Tambopata National Reserve is part of the Peruvian jungle and covers more than 274,000 hectares stretching from the Andes Mountains to Bolivia. Home to many different species of butterflies, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants, this incredible region is one of the most complex and biodiverse places in the world.
We’ve traveled to the Peruvian Amazon at the end of the rainy season when walking through the mud is part of its charm. There are a few main areas of the jungle that you can visit, all of them with unique attractions, landscapes and characteristics. Therefore, we wanted to spend four nights at Amazon Planet Lodge, on the banks of Madre de Dios River (in Taricaya Reserve) and two nights at Chuncho Lodge, on the banks of Tambopata River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon.
Exploring the Tambopata National Reserve
With its fascinating history, culture and breathtaking views, the amazing Amazon Jungle is a bucket-list destination for those who love hiking in the wilderness. Spending a week in the rainforest was by far the most incredible adventure we’ve been on, filled with some of the most special travel experiences:
1. Day and night walks in the jungle
The echoing screams of macaws and howler monkeys through the forest canopy wake up the entire jungle at sunrise. So, daily activities and excursions usually take place in the early hours of the morning and evening, when wildlife is most active. Accompanied by your naturalist guide on a day hike through the rainforest you’ll have a good chance to see exotic birds, parrots, huge butterflies, snakes, or even find yourself in the middle of a group of very noisy monkeys. But, as darkness settles across the jungle and you start exploring the trails around your lodge with the help of your flashlight, you’ll observe new wildlife that only come out after the sun sets. Surrounded by dozens of different sounds, it’s incredible how the same hiking routes you strolled during the day, offer a completely new perspective by the light of the moon.
2. Birdwatching at Chuncho Macaw Clay Lick
The Amazon Rainforest is located inland and is several hundred kilometers away from the coast, which means that the wildlife living there generally have limited access to saltwater. As a result, most of the animals in the rainforest have adapted to a diet that consists primarily of freshwater and foods that are free of salt. This includes a variety of fruits, nuts, seeds, and insects, as well as other animals, such as fish and amphibians.
The majority of the minerals and nutrients in the jungle are commonly found on the banks of the rivers, deposited in clay walls (also known as saltlicks or claylicks). Although these areas are quite rare and most of them very small, every morning they attract large flocks of colorful Amazonian parrots, macaws, tapirs, jaguars, or monkeys.
Deep in the heart of Tambopata National Park, Cuncho Claylick is the largest clay lick in the world. The region is the most complex and biodiverse area in the world, with many species of butterflies, mammals, and birds. Although the distance between most of the lodges and Puerto Maldonado is quite large and the road is difficult to travel, the whole area is spectacular, and visiting a clay lick is a unique experience. Nothing can compare to the spectacle of dozens of free birds that are flying above you, just after the sunrise.
3. Visit a local indigenous family
Amazon rainforest is not only one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, but it is also home to many indigenous communities that have lived in harmony with the nature for thousands of years. The native community of Ese Eja is one of the world’s last remaining foraging Amazonian tribes, whose ancestral land is located along the Tambopata River, in Madre de Dios region. The community is used to welcoming tourists and happy to share their traditions and culture. Visiting a local family is a unique experience that allows you to learn about their way of life and the challenges they face in preserving their traditions in the modern world.
Tips&Tricks: It was an amazing experience to spend half a day with Enrique and his wife, in their modest household, close to Taricaya Reserve. We’ve learned tribal dances, made traditional bows and arrows, started a fire with a piece of bamboo and saw how unique handmade jewelry is made from native seeds.
4. Discover the wildlife around Sandoval Lake
Located a few km from Puerto Maldonado, Sandoval Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Peruvian Amazonia, formed many years ago when Madre de Dios River, a tributary of the Amazon changed its course. Visiting this part of the jungle is an excellent opportunity to explore Tambopata National Park since it can only be accessed through the Madre de Dios River, traveling by boat and then a hike along a trail of approx. 4 km.
5. Climb the Taricaya Canopy Tower
Used for bird monitoring and wildlife observation, Taricaya Canopy Tower is the highest tree platform in South America. Built 45m high up in the crown of an ancient Kapok tree (one of the tallest species of trees growing in the Amazon), the platform is connected by a 90m long suspension bridge. The experience itself is an adventure and at the same time a challenge for anyone who is afraid of heights, but from above, the view over the jungle and Madre de Dios River is incredible. If you’re lucky, you can even see macaws, toucans, or maybe the biggest vulture in the world, the harpy eagle flying around you.
Tips&Tricks: According to scientists, Amazon Rainforest is home to over 40.000 plant species, of which 16.000 are different types of trees, some of them over 1000 years old.
6. Try piranha fishing in the Tambopata River
Try your fishing skills to catch your dinner right before the sun sets over the jungle. Tambopata River hosts an estimated 232 species of fish including payaras, catfish or piranha. For an unforgettable fishing activity around your lodge, you’ll only need a little patience and a lot of luck. Using some fishing poles improvised from branches, we actually caught a few catfish, enough for our chef to prepare a nice meal.
7. Caiman spotting at night
One of the most interesting activities in the jungle happens after the sun sets, when you start looking for nocturnal wildlife up-close. From a boat that slowly floats downstream with the current, you can easily spot the largest predator in the Amazon in the light of your flashlight, as its eyes glow in the dark. Caiman population is widely distributed in the Amazon basin, so most of the lodges carry out activities such as guided night tours by boat searching for these cute reptiles or capybara families that live next to them, on the river banks.
8. Watch the sunset on Madre de Dios River
Amazon is a unique destination around the world with incredible biodiversity and breathtaking views. There is no better way to end a day full of incredible experiences in the jungle than seeing the changing colors of the sky from orange to red and purple during sunset. When the sun goes down, the caimans can be spotted prowling along the shallow riverbanks while small groups of macaws and amazonian birds fly above them in search of a perfect tree to spend the night.
Tips&Tricks: At the end of our first day spent in the jungle, the staff from Amazon Planet Lodge gave us an inflatable boat, to see the sunset on Madre de Dios River. That was the moment we first discovered how special the Amazon Rainforest actually is.
9. Find out more about Taricaya Ecoreserve
Founded in 2011, Taricaya Ecoreserve is a non-profit association dedicated to biodiversity conservation, that seeks to rehabilitate injured or sick wild animals and to release them to their natural environment. The center is the first of its kind established in Peru, that now receives volunteers from all over the world to take part in various projects aiming to protect the Amazon. Located 1km away from Amazon Planet Lodge (and 28km away from Puerto Maldonado), it hosts dozens of animals and birds, some of them so attached to the team, that remained nearby even after they were released back into the wild.
10. Visit a local plantation
Amazon Jungle is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, filled with evergreen trees. An exotic plantation established around your lodge is the perfect place to observe various species of birds, monkeys, rodents, or even dangerous insects such as the banana spider (the most venomous and aggressive spider in the world). From tasting freshly harvest sugar cane or pineapple to walking along a jungle trail among banana, cocoa, mango, soursop, breadfruit, or papaya trees, there is no other way to spend a few hours before leaving to Puerto Maldonado.