A Peruvian rainforest experience
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.