A Peru­vian rain­for­est ex­pe­ri­ence

JanHoughsha­res­some­ofwhat­makesthePeru­vianA­ma­zon rain­forestanad­ven­ture

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2010 -

HAS the mere idea of crawl­ing in­sects and other slith­ery fauna kept you from adding a rain­for­est ex­pe­ri­ence to your bucket list? That was me un­til a thrilling three-day stint in the Peru­vian Ama­zon.

Rain­for­est Ex­pe­di­tions, a joint ven­ture be­tween pri­vate busi­ness and Peru­vian rain­for­est com­mu­ni­ties, has de­vel­oped a con­cept that al­lows you to ex­pe­ri­ence the rain­for­est in ut­most com­fort and safety. They op­er­ate three award-win­ning lodges, staffed en­tirely by lo­cals, each with a wide ar­ray of fas­ci­nat­ing eco-tourism ex­pe­ri­ences deep in the heart of the Ama­zon rain­for­est.

Our ex­pe­ri­ence started in Puerto Mal­don­ado, a river port town about two hours by air from Lima, or 45 min­utes from Cusco, where we were met by Patty, our young and en­thu­si­as­tic jun­gle guide. Some­how Patty’s youth­ful looks be­lie her peo­ple skills and vast knowl­edge of the Ama­zon.

A small, com­fort­able river­boat took us up river deep into the jun­gle to our lodge, Refu­gio Ama­zonas. Ours was the far­thest and on the way. We stopped to off­load guests for the other two lodges and also t o s i g n i n t o t h e Ta mbop a t a Na t u r e Re­serve. With the jun­gle tow­er­ing on the banks of the river, we were treated to the amaz­ing sights of the for­est, flocks of colour­ful birds in flight, or rest­ing in trees or on the clay banks (tak­ing in their daily dosage of min­er­als) and an­i­mals like the capy­bara, the planet’s largest ro­dent.

The Peru­vian Ama­zon is the most pris­tine part of the world’s largest green lung. The hu­man foot­print is small and con­trolled and has not been al­lowed to cause the scale of de­struc­tion vis­i­ble in other parts of this nat­u­ral won­der.

A 10-minute walk on a nar­row wind­ing jun­gle path, with for­est canopy clos­ing above, brought us to the lodge: beau­ti­fully de­signed and built to strict eco guide­lines – some­how you do not ex­pect to see such a struc­ture in the jun­gle and at the same time it fits in so seam­lessly with the sur­round­ings, with trees and plants more or less push­ing up against it. Fully built from tim­ber and other for­est ma­te­ri­als and on stilts, you get the feel­ing that you are liv­ing in the trees.

Rus­tic look­ing, it is com­fort­able, with all the com­forts you can ask for, even a spa and large open lounges and din­ing room where you are treated to ex­cep­tion­ally good Peru­vian meals, can­dle-lit din­ners, and fan­tas­tic thirst quenchers against the trop­i­cal heat. Rooms, each with their own bath­room, have only three walls, the jun­gle is the fourth. The nights are filled with the noise of the jun­gle – not as quiet as I had ex­pected, but pitch dark be­cause of the lack of ar­ti­fi­cial light.

You spend your days par­tak­ing of a va­ri­ety of eco for­est ex­pe­ri­ences or just laze around in a ham­mock. The lodge of­fers day and night for­est walks. You can climb a 30m out­look point for a mag­nif­i­cent view over the for­est canopy; go on an ethno botan­i­cal walk – a trail de­signed by the Cen­tro Nape com­mu­nity who pro­duce medicine from for­est plants; row around on an oxbow lake (lakes formed when rivers change course) search­ing for gi­ant ot­ters and other lake­side wildlife – even an ana­conda if you are (un)lucky (a very rare pos­si­bil­ity, I was as­sured); vis­it­ing clay licks for a close-up look at the amaz­ing ar­ray of macaws, par­rots and p a r a k e e t s ; o r a t n i g h t s e a rc h i n g f o r caimans in the river or other rare for­est mam­mals that are ac­tive in the dark but rarely seen.

Much eas­ier to find are frogs with shapes, colours and sounds as bizarre as their nat­u­ral his­to­ries.

An­other tick on my bucket list – an en­joy­able and most re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, so re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent from what I have ex­pected a stay in the Ama­zon would have been.

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