For those who want to see Amazonian fauna and experience untouched rainforest, we offer three destinations where you’ll find nature just as you imagined it.
IQUITOS: Pacaya Samiria Reserve
In Iquitos many guides offer inexpensive tours but cannot guarantee you’ll have the experience you hoped for. The only reserve where you can really enjoy contact with nature is Pacaya Samiria. And the further you venture into the forest, the better.
Our recommendation: The Ivy Mara Ey (pacaya-samiria.com) is a community lodge run by the people of Yarina. It is certainly rustic, but also peaceful and welcoming. The cabins are divided into two rooms and have private bathrooms, and when there are few guests you might find yourself with the whole cabin to yourself.
The excursion you shouldn’t miss: A full-day boat trip at Huaquichihua. The dry season, when water levels are low, is the best time to see fauna.
What we saw: Kingfishers flying everywhere at dawn, turtles sunning themselves on logs, timid howler monkeys, eagles watching over the river, pink dolphins and caiman at nightfall. The shortest programs start at 4 days-3 nights (1 in Iquitos and 2 at the Ivy Mara Ey). It takes a whole day to reach the lodge and return to the city, but the route is part of the itinerary, offering plenty of time to spot wildlife during the boat trip. Prices per day vary according to group size, ranging from between US$75 and US$150 per person.
PUERTO MALDONADO: Lake Sandoval
If you are planning a short visit to the jungle, Lake Sandoval is the most accessible option for spotting wildlife. It is a 30 minute boat trip and 45 minute walk to this sanctuary and at the lake you will be rowed across the water by two guides…
Our recommendation: Many groups opt for a one-day excursion. It is best to stay for at least one night so you can leave at dawn, before other travelers arrive, and enjoy a magical sunrise. If you decide to spend the night, you could choose the lakeside Inkanatura Sandoval Lake Lodge, with its elegant rooms under palm roofs. Other family-run options are available, including Tambopata Hostel and Casa Sandoval.
The excursion you shouldn’t miss: Rowing on the lake, around the shoreline and observing nature from a unique perspective, soundlessly in order not to disturb wildlife.
What we saw: Capuchin monkeys, caimans, frogs of every color, hoatzins with their disordered feathers, camouflaged herons and mischievous agoutis. The reserved zone of the lake is also inhabited by a family of giant otters, and they can be spotted from the publicly accessible section of the lake, laying in the sun or swimming. The Las Palmeras clay lick offers the chance to spot macaws, as they gather to ingest mineral deposits. If you want to enjoy that spectacle, you’ll need to stay for two nights. 2 day-1 night programs cost US$317 at the Sandoval Lake Lodge and US$130 at family-run establishments.
TARAPOTO: Tingana Reserve
Tarapoto is situated in an area of mountain forest, and while its waterfalls are wonderfully refreshing sightings of fauna are rare. The exception to this rule is the Tingana Reserve, an area of pristine forest. From Tarapoto it is a two-hour drive to Moyobamba, a further 30 minutes to the port of Boca de Huashcayacu and then a one-hour boat ride.
Our recommendation: Go directly to those local people of Tingana who are reliable and well-organized. Contact Juan Isuiza (942 958 538). Bear in mind that Juan lives part of the time in the reserve, where there is no cell phone reception, and try to organize your trip well in advance. In Tingana rooms are available in two cabins with shared bathroom. Accommodation is simple but close to the sights, and the home cooking is excellent.
The excursion you shouldn’t miss: Journey from the port to the community lodge by motorboat, then opt for the rowboat excursion. The best time is when water levels are high, because you’ll pass through a labyrinth of trees. Observatories have been built in the trees, where adventurous guests can spend the night in tents.
What we saw: Kingfishers, squirrel monkeys, agoutis, sloths and plenty of birdlife. 1-day programs start at S/100 Peruvian soles with breakfast, lunch and a morning rowboat excursion. One night’s accommodation and evening meal costs an extra S/50 soles. Transport from Moyobamba to the port costs S/.80 soles. Package deals are available.