Adding an Amazon Jungle visit to a trip in the Peruvian Highlands (i.e. Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu) is easier than a lot of people think, and is an excellent way to add some additional variety to a primarily “Incan-focused” trip. The Puerto Maldonado area of the Peruvian Amazon in Southern Peru lies only a 40 minute flight (large aircraft) from Cusco, and lodges like Posada Amazonas, Reserva Amazonica, Refugio Amazonas and the Sandoval Lake Lodge are a mere couple of hours by land and boat from the airport….so you can have breakfast across from the Santo Domingo Church in Cusco’s main plaza, and be immersed in the fascinating sights and sounds of the vast Amazon before lunch.
Day 1: Upon arrival to Puerto Maldonado, lodge representatives meet you at the airport and welcome you to the region. These representatives will be your guides for the coming days, and their expertise in the flora and fauna of the region is impressive. Most of them grew up in the Amazon and they know the area inside and out. After a quick stop at the lodge’s local office in town, it’s time to board the 4-wheel-drive van and make your way out to the river dock (in certain times of the year, your boat may also depart right from Puerto Maldonado). After about a 45 minute ride, you’ll board a 15-person motorized canoe and begin your journey up the river, into the remote Amazon.
The canoe ride can be made in about an hour, but you’ll take closer to an hour and a half, as your guides are sure to spot plenty of wildlife along the way worthy of a quick detour. Macaws and parrots perch on trees towering above the river, capybara make their way along the muddy shores, and caiman can also often be seen peering along the water’s surface. Upon arrival to the lodge, you will be briefed in the main reception area about what to expect for the next few days and will meet some of the other lodge guests on this journey as well. You’ll be shown to your room, and your guide will let you know what time to meet back up for your first walk into the jungle.
The order and exact activities can vary, but typical schedule continues today with an afternoon visit to the canopy tower. At 100 feet high, a visit to the top of the tower gives you a bird’s eye view up above the tops of the capirona and kapok trees and is a great opportunity to see birds and monkeys as well. In the late afternoon you will make your way back to the lodge via the extensive trail system and will have some time to shower and relax before dinner. Dinner is buffet style, and there is an array of options. There’s also a bar with beer wine and spirits.
As it starts to get dark, you can really hear the jungle come to life. The untrained ear can only imagine what creatures may lurk outside (and there are no windows!), but with the netting brought down over the sides of your bed, you can be assured that the creatures are close, but not too close. By the end of the first day, you understand that this is a going to be an up close and personal experience with nature, and the outside world starts to seem distant…a refreshing start to the jungle adventure.
Day 2: You will need to wake up early (well before sunup) if you would like to make the journey up river and to the lake where otters are commonly found. A trip around the lake takes an hour or so, and you can do some piranha fishing too. You’ll be back at the lodge in time for breakfast (yes, breakfast!) and will have some time to rest before heading back out to see if you can spot macaws (and sometimes capybara) at the macaw clay lick. You’ll make your way back to the lodge for lunch.
In the afternoon you will have the chance to visit a traditional botanical center downriver where you can learn about the many species of trees and plants in this area, and their many uses (and even be able to try some traditional local remedies for yourself). You will make your way back to the lodge for dinner in the early evening. Tonight make sure to have your flashlight or headlamp ready, as your guide will take you into the jungle for a night walk, giving you the opportunity to view many of the nocturnal creatures that inhabit the area.
Day 3: In the morning you will make a visit to the parrot clay lick where lots of parrots and parakeets gather to eat clay. If you are quiet and have a little luck, you will get some great photo opportunities. You will also take about a 2 hour walk today out to a giant kapok tree, with the chance to see wild pigs and a variety of other wildlife along the way.
After lunch you will make a visit to the community of Infierno and a local farm. Many of the guides in this area are from Infierno and you will have the chance to learn about how locals in this area live and have lived. It is an interesting opportunity to learn about the human side of this remote and unforgiving environment.
Day 4: You will normally depart early from the lodge and make your way back to the airport for your flight to Lima or other Peruvian destination to continue your trip or head home. It’s back to the “real world”, but not before a memorable 3 night escape into the amazing natural depths of the Amazon.