Peruvian Amazon Rainforest
Sample Itinerary Options
Before breakfast Early Morning Options –
Early risers may take a boat ride for bird watching along the river. Being close to the equator, the region has a 12-hour night that allows the forest to cool. Before going about their daily activities of feeding or nest building, many species of birds will spend the first hour after sunup in the trees along the river, where they can catch maximum warmth from the early morning sun. In a good morning you will see over a hundred different bird species, including Macaws, Parrots, Toucans, Tanagers, Raptors and others. Some folks may wish to go on a walk or a canoe ride through the flooded rainforests, where you can often spot monkeys and other wildlife in the trees during their early morning activities.
Day options —
Visit the varzea ecology near the lodge. In a tree five minutes from the lodge lives a family of pygmy marmosets, the world’s smallest primates. They are quite used to visitors and will climb down to within a few feet of you. Another 30 minutes hiking brings you to another family of these small primates. Continuing through the forest, your guide will inform you about the medicinal properties of several plant species. The indigenous people have been using these plants and trees for medicine for hundreds of years and many of the recent Western medicinal treatments and disease cures have originated from these plants of the rainforest. Realize, as you walk along, how the rainforest holds many more, yet unstudied, plants that could be future cures for disease. Watch the guide cut a nick in a rubber tree and see the white sap run out. As he pulls on this sap you see a long white string that, upon being given a sample, you realize is stretchy just like a rubber band.
Take a motorized boat upriver, passing by spectacular Oropendola nests, hanging like giant teardrops from the branches, as well as a nest of Social Spiders, their webs reaching twenty feet across. Along the way you may see Squirrel Monkeys or Dusky Titis jumping through the trees. Your group could reach a point where the guide and boat’s motorman portage the boat through a trail to an interior forest lake, called a cocha. Cochas are formed when these tropical rivers pinch off oxbow meanders. They are rich in wildlife activity. As you follow the trail you will pass by giant Kapok and Strangler Fichus, growing as big as a fortress. Perhaps you will see a three-toed sloth along the way. Re-board the boat for an excursion around the crescent-shaped cocha where you look for the large population of Hoatzin birds. According to DNA studies, the last time they have shared a common ancestor with any other living bird was about 36 million years ago which perhaps explains their primitive appearance and behavior. The baby birds of this weird bird species use the prehensile claws on their wings to scurry over vegetation and to climb up trees!
Head upriver to the largest lake where you can see many Capped Herons, Horned Screamers, Sun Grebes and other fabulous birds. In the lake lives a school of Pink Dolphins. These large freshwater dolphins are very intelligent. Many scientists have come to the lodge to study the Pink Dolphins. The lake is also blackwater (high tannic acid) and invites you to enter. After several minutes of swimming around, the dolphins swim closer, rising and falling as they surface around you, coming within a few feet before their curiosity ultimately fades. Your boat leaves the area, weaving in and out of the branches of the spectacular flooded forests. The guides will stop on one of the shores and you can have your picnic lunch. Maybe you will be treated to a spectacle of Giant River Otters playing nearby.
Go down river to visit a native riberenos community. These rainforest dwellers have had contact with the outside world for about 100 years. They speak a dialect of Spanish, with remnant native Quechua words to describe jungle plants and animals. Their lifestyle is largely self-sufficient and dependent on jungle resources, with fragments of historical cultures, which has evolved post-contact into what is called riberenos culture. You can visit a native elementary school, see the rainforest inhabitants’ cultivation of manioc, pineapples, and other forest plants. Later you will hike as you continue into the forest beyond. Here the guide will explain how the natives harvest and use jungle resources such as Umari and Aguaje fruits (you can sample their alien, delicious flavor), Cashapona trees, and Tamshi vines. Along the way watch for the many Macaws and Parrots, which also prefer the Aguaje and Umari. You will come to a lake that has giant Victoria Regia lily pads, stretching five feet in diameter. Going further, you arrive at a delightful waterfall formed by a shale shelf. The rushing water is rich in tannic acid, keeping you safe from parasitic protozoans or other bad microbes. You take a refreshing swim, allowing the water to rush overhead. Afterwards you have a jungle picnic.
Another day, after breakfast, you can go to the canopy exploration site and ascend via safety of a chair into the tree canopy 100 feet above ground, for a bird’s eye view of the rainforest. Walking back, count the amazing number of butterfly species you encounter. Can you spot a Blue Morpho, a butterfly as big as your hand? What is that big brown balloon hanging from a branch? Let your guide tell you about this termite nest and learn about the ingenious way the termites reach their nest way up in the air. Learn how the indigenous people use these critters for protection! What does a termite smell like? Be ready for a surprise when you find out! Also observe a string of leaf cutter ants marching along the rainforest floor and see the creative way they carry their supply of leaves. Along the way one of the guides may cut a Tarzan-type vine so you can swing across a small stream.
