Destination Puerto Maldonado
PUERTO MALDONADO is a frontier colonist town with strong links to the Cusco region and an economy based on unsustainable lumber and gold extraction which is a highly sustainable Brazil-nut gathering from the rivers and forests of Madre de Dios. Puerto Maldonado has grown enormously over the last twenty years from a small, laidback outpost of civilization to a busy market town. Today, the globalisation and rapid growth of businesses within the region has seen the town of Puerto Maldonado become the thriving, safe capital of the region. Only thirty years ago, there were hardly any four-wheeled vehicles and the town’s only TV was set up outside the municipal building for the locals to watch football, these days enormous Brazilian trucks thunder past and satellite TV dishes have sprouted all over town.
While gold mining and logging keep Puerto Maldonado buzzing today, it was rubber sales and production that has helped to establish the town at the beginning of the twentieth century. During the 1920s, game hunters dominated the economy of the region. In the 1960s, the exploiters of mahogany and cedar trees arrived, leading to the construction of Boca Manu airstrip, just before the oil companies moved in during the 1970s. Most of the townspeople, riding coolly around on Honda motorbikes, are second-generation colonos, but there’s a constant stream of new and hopeful arrivals, both rich and poor, from all parts of South America; the lure being gold.
The Amazon rainforest drapes a green blanket over a significant part of South America. It covers the entire eastern part of Peru and extends into parts of Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela.
Southern Amazon in Peru
In Southern Peru, is the department of Madre de Dios. The capital Puerto Maldonado, is the most popular city in the region and is a hot spot for adventure seeking travelers that wish to explore this part of the amazon.
The flourishing ecosystem in the southern part of the Peruvian jungle is all fed by the Madre de Dios River and its streams. The Tambopata is one of the most vital streams, starting in the town of Puerto Maldonado around 55 kilometres from the Peru-Bolivia border. The stream also flows through the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. The protected areas of the jungle hold large habitats where flora and fauna flourish, with ancient trees that spread for miles and riverbeds layered with bamboo groves.
With an altitude of 180 metres (600 feet) above sea level, Puerto Maldonado dominates the southern part of the Peruvian Amazon.
With a tropical climate, the Amazon will have warm days with high humidity.
The driest months in the amazon are from May to October. Cold spells occur from June to September, where temperatures can drop to around 10*C (50*f) for a few days at a time. These are a result of cold fronts that emerge from Patagonia and from the Andes, blow down to the southern jungle.
Pros: Ideal trail conditions, clay licks will be filled with macaws, parrots and other birds.
Cons: the hot temperatures can cause less bird and amphibian activity.
You can expect rain throughout the whole year due to the fact that the amazon is a rainforest, but during wet season, rainfall will be more consistent. The rainy season starts in November and will continue on until April. During November and December is when most rainfall is expected.
Pros: the constant rainfall can form temporary wetlands and with cooler temperatures, it can be easier to see amphibians or reptiles.
Cons: these rainy conditions can interfere with flightless birds at the clay licks and muddy trails.
Around Puerto Maldonado
Madre de Dios boasts spectacular Virgin lowland rainforests and exceptional wildlife. Brazil-nut tree trails, a range of lodges, some excellent local guides and ecologists, plus indigenous and colonist cultures are all within a few hours of Puerto Maldonado.
A short way downriver from Puerto Maldonado is Lago Sandoval; a large lake where the Ministry of Agriculture has introduced the large paiche fish. Upon arrival at the lake, boatmen and canoes can usually be obtained by your guide for a couple of hours, as can food and drink. The lake offers decent opportunities for spotting wildlife; in particular, birds similar to those at Lago Valencia, such as hoatzins and the occasional toucan can be sighted, you may even spot a giant otter. Incidentally, if you’re travelling to the lake by river, most guides will show you the mined hulk of an old boat lying close to the riverbank.
Reserva Nacional Tambopata
Containing some of the world’s finest and most biodiverse rainforests, the RESERVA NACIONAL TAMBOPATA, is one of the most easily accessible parts of relatively pristine Amazon rainforest. Described by National Geographic as one of the planet’s seven “iconic natural sanctuaries”, it is within easy reach of many of the lodges in the Puerto Maldonado region. Transformed into a reserved zone mainly due to the scientific work of the adjacent Explorers Inn lodge, the area covers around 250,000 hectares, and is next to the Parque Nacional Bahuaja-Sonene. The expansion of the National Parle is a major success for conservation in Peru. However, despite this there are fears that the government has plans to open up the park in future to gas and oil exploitation. It’s only possible to visit the National Park on a tour with a licensed operator. Tours organized from Cusco or Puerto Maldonado can enter one of the major macaw salt licks (colpas) in the region. The licks are the best places to see wildlife in the jungle, since the sails, minerals and clay are highly nutritious, attracting large numbers of wild birds and animals.
Jungle communities & Puerto Maldonado
Over 60 percent of Peru is covered by the Amazonian jungle, but only 5 percent of Peru’s total population can call the jungle home. There are several Indigenous communities in the Amazon, but each community has very different lifestyles. The people that live closer to bigger cities like Puerto Maldonado, will most likely have electricity and running water, but there are also tribes that live deeper inside the jungle and can only be accessed by boat.
