Venture into the Amazon, a jewel of stunning biodiversity in South America. Travel by boat to see a wide variety of colorful wildlife, along with a visit to the Tambopata Research Center. Away from the crowds, you’ll be able to spend days in observing the flora, fauna, and wildlife.

Highlights

  • Experience the Amazon with the help of knowledgeable local guides
  • Journey through pristine jungle and Brazil nut rainforest
  • Spot capybaras, and monkeys within the reserve
  • See the world's largest macaw lick near a scenic riverside cliff

Overview

The Tambopata Natural Reserve spans over 1.3 million hectares, including a 700,000 hectare nucleus featuring 8 different life zones, 165 endemic native species, and a research center. You will explore this fascinating ecosystem through a boat ride and various moderate-intensity hikes over the course of 4 days.

Multiple trails descend into different parts of the rainforest, each with its own distinct characteristics and wildlife. You’ll have your own English-speaking guide, with other language accommodations available upon request.

If you are spending a longer amount of time in Peru (over 2 weeks), experiencing the Peruvian Amazon is one of the most unique excursions possible. This tour focuses on natural side of Peru, giving you a refreshing perspective away from the more popular Incan sites and ruins.

Brief itinerary

Day Activity Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in the Amazon Refugio Amazonas Lodge
Day 2 River Adventure Tambopata Research Center
Day 3 Macaw Clay Lick, Floodplain Trail, and Pond Platform Tambopata Research Center
Day 4 Terra Firme Trail and Palm Swamp Trail Tambopata Research Center

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Into the Amazon

Tambopata nature reserve
The lush jungle of the Tambopata nature reserve

Arrive at the Puerto Maldonado Airport, where an agent will meet you and drop you off at the local headquarters for luggage storage. Here, all of your extra luggages will be locked away in a secure safe for more convenient boat travel. After a quick walk through the garden for a preview of rainforest plants, it’s time to pack your necessities and travel into the Amazon.

Depart from the Tambopata port on a two and a half hour boat ride, and pass through the community of Infierno Reserve checkpoint. Eat a packed lunch en route, and watch as the sunlight disappears behind the dense rainforest trees. The boat will take you to your home base for the next few days, the Refugio Amazonas lodge.

The manager will welcome you before giving you an important briefing regarding navigation and security. Then, kick back and relax for the rest of your night after a day of traveling, or go out for an extra trip. These alligator-like creatures rest on the riverbanks, and their red eyes will glow in the beams of your headlights and flashlights.

Day 2: Tambopata Research Center

Howler Monkey
Spot Howler monkeys in the Peruvian jungle

Wake up early for a 30-minute walk to the scaffolding canopy tower. After climbing up a 25 meter staircase to safely access the canopy, prepare for a view like no other. Watch flocks of toucans, macaws, and birds of prey fly above the treetops expanding past the horizon. Then, return to the lodge for breakfast, and trek to a brazil nut forest. Here, discover a camp occupied seasonally by a community of nut gatherers who have been harvesting for centuries. Understand the sustainable brazil nut process of collection, drying, and transportation.

Then, embark on the highlight of the day: a four hour boat ride to the Tambopata Research Center. Leave civilization behind as you cross the Malinowski River confluence and into the heart of the reserve. Eat a boxed lunch and look around for capybaras (large jungle-dwelling rodents), macaws, geese, and other animals.

Arrive at the Research Center for a brief introduction, and hike another three to five kilometers for a spectacular view of Tambopata lowlands. Along the way, watch out for howler monkeys and dusky titi monkeys. Return to the Research Center for dinner, then learn all about the biology, feeding habits, breeding, population, and conservation threats of the macaw from resident scientists.

Day 3: Bird & Wildlife Tours

macaws
Enjoy an early morning tour to see macaws and other birdlife

Leave the center at dawn and observe a macaw clay lick on the face of a riverside cliff. Once featured in National Geographic, the cliff attracts dozens to hundreds of brilliant macaws to gather and ingest the clay for its minerals. Hidden from view, feast your eyes on green-winged, scarlet, and blue-and-gold macaws, as well as other parrot and parakeet species.

After returning for breakfast, trek the five kilometer Floodplain Trail, which takes you past flowing creeks, crystal ponds, and imposing trees. The trail’s habitat is typical of the Research Center’s surroundings, and is home to a variety of monkeys both large and small (squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, brown capuchins), as well as peccaries (a small pig).

Eat lunch upon returning, then head to the Pond Platform, a level surface above a pond ten minutes away. You will see sunbitterns (spotted waterfowl), hoatzins (bizarre, loud, pheasant-like birds with clawed babies), oropendolas (dark birds with bright yellow tails), Muscovy ducks, woodpeckers, and parakeets. After dinner, walk into the night and listen to the calming sounds of the rainforest. Your day ends just as nocturnal frogs and mammals awaken, their calls and cries resonating in the dark.

Day 4: Last day in the Reserve

Saddleback tamarin monkey
The saddleback tamarin monkey, founding along the Terra Firme trail

On your last day in the reserve, you can again visit the macaw clay lick if you rise and shine early. Trek the Terra Firme Trail after breakfast, which covers a different habitat of smaller trees and sloping hills. Look for saddleback tamarins, small squirrel-like monkeys. If you’re lucky, you can even spot tapir tracks among the swamp grounds.

Then, eat lunch and explore yet another habitat along the Palm Swamp Trail. Aguaje palms, one of the Amazon’s most prominent food sources, grow along the lakeside trail. These palms and their habitat are in great danger due to the demand for the palms’ fruits as well as rice-farming land.

Getting there & away

You’ll fly into the Padre Aldamiz Airport of Puerto Maldonado before your luggage check and trip to the Refugio Amazonas. Flights arrive and leave from Cusco and Lima regularly on mornings and early afternoons, making it convenient to go on the tour before or after another excursion in Southern Peru. Alternatively, you can take a 12-hour bus ride from Cusco, although this option is far less comfortable than the comparable half-hour flight. Refugio Amazonas and the reserve lands covered on the tour are only accessible by a boat ride from Puerto Maldonado.

Best season

Visiting during the dry season, lasting from May to October, is recommended. This allows for the best trail conditions and a better macaw watching experience. However, visiting during the rainy season allows for slightly cooler weather and faster river travel. Try to avoid visiting November or December however, as those are the rainiest months.