Updated on March 1st, 2021
The Amazon Rainforest produces 20% of the worlds oxygen & is home to over 5 million species of the animals, plants & insects which live on our planet. Peru makes claim to being the most biodiverse, well protected & easily accessible part of this vast, lifegiving forest. If you have ever wanted to see it for yourself, then here I provide you with everything you need to know before visiting the Amazon in Peru.”
Tambopata, Amazon Rainforest, Peru
In 2017 I spent 2 months exploring the mystical beauty of South America. I had already been blown away by Argentina & Bolivia before my final destination, Peru. Here, I decided to take a tour & opted for G Adventures Absolute Peru. This gave me everything I needed from this magical country, including hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the wonders of Lake Titicaca, epic Colca Canyon & the mysterious Nazca Lines. In addition one of my highlights was to visit the legendary Amazon Rainforest.
The duration of my Amazon rainforest trip was 3 days/2 nights in which time I had the opportunity to annoy tarantulas, get too close to poisonous frogs, feed piranhas, get a tribal makeover & be alone in the dark in the world’s biggest rainforest. It was an experience I will never forget & if you would like to do the same, here is everything you need to know before visiting the Amazon in Peru.
If you are interested to read about other amazing animal interactions, then look no further than my Top 11 Wildlife Experiences in the World.
10 Essential Things to Know Before Visiting the Amazon in Peru
The Amazon Jungle is known as the “Lungs of the World” as it produces over 20% of the earth’s oxygen. The Amazon Basin spreads across 40% of the landmass of South America. That’s over half of Brazil & Columbia along with most of Ecuador, Bolivia & Peru. The start of the basin is in southern Peru which also has some of the easier access points to this vast rainforest.
The rainforest in Peru covers 2/3 of the country. It contains the most biodiverse regions on the planet & of the whole of the Amazon basin. In addition, the Peruvian part is the best protected.
It is home to more than half of the estimated 10 million species of animal, plant & insect on the planet. In addition, they believe that 250,000 people live native in the jungle. There may be around 50 tribes who have never had contact with the outside world.”
If that doesn’t convince you that visiting the Amazon in Peru is worth the effort, then I don’t know what will!
The most accessible starting point is to head south-east to Puerto Maldonado where, like me, you will find yourself on the doorstep of the Tambopata Nature Reserve.
If you have just been in Cusco for the sights of iconic Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu, then Manu maybe your best option. The Pacaya-Samiria National Park there is home to the greatest biodiversity in the rainforest.
Finally, if you choose to head north, you are able to access the deep recesses of the jungle via Iquitos, the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road.
You are planning on visiting a rainforest, so expect any time to be hot, humid & most importantly wet! The dry season is the best time to visit which runs between April – October. Ideally, time your trip to coincide with the cooler months of May, June & July. However, in Pacaya-Samiria National Park, the drier months can be unpleasant as there are fewer accessible animals & a lot of biting insects. Mosquitos are rife everywhere so make sure you take insect repellent with at least 50% DEET & keep covered up, whenever you decide to visit.
November to March marks the wet season & as such, expect a lot of rain! The river will swell, making it the perfect time to see waterfalls but hiking will be a challenge & wildlife spotting more difficult on foot.
For December to March visits, it’s easier to explore by boat where you will be undercover. In addition, the smaller tributaries will be easier to navigate, taking you deeper into the forest & you will have access to a more concentrated area of mammals.”
For the effort it takes to get there & the huge diversity of flora & fauna, I would recommend at least 3 days/2 nights. Remember that this is nature & nothing is guaranteed. The longer you stay, the greater variety of wildlife you are likely to find. In addition, on a longer trip, you will be able to travel further into the jungle & access more remote areas. However, the length of your stay will also impact the price you pay.
This will depend on which area you decide to visit. Generally, the more remote you go, the more expensive. If you book before leaving home, you may pay more. Waiting until you are in Lima or Cusco will allow lots of choices & you could get better deals. If you have plenty of time & like to be more last minute, then book in the town on arrival. You will have a choice of agents & lodges but for a lower price. If budgets are tight you may also be able to strike a bargain. You could opt to just do a day trip or two but that will not allow you to access the deeper areas of the rainforest.
Of course, this will depend on which region you choose to visit.
For Puerto Maldonado, you can fly from Lima & Cusco. If you fancy a long journey, there is also a 10-hour bus option from Cusco.
For Manu, the only real choice is to take a bus from Lima (8 hours).
Iquitos is the world’s largest city which cannot be reached by road. Your best option is to fly from Lima or take a boat along the river.
In an area renowned for its unbelievable biodiversity, you cannot fail to be blown away by the unique wildlife when visiting the Amazon in Peru. As with any safari, however, nothing is guaranteed so if there is something very specific you would like to see then prepare to be disappointed.
In terms of mammals, then you could be lucky & spot a jaguar or puma, anteater or tapir, sloth or coati. Then there is the capybara, the world’s largest rodent.
The giant river otters are as endangered as the tiger or giant panda. There may be only 1000 – 5000 of these left in the world so a sighting would be incredibly lucky. For monkey lovers keep your eyes peeled for spider & howler monkeys among others.”
