When folks think about the Amazon, they think specifically about the Amazon River. The Amazon River is the main large river that dominates through Brazil, but the Amazon basin or region is actually much larger and encompasses numerous South American Countries. I have visited the Amazon region in Brazil, Ecuador, and most recently, Peru. It is tough to pick which is my favorite, as each experience was remarkable. Both the Peru and the Ecuador Amazon regions are more pristine as they have not experienced as much urbanization and there are many protected areas for endangered wildlife. In the Peru Amazon, there are two areas most commonly visited and offering great lodging options as well. Depending on what your interest is either should fit the bill. Most people think of Machu Picchu when they think of Peru, but the country is more than 50% rain forest. Machu Picchu is actually on the outer edge of the start of the rain forest.
My first and second adventure in the Peruvian Amazon was to the Puerto Maldonado region. You can get here by flying into Lima and then connecting in country to Puerto Maldonado. The flight usually makes a stop in Cusco, so this could be a good way to combine a trip to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. The largest reserve here is called Tambopata National Reserve where you can find a few nice lodges scattered throughout the river and inlets. When you arrive to Puerto Maldonado, a buzzing town with great local culture to experience, you will already feel the vibe of nature. Here you are met and taken to your respective lodge office in the city. Depending on the lodge, you may repack to a smaller bag and leave your suitcases behind so you only take what you need while at the lodge. Then you will board a boat. I do suggest at least three nights minimum, and everything is included – meals, daily adventures, accommodations. The nature guides are locals that grew up in the jungle and have become educated in guiding. Their ability to spot wildlife on the hikes or skiff boat trips is amazing! You are taken by boat on the Amazon tributary called Madre de Dios, or Mother of God. Nature is at your fingertips, and I was able to see the endangered river otters in Lake Sandoval where we could hear them munching on fish and being busy at all times. If you are bird watcher, we saw plenty of shore birds along the river banks and especially along the banks of the lake. On our jungle walks we also enjoyed many birds, plus primates, sloths and some reptiles and spiders. You will not be disappointed, but do use a professional company to make sure you are matched to what your goals are for this trip.
My third Amazon adventure was to Iquitos, Peru. This is also a flight from Lima, but is a bit further trek as it is located in the North East region of Peru. You are going to need the overnight in Lima, so stay a couple of days to experience Lima and its amazing history and gastronomy. Two restaurants in Lima have made the top ten list for best restaurants in the world. Once you fly to Iquitos you will know you are experiencing a different way of life. The Iquitos region is considered the head waters of the Amazon. The city of Iquitos is the largest city in the world with no road access. You can only get here by boat or plane. The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is located just up the river from this city, and during the rainy season, 85% of it flooded, making it only accessible by boat. Depending on what lodging you have chosen for this region, you will likely need to be transferred at this point by land to Nauta. When you arrive to Iquitos, you still have a way to go by land to get to your Amazon experience. We boarded our boat in Nauta to begin our expedition, which is a highlight for nature lovers. You will experience wildlife such as the elusive and often mentioned pink dolphins and unique primates. We did this region by boat on a sleep-aboard that was top of the line. Here we recommend four nights. The advantage of the boat is that you get to experience a larger region of the Amazon without having to move around with your luggage. Just unpack on day one, and enjoy all the experiences of the rainforest and local river communities. During the rainy season, these communities are surrounded by water and all have small dugout canoes to get to and fro. I had first timer experiences in the region that included the Monk Saki monkey, the yellow and blue macaw, a tarantula swimming in the river, swimming with pink dolphins, as well as spotting many different birds, mammals and reptiles. One of the fish found in this river is called Paiche and is quite large (it can grow to 16 feet). Although they do practice catch and release, they also are allowed to use the fish for sustenance, and we enjoyed Paiche in a meal while on board. Those living in this region have learned how to live a self-sustaining lifestyle and are now realizing the importance of protecting the rain forest and all it has to offer. At the end of our cruise, we returned via Nauta to Iquitos, where we visited an animal rehab center where they specialize in the river Manatees. Although we did not see them in the wild, we did have an opportunity to learn about the conservation efforts to preserve these gentle giants in the Amazon.
If you want to experience nature at its best, I can highly recommend a visit to the Peruvian Amazon. Condor Tours & Travel is a company based in Atlanta, GA that specializes in travel to Latin America. We can arrange any type of Amazon adventure for you and know the many lodge and boat options that will fit what you want to experience. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their web site for more information at www.condortoursandtravel.com, or by phone at 770-339-9961.