Jungle fever? No problem.
Peru is 60% jungle and is home to several accessible jungle areas including Iquitos, Manu and Tambopata. Deciding to go to the jungle isn’t the difficult part, it’s deciding which area to go to that can prove challenging. In the end, we opted to go to Tambopata and we have no regrets!
With the decision made, we boarded our night bus in Cusco and headed to Puerto Maldonado. As we exited our bus the following morning, we welcomed the warm, humid air as it was a stark contrast to those chilly mountain temperatures! Next, we had a relaxing hour long boat ride along the Rio Madre de Dios before arriving at our lodge nestled in the jungle along the river. Upon our arrival, we lathered on our insect repellent, put on our jungle gear and did our best Tarzan impressions and we were ready to go!
Here are activities essential for any jungle extravaganza in Tambopata…
1. An Evening River Cruise
Get up close and maybe a little too personal with the alligators posted up along the riverbank after dusk. I promise you’ll never forget having a staring contest with the alligators as you trade gazes from the safety and comfort of the boat.
If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a capybara which proudly wears the superlative sash for the world’s largest rodent. How about that for some bragging rights?! Envision a very large guinea pig and you’ve got a fairly accurate picture.
2. Monkeying Around with the Monkeys
Monkey Island was a hop, skip, and a jump from our lodge so we were fortunate enough to play with the 16 monkeys that have full reign over this entire island. Everyone knows a quick way to befriend a monkey – give them a banana. It always seems to do the trick! These monkeys were playful, feisty and so much fun!
The monkeys at our lodge loved Brian as well. In fact, they followed Brian just about everywhere he went!
3. Observing the Macaws Morning Ritual at the Clay Licks
A type of parrot, the macaw, is a big player when it comes to jungle life. Flying high in the tree canopy, these birds can’t be missed as they spread their wings and display a wide range of bright, vibrant colors.
We were told that macaws don’t have saliva and often go after semi-poisonous fruit. As a result, macaws consume clay every morning. The clay provides a coat or lining in their stomach to protect against the semi-poisonous fruit. It’s a strange and interesting thing to watch unfold as the birds literally peck at the clay wall until they have met their clay quota!
4. Fishing in the Swamp Like a Local
Have you ever caught your own lunch? Well, we had our chance! After a short 30 minute walk into the jungle from our lodge, we arrived at a swamp that was home to fish, a sting ray and even an anaconda! Apparently at one point the baby anaconda was swimming in the water only a foot away from where I was fishin on a log. Thankfully, our guide didn’t tell me that the unfriendly fella was so close until after he had passed. Otherwise, I more than likely would have freaked out with my arms flailing and joined him in the water. I don’t even want to think about how that would have ended!
Brian, being the natural fisherman that he is, had a fish hooked before I even had bait on my line! After seeing the size of Brian’s first catch, I knew we wouldn’t go hungry at lunch!
5. Search for the Sea Otters and Other Wildlife on Sandoval Lake
After a two mile hike into the jungle, we arrived at the channel that took us to Sandoval Lake. We leisurely explored the lake by rowboat as we all kept our eyes open for surprises along the way.
We saw a family of turtles perched on a log, several gorgeous birds, a black alligator lurking in the water, and three summersaulting sea otters. Okay, so the giant sea otters weren’t summersaulting but they were playful swimming. Unfortunately for us, they were too fast and we couldn’t row hard enough to catch up with them but they were adorable from afar!
You can’t go wrong with any jungle experience whether it be in Iquitos, Manu or Tambopata. Having said that, we really enjoyed our time in Tambopata and highly recommend it to anyone looking to trade in their mountain hat in for a jungle safari hat!