A river cruise can also give you the opportunity to spot the unique pink river dolphins (Iquitos area), manatees, caiman, crocodiles, anaconda & river turtles. When I visited, we even fed piranhas…just biscuits though, you’ll be pleased to hear!
Birdlife is colourful & equally diverse, with 7 species of macaw, hummingbirds, hawk & harpy eagle as well as the ominous vultures. In addition are some of the strangest looking birds such as the bright orange Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Peru’s national bird) & hoatzin, with its bright blue face & distinct head crest.
And then there are the enormous snails, cicada, tarantulas (& smaller, less furry spiders) & ants, not to mention fascinating fungi, enormous trees & endless plant species.
8. Activities in the Amazon Rainforest
These would be my recommendations to ensure you include on any Amazon Rainforest trip:
Cruising along this iconic river will be part of any visit to the rainforest & one of the best places to spot many of the mammals. However, it’s not just the river but there are numerous Oxbow Lakes which also pepper the landscape. These are where the river bends have been cut off to form lakes. On my visit, we failed to find an anaconda but fed piranhas & were treated to sightings of the hoatzin, toucans & very friendly butterflies!
Staying in a lodge gives you the chance to explore the rainforest in the dark with spiders, ants, bats, butterflies & everything else that makes the jungle come alive at night. We spotted enormous snails, a jungle chicken, interesting tunnels made by cicadas, frogs & even a sloth! Our walk culminated in a challenge where we stood alone in the dark for 10 minutes. It was a profound experience!
You cannot beat a walk in the forest! I loved the mushrooms, strangling fig & giant elephant’s trunk trees. Then our guide spotted a tiny frog. As we approached for a better look, he told us that it was incredibly poisonous. I made a swift exit! Then he attempted to draw out a tarantula from its den…unsuccessfully.
I also had the chance for a jungle makeover using the dye from the leaves of one of the bushes as my friends looked on. There was a mixture of delight, bewilderment & horror on their faces. I thought I looked great until someone told me it wouldn’t come off!”
Unfortunately, I didn’t visit one of these, but it sounds amazing! Along the banks of the river, clay containing essential minerals is deposited. Macaws, parakeets & all manner of wildlife gather to ingest the salts. Visiting is a must for any birdwatcher or animal enthusiast.
The best option is to stay in one of the eco-lodges. When else do you get a chance to be engulfed by the forest at night? A lodge stay will generally include all food, tours & transportation. Bear in mind that many of the lodges may not have electricity & are therefore powered by a generator. They may only run the generator at certain hours of the day (5 – 9pm for example), so recharging is more challenging. Where I stayed, the bedrooms were cabin style with flush toilets & solar-powered showers. However, for light, we used our torches & candles. For me, this just added to the magical experience.
Lodges will also provide purified water for drinking & a bar for soft drinks, beers etc. Make sure you bring local currency (small notes) to pay for anything extra you consume. Change will be hard to come by & credit cards useless.”
I stayed in Tambopata Lodge which was excellent & the guides exceptionally knowledgeable. There was a stream nearby for swimming & they also have platforms in the trees to get a bird’s eye view of the forest.
Alternatively, there is the Tambopata Research Centre which is reached via a 7-hour boat trip. If you are a fan of bird watching, the Research Centre is near to a salt lick which attracts up to 10 species of parrot & macaw most mornings. Due to its remoteness, stays here are more expensive.
The Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion is close to Lake Sandoval & has its own private lagoon. If you can’t bear to be disconnected for a few days, the lodges here also have the rare commodity of phone coverage & wifi!
Posada Amazonas is jointly owned by the local Ese-Eja community & the guides include some tribe members. It is, therefore, a great place to stay if you want to learn more about the culture & people in the area. In addition, there is again a nearby salt lick & giant river otters are often spotted in the nearby lakes.
From Iquitos, if you enjoy a bit of luxury, then Ceiba Tops offers just that. It is more of a luxury hotel in the rainforest with 75 rooms, landscaped gardens & a bar with live music. Choose this if you don’t want to ‘rough it’ but also be aware that it may be a less authentic experience.
10. What to Pack for the Amazon Jungle, Peru
The main thing to think about when you are packing is that it’s hot, will probably rain but you will also need to keep covered to avoid being bitten alive!
- Waterproof Jacket or poncho
- Fleece or sweater
- 2 pairs of shorts
- Light coloured long sleeve shirts
- Walking trousers (no jeans, everything can get wet…nothing will dry!)
- Walking boots – lodges will lend rubber boots for the walks
- Flip flops or sandals
- 3 pairs of socks (at least one longer pair to wear inside rubber boots)
- Torch &/or headlamp with extra or new batteries
- Insect repellent with 50% DEET
- Toiletries (make sure these are biodegradable)
- Alarm clock
- Personal first aid kit
- Day pack
- Camera with extra memory cards & battery
- Personal entertainment
- Outlet adapter
- Antibacterial wipes/gel
- Reusable water bottle (your lodge will provide treated water for refilling)
- Plastic bags or dry bags
- Cash, including small bills in local currency
Visiting the Amazon in Peru is a unique opportunity, but any trip comes with a lot of considerations to ensure you get the most out of your time. I hope I have given you all the information you need to make your visit a truly ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience.
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