Using a motorboat to go upriver into the terra firme forest, you see the greatest variety of wildlife yet. For the first 3 hours you travel up a small uninhabited tributary, called the Tangarana. You see many new species of birds along the river, such as brightly colored Jacamars, Cotingas, and an Umbrella Bird. You stop at one point to photograph Wooly Monkeys jumping over your heads to the other side of the river. Reaching old growth forest, the guide leads you through a winding, indistinguishable trail, clearing the way with his machete. You encounter many spectacular birds such as Trogons, Quetzals, and Trumpeters, and mammals such as Red Uakari Monkeys, Peccaries, and Giant Anteater. Your picnic lunch is supplemented by natural foods, such as giant beetle grubs (optional!) and pure water found in this forest. Watch for the dolphins again and another look at the wildlife along the way. During you boat ride back to base camp, the only river “traffic” you see are riberenos in their dugout canoes. Notice the brilliant blue sky above the green canopy and the beautiful mirrored reflection of the forest in the water. Snap a few more photographs as you leave this tranquil setting.
On Thursday, visit the local village community for shopping, jungle style. Locals will have their arts and crafts for trade or sale. Included are ceramics, wood carvings, woven baskets and jewelry made from colorful seeds and palms of the rainforest, canoe paddles, musical instruments made from jungle woods, blowguns, bows and arrows, and other crafts unique to the Amazon.
Then hike or canoe through a glade laden with a variety of beautiful orchids and bromeliads living harmoniously on trees as plants called epiphytes. What is the relationship of certain bees to a specific type of these orchids -- is it a love affair or war? Learn how certain orchids entice the bees to imbibe in their reservoir of pollen and learn what happens to the bees in the process! Canoe into flooded igapo habitat and tie the boat to a flooded fichus. Watch powerful woodpeckers while fishing for piranha. Leaving the area in late afternoon, you pass through the village, making arrangements for the shaman to visit the lodge for your last night at the lodge. He will bring his repertoire of medicinal plants and ceremonies to inspire one to do well in life. Returning to the lodge for supper, the chef pan-fries your Piranha (the staff will later make trophies for you out of the razor sharp teeth).
Evening Lodge Activities -
In the screened activity room of the lodge, relax in the hammocks or gather around the guides as they talk about their rainforest adventures and entertain you with the myths and legends of the Amazon. Perhaps you can persuade one of them to play the guitar for a sing-a-long in Spanish or in English.
Hop aboard the motorboat for a leisurely moonlight exploration on the river, viewing the many nocturnal animals such as Nightjars, Spectacled Owls, Boat-billed Herons, Night Herons, Nighthawks, Potoos, Bats, and the world’s only nocturnal monkey, the Douroucouli (commonly called the owl monkey). Look for caiman crocodiles along the way. The guides can easily spot these nocturnal animals by their amber red retinas reflecting the light of flashlights. Rowing very carefully, you can get to within a few feet of these reptiles. The guide shines his light on shore and you see red eyes shining back at you--is it a tree frog, an iguana, or a caiman? Motor over for a closer look and don’t be surprised if the guide catches a small caiman with his bare hands so you can have an eyeball to eyeball look with a critter.
If a graduate student from the University of Florida happens to be in the area doing research in the reserve, he can come to camp in the evening and share information about the history of the reserve (a Pleistocene refugia - thought to have remained forested during the last ice age, when most of the Amazon became a dry savanna) and how it has shaped the reserve’s mega diverse ecology. This area of the Amazon has been said to be the most bio-diverse of the entire world. (see O. J. Wilson’s book)
Take another nighttime boat excursion, guided by the light of brilliant stars (no light pollution from civilization here), you make a canoe excursion into a swampy area with the guides, looking for Tree Frogs, many with brilliant colors and unusual shapes. Along the way peer into the bushes to see and photograph sleeping Red Capped Cardinals, Paradise Tanagers, and Plum Throated Cotinga.
Relax another night with a night boat ride where you absorb the night around you by boat-floating back to camp, listening to the forest sounds as the boat gently glides along the water in the heart of the Amazon. Gazing up at the Southern Hemisphere, see what constellations you can recognize. Where is the Southern Cross? Do you think you’ll see the Big Dipper in this Southern night sky? Here the night sounds—the deep-throated tree frogs, the plaintive cry of the Tahuayo bird, the night owls, and … what was that other noise?
The last evening in the lodge a shaman will perform a cleansing and good luck ceremony. Then prepare for a fiesta as the chef whips up a special feast and the staff celebrates with your group by performing traditional regional music and dancing. All join in by dancing to the music of the local jungle band.