Many of the tribes that once lived in isolated parts of jungle have gone through a lot of hardship and injustice due to the growth of cities like Puerto Maldonado. Environments and habitats have been polluted, because of constant mining and logging. The Indigenous community also has to face corrupt politicians and loose businesses that ultimately interferes with monetary aid and environmentally friendly projects that can help these communities.
However, the Ese’Eja tribe is a brilliant example of an Indigenous community that thrives in the Madre de Dios region. This tribe has surpassed injustice and is now alongside the Rainforest Expedition (a Peruvian ecotourism company), the tribe is also partnered with the Posada Amazonas jungle lodge.
Over the years, tourism has boomed in Puerto Maldonado and as result, the community has become multilingual. The guides, hotel staff and drivers will of course speak Spanish and most also speak English. Some even speak French, Portuguese and a selection of other languages. To experience Native languages, a visit to an Indigenous community is necessary and recommended.
During the low water season, your Amazon tour might include a land trek through the jungle. This is a great opportunity to see hundreds of species of plants, insects and reptiles that make their home in the vegetation of the jungle floor under the protection of the thick vegetation above. During the high water season, land treks are uncommon as most areas are inaccessible due to the flooding of the rivers from the heavy rains.
Navigating the rivers of the Amazon by boat is one of the best ways to get a front row seat to the jungle’s wildlife scene. The flowing water of the rivers sustains life and is the main resource of the Amazon Rainforest. This means that a wide variety of animals come to the banks of the rivers to drink, eat, bathe and lounge. It is common to see birds and monkeys perched in the trees, capybaras and otters playing in the shallow water near the shores and possibly even a jaguar taking an afternoon nap in the thicket. Boat tours are available all year round in most parts of the Amazon.
The Peruvian jungle is home to some of the 64 registered Aboriginal communities in the country. Despite a long history of interaction with Catholic missionaries and other outsiders, many of these Native tribes have kept key elements of their culture intact including language, dance traditions and artistic expression. Many of these people are being trained to attend to all of the tourists who visit them. The service and quality of the lodges are outstanding and Indigenous communities try to maintain these international standards.
The Peruvian Amazon rainforest is home to some startling diversity of plant and animal life. This diversity varies not only by geographic location, but also by distance from the rainforest floor. In a competition for sunlight, tall trees mingle their leafy branches with those of their neighbours, creating a green roof known as the canopy. Below, within and above the canopy, life takes different forms. Walks above the canopy on platforms or bridges are included in many jungle lodge programs
Getting to the rainforest
Puerto Maldonado, a small city nestled in the country’s southeastern region, is one of the principal gateways to the Peruvian Amazon. It is connected to the outside world by air, river and road. If you, like most travelers to Peru have limited vacation time and you’re looking for the most efficient way to get to your destination, air travel is definitely the fastest way to get to Puerto Maldonado. Flights depart daily from Lima and Cusco.
Most of the jungle lodges are located down the river and away from the city, requiring a second leg of travel by boat. If you’ve made arrangements in advance for an Amazon tour, lodge staff will meet you at the Puerto Maldonado airport and escort your group to your final destination. Motorized canoes carry passengers along the river and make for a unique jungle experience! Travel time usually takes between one and six hours, depending on the location of the lodge.
Getting there and away
By Air: Many airlines offer services to Puerto Maldonado. A direct flight from Cusco takes 55 minutes and a nonstop service from Lima takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The best time to go
The Peruvian Amazon is a year round destination. The ‘best time’ to visit will depend on the individual traveler’s interests. The high water season (December through May) affords greater opportunity to find and see wildlife and the jungle hiking trails disappear due to flooding. Temperatures will be cooler in high water season, but the mosquitos will be out in greater numbers. The low water season brings warmer temperatures, but there are more opportunities to explore the region on foot in order to see the thousands of varieties of flora and fauna inhabiting the lush jungle floor. Keep in mind that some months are better to see wildlife due to mating seasons. For example, many of the parrot species feed more on the clay licks of the Tambopata National Reserve during their breeding season in order to provide nutrients for their young. Therefore, the best time to see this spectacle is between the months of November and March.
How to pack for the rainforest
Here is a packing list that we recommend for your Amazon jungle vacation:
-Long sleeved, tight-weaved, light coloured cotton shirts
-Tight-weaved, light colored, long pants
-Broad brimmed hat
-Flashlight with batteries
-Ankle-high hiking boots
First of all, we would like to mention that it is not customary to tip in Peru as it is in many other countries. As a consequence, most Peruvians do not show their appreciation for good service by leaving a tip. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tip in Peru. When you are happy with a service, we recommend that you use your judgment to adjust the amount according to the situation.
INKATERRA HACIENDA CONCEPCION Deep within the heart of the Amazon – where the story of Inkaterra first began – lays Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción, located between the Tambopata National Reserve and the shores of the Madre de Dios River. 25 private cabanas sitting majestically on stilts and a 5-room casa grande with high ceilings and a rustic thatched…