I’ve been spending a lot of time in the jungle lately. Last month I traveled to Brunei, where I explored the rainforests of Borneo. This month it’s South America, where I just started a trip to Peru with a visit to Puerto Maldonado in the famous Amazon region.

Canoes in the Amazon in Peru

The journey started off on a high note when my hotel, Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, picked me up from the airport. The vehicle that carried me and my fellow passengers from the small arrivals area to the hotel’s butterfly house and check-in lounge looked more like a veranda on wheels than a bus.

Inkaterra bus at Puerto Maldonado Airport in Peru

The covered platform with white wooden chairs carried us the short distance to where we lounged on sofas and enjoyed cold towels and bottled water as the check-in process took place amidst the butterflies.

Sofas at the Inkaterra butterfly house in Puerto Maldonado in Peru

When that was finished, we boarded our veranda-on-wheels for the 15-minute drive to the Madre de Dios River. Along the way we passed through the city of Puerto Maldonado, which was full of colorful buildings, town squares, and armies of Asian-style tuk tuks. I later learned that these vehicles were a byproduct of the ever-increasing Chinese influence in the region.

Boats on the Madre de Dios River in Puerto Maldonado in Peru

Once at the river, we boarded a motorized canoe for the 45-minute journey to our lodging in nearby Tambopata. The wide river was lined with dense jungle on both sides, and the trip was reminiscent of my journey from Bandar Seri Begawan to the rainforest in Brunei.

Boat on the Madre de Dios River in Tambopata Peru

When we arrived at the lodge, we ate a delicious three-course lunch that consisted of a potato and heart of palm salad followed by a fish curry and fresh fruit. I had heard that the food in Lima was world-class, but I learned in Tambopata that that phenomenon extended across the entire country.

Salad at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica in Tambopata Peru

After lunch I checked into my cabana, which the hotel had offered me for two nights. It was rustic-chic and came complete with woven hammocks, wooden lounge chairs, bathrooms, showers, and large beds over which hung very necessary mosquito nets. The only thing not to like about it was that the windows were screened in, and due to the close proximity of one bungalow to another, I could hear every word spoken in the neighboring cabanas. Other than that, it was great.

Bungalow at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica in Tambopata in the Amazon in Peru

I had a few minutes to relax in my hammock before happy hour, during which all guests were offered a complimentary pisco sour every night. The one I drank was the first of my trip to Peru, and it reminded me of the ones I had in Chile last year. It was good to be back in South America.

Hammock in a bungalow at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica in Tambopata in the Amazon in Peru

After happy hour, I met with Moises, my guide during my stay at Inkaterra. He gave me an overview of the options for the lodge’s excursions, most of which were included with the stay (the same went for all meals). Everything from river safaris to night hikes and bird watching was offered.

Brown capuchin monkey in Tambopata in the Amazon in Peru

I chose to go on the night river cruise that evening, and I’m glad I did. We saw numerous caimans, or Amazonian crocodiles, as well as capybaras, the world’s largest rodents. We also saw birds such as egrets. But perhaps the best part of the night safari was the millions of stars in the sky. Not since my trips to Borneo and Namibia have I seen a sky so full of stars. It was beautiful.

Caiman in the Madre de Dios River in Tambopata Peru

The next day my excursions continued with a trip to Lake Sandoval. To get there, we took a 3-kilometer hike through shin-deep mud that made us thankful for the wellies that Inkaterra provided. Along the way we saw all kinds of wildlife, including brown capuchin monkeys, tropical birds, butterflies, and all kinds of plant life.

Owl butterfly near Lake Sandoval in Tambopata Peru

Once we got to the water, we took a motorized canoe along a river that led to the lake. The sun was shining, and we had great views of the bizarre “chicken birds”, caimans, and a very playful spider monkey that stuck its tongue out at us as it swung from branch to branch.

