Caimans, tarantulas, howler monkeys and macaws, … That’s just a small sample of the vast amount of wildlife we’ve seen in the Peruvian Amazon. In fact, the Tambopata Nature Reserve is a rare area of extreme natural diversity. It is located in southeastern Peru, close to Bolivia and not too far from the Brazilian border. Our time in the middle of this reserve became an experience we will never forget!
- In this article
- The Cayman Lodge
- Day 1: Boat ride and night hike
- Day 2: Sachavacayoc and cayman excursion
- Day 3: Chuncho Clay Lick and Condenado Lake
- Day 4: Relaxing
The Cayman Lodge
After a lot of research, we chose to stay four days and three nights at the amazing Cayman Lodge. The lodge is located seventy kilometers from Puerto Maldonado – the last bit of civilization before the big jungle – and along the Tambopata River. We booked the tour that allows you to visit both lake Sachavacayoc and lake Chuncho. It was 430 Euros per person, which seems like a lot, but it is an all-inclusive price and the experience is worth every penny.
The property consists of many cabins, a restaurant, a bar and a nice lounge with hammocks. The whole place has a slightly colonial feel and is very well maintained by the friendliest staff on earth. Between the cabins you can see Agoutis hopping around and snacking, and if you are lucky, you might even see a swarm of Capuchin monkeys swing by!
The place is very nice and clean, but don’t expect too much luxury. After all, you are in the largest rainforest in the world! There is no electricity in the rooms, but there is a charging station in the restaurant. So, when you go to sleep, you blow out a candle on one of those old-fashioned candlesticks. How cool is that! There are no hot showers, and except for the guides’ “secret” hotspot a little further down the jungle, there is no Internet access.
Day 1 – Boat ride and night hike
At 7 a.m., our night bus from Cusco arrived at the bus station in Puerto Maldonado, where we were met by a driver from the organization. He took us to the headquarters, then to a bank and a place to have breakfast. Around noon we were introduced to our guide Listen, a great guy! Together we set off to the river where our adventure in the wilderness was about to begin…
The boat ride took as long as two hours, and on the way we were served lunch in a banana leaf. The closer we got to our destination, the more Listen looked through his binoculars. And yes, what he saw did not disappoint! There was a whole family of capybaras walking along the shore, two caimans basking in the sun, and we also spotted a couple of turtles!
After dinner we met up with our guide again for a short evening walk. We sneaked through the Amazon forest with our lights on and saw all sorts of unusual insects such as “bullet ants“, stick insects and lots of fireflies. Robin’s eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness as he was the first to spot a gecko. Moments later, the guide himself took a picture of a snake and told us how “lucky” we were. And the highlight was yet to come… Listen used a long blade of grass to lure a tarantula out of its shelter! Whooaaaah!
Day 2 – Sachavacayoc and cayman excursion
After breakfast, we set out on a hike to Sachavacayoc Lake with our guide Listen. It was a six and a half kilometer hike with lots of whistling and rustling in the trees. Listen tried out his call to attract monkeys and it worked! A lot of squirrel monkeys came passing by. As the guide whispered, “Look! He’s posing!” we were able to capture some of these little gems.
At Lake Sachavacayoc wooden canoes were waiting for us. We were allowed to sit in one as Listen crawled in the back with his paddle. Silently we floated over the water and searched the surroundings. Once again we were successful, as we spotted many unusual birds, such as a toucan, “stinky birds” and several darter birds. We were also lucky to see a big red howler monkey and a night monkey. And we had to look very closely to finally see these well camouflaged bats hanging in a row!
We also had an activity planned for this evening. In the pitch dark we crawled into a boat and floated down the Tambopata River. We only had to go about a hundred meters before the eyes of the first caiman lit up in the water! It was unbelievable how close we got to these reptiles. We could almost touch them!
Day 3 – Chuncho Clay Lick and Condenado Lake
The day started early – very early! We were on the boat by 4 a.m. Even though it is humid and hot in the Amazon jungle during the day, we were very grateful for the warm blanket that Listen gave us. It was still dark, we were tired, it was cold and the trip took two hours. What a hardship – lol. We wouldn’t have missed this for the world! At 6 o’clock we finally arrived at one of the highlights of the four-day trip: the Chuncho Clay Lick.
Together with tourists from other organizations we sat on stools we had brought along. Giant binoculars were taken out and breakfast was prepared. And now for the waiting part… The first birds to come and nibble on the clay wall across the river were parakeets in bright greens and blues. There were more and more and then suddenly a large macaw flew among the parakeets. And then another… And another… Before we knew it, the whole wall was covered with the most beautiful parrots in the most beautiful colors. What a sight!
By lunchtime we were back at the Cayman Lodge and in the afternoon a trip to Condenado Lake was scheduled. We had added this ourselves to the original schedule and paid a small additional fee. We first had to hike five kilometers and were again accompanied by monkeys, this time they were spider monkeys and even more squirrel monkeys.
We found this Lake Condenado much more beautiful than that of Sachavacayoc, although we spotted little additional wildlife. We paddled the canoe through the reeds and in some places the passage was very narrow. We were hoping to see water snakes, but they remained hidden. We just enjoyed the nature and the silence around us. There was no other human being in sight.
Day 4 – Relaxing
On the last day there were no excursions planned. At first we thought it was a shame, but actually it was great to just relax. After several weeks of backpacking and hopping from one amazing place to the next – because that’s Peru! – it was wonderful to just lie in the hammock and read a book for a few hours. The visit of some monkeys and more unusual birds made it completely blissful. Only in the afternoon did we say goodbye to Peru’s Amazon, took the boat back to Puerto Maldonado and got ready for … Lake Titicaca!