps the greatest natural biodiversity on Earth.  To say we were eager for the visit would have been an understatement!

Although Iquitos, in the north of Peru, is better known for its river cruises and connection to the Brazilian Amazon, many passengers prefer to visit the Tambopata National Reserve, in the southeast.  Just outside Puerto Maldonado, a half-hour flight from Cuzco, it fits easier with itineraries including Machu Picchu.  And it also boasts a diverse range of bird, butterfly and other species, despite its relatively “small” size (one-third Costa Rica).  

The Amazon - Tambopata National Reserve Ideal South America

We were fortunate to be guests at one of the best lodges in the area – Inkaterra’s Hacienda Concepcion.  Only a half-hour down river, its ample cabins, surrounded by true jungle flora and fauna, and the local naturalist guides, all combine for a very special Amazon experience.  4 days and 3 nights is recommended, although 3 days and 2 nights could be enough, with an early flight arrival and late departure. 

Recommendations: Although it’s generally warm – 70s-80s F (20s C) –  consider wearing light clothes which cover arms, legs and feet (even with insect repellent).  Although the food is fresh and delicious, be wary of raw, uncooked dishes.  Clean, filtered drinking water is provided, but it might not be used for washing fruits and vegetables. 

The Amazon - Tambopata National Reserve Ideal South America

Sights versus Sounds – Take your Pick!

Although many go to the jungle with hopes of seeing rare and exotic creatures, actually finding them in the dense forests is not easy – even with the assistance of an experienced guide.  Many are nocturnal and tend to avoid humans.  But good news, you can hear them!   Even if you can’t always see the macaws streaking across the canopy, their calls echo alongside the sounds of the many other birds and insects.  Record some audio, alongside your videos and photos! 

The night excursion by boat was full of surprises!  Although there is almost no ambient light in the jungle evening, I had a flashlight (torches) and the boat driver and guide were experts at night navigation.  His deft handling of a floodlight allowed us to spot a less likely black caiman and then, a whole family of capybaras!   And on the dark trail back to the lodge, from smell alone, the guide found a bridal veil mushroom, with a lifespan of 12 hours.

The Amazon - Tambopata National Reserve Ideal South America

Touring Lake Sandoval

The tour to Lake Sandoval was my favorite.  Although it is usually done with a very early morning start and then back to the lodge for lunch, there is more than enough to occupy you there for the whole day.  Although otters are not always easy to spot, you would be unlucky not to see some white caimans, howler monkeys and a wide variety of birds, including hoatzins, cormorants, macaws and herons.

Click here for more info on Peru Tours to these areas

And stay tuned for more Peru, part 2, Sacred Valley !