Spider monkey by Lake Sandoval in Tambopata Peru

I was exhausted by the time we returned to the lodge, but not so much so that I passed up the chance to go on another excursion. Most of the guests went on the canopy walkway, but after my terrifying-yet-rewarding experience of watching the sunrise above the canopy in Borneo, my next 20 years worth of courage and adrenaline had been used up. My fear of heights won out over my sense of adventure in Peru.

Wasp nest on Monkey Island in Tambopata in the Amazon in Peru

Instead, I went with a guide to Monkey Island, which was located right across the Madre de Dios River from the lodge. There we went on a walk through the jungle, where we saw frogs, a wasp nest that I almost walked right into, and more Amazonian flora.

Frog on Monkey Island in Tambopata in the Amazon in Peru

That evening I was almost too tired to move, but I forced myself to go on the night hike. I was glad I did. We saw tarantulas, tree snakes, night monkeys, and even a lone crab in the middle of the trail. It reminded me a lot of my night walk in Borneo.

Crab in Tambopata in the Amazon in Peru

We also saw millions of mosquitoes, 23 of which decided to bite me that evening. I’m hoping I don’t come down with malaria anytime soon, but if I do, at least I will have seen some really amazing fauna in the process.

Capybara in Tambopata in the Amazon in Peru

When I wasn’t out on excursions, I was enjoying Inkaterra’s grounds and cuisine. The former were gorgeous, with cabanas that blended into their surroundings. Inkaterra was very environmentally conscious, so every day from 3pm to 6pm the electricity was switched off. That served as an added incentive to get out and explore. Not that I needed any, what with the abundance of adorable agoutis hopping around to keep my cute quota filled at all times.

Agouti in Tambopata in the Amazon in Peru

There were also amazing views of the river from my room, not least during the sunrise, when the sky turned fuchsia and lavender above the placid pink river. They made waking up at 5am for my excursions worth it.

Sunrise over the Madre de Dios River in Tambopata Peru

Then there was the pretty tree trunk path that led the way to the main lodge where all of my meals took place. Like my lunch on the first day, all of my meals at Inkaterra were very good. The fish was definitely the best option, as the chicken and meat could be a little tough, but the freshness of the ingredients and the use of local produce made for many outstanding meals.

Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica in Tambopata Peru

So did the company. As a solo traveler, I was expecting to eat my meals alone. But all of the other guests I met were incredibly friendly, and I ended up sharing every meal with one or more other party. It was a huge improvement on my usual read-a-book or stare-at-the-wall-because-I-forgot-my-book dining experiences, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the Americans, Brits, Australians, and Canadians I met.

Chicken birds by Lake Sandoval in Tambopata Peru

On my second morning in Tambopata, some of those people and I were up at 5am to get ready for our journey back to Puerto Maldonado airport. We boarded the boat and then the veranda-on-wheels, and soon enough we were back at the butterfly house communing with the winged beauties before heading to the airport.

Inkaterra butterfly House in Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon in Peru

When we arrived, I took my bag, paid the annoying departure tax, and waved good-bye to the Peruvian Amazon. It was my second jungle experience in a month, and as with my Borneo trip and it’s Angkor Wat segment, my Peru trip’s next destination included an amazing cultural wonder: the legendary city of Machu Picchu. To be continued…

8 Comments on Lady in the Peruvian Amazon

  1. Wonderful Julie.
    Thank you for sharing. The pictures of the wildlife is pretty cool.
    Love your transportation from the airport. Maybe it doubles as a hotel at nights :).

  2. It was wonderful meeting you in the Amazon – great choice of photos to add to the description. During our last night the skies opened with a true showing of a rain forest downpour. There was no hope the next day for those who were planning excursions such as ours – would you believe even more mud?
    Wendy from Canada

    • It was great to meet you too, Wendy! That’s too bad it rained on your last day, but I hope you still had a good time. It’s hard to imagine more mud than we saw on our hike to the lake!

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