If you are interested in visiting the jungle while in Cusco you have two options, the first is Manu which we visited last year, and the second is Tambopata or Puerto Maldonado. As we had visited Manu previously we decided to check out a Puerto Maldonado tour as well so that we would be familiar with both tours, the following is a description of the 5 day tour that we took. One thing that is important to note is that the standard PM tours are 3 or 4 day, but can be added on to if you have more time available.
We flew into Puerto Maldonado on a mid-day flight and were pick up at the airport by the tour agency, we were then transported to the office to pay the reserve entry fee before departing for our jungle lodge, we arrived in time for a late lunch after which we were taken to our room and had some time to settle in.
Our room was very spacious and comfortable with 3 beds and a nice porch with a hammock, the only down side for us was that there were limited places to hang things up, but the porch had enough railing to hang things on and we made do with this.
After we settled in to our room we went to the pool to relax and cool off a bit, here we enjoyed a relaxing dip and met the lodges pet peccary, while he had very coarse hair and had a habit of sneaking up on people and rubbing up against them, he was very friendly and really enjoyed having his cheeks scratched.
In the evening we took a boat to do some caiman watching, we saw many small caiman and a few medium-sized ones and towards the end of the evening our guide was even able to catch one, about one meter long, so that everyone could get a closer look and touch it if they wanted. Our evening ended with a delicious dinner after which we went to bed.
Our second day started early with a long boat ride to a parrot clay lick where we saw two or three species of green parrots and enjoyed a snack while watching them.
After the clay lick we returned to the lodge where we had breakfast and then had a little time to relax before departing to visit a local family.
The family visit was interesting, they showed us some traditional dancing and an interesting instrument that consists of a small strung bow that is placed in the mouth and then played like a fiddle with what appeared to be a heavy blade of grass or maybe a piece of a palm leaf.
We were also shown how to use a traditional bow and arrow, and everyone had a chance to try their hand at shooting at a piece of a palm trunk. The last thing they showed us before leaving was a game that they play with interesting tops that consist of a long thin hard piece of wood that is run through a flat rounded piece, a string is then wound around the stick and pulled through the fingers of a closed hand to get the top spinning. The tops are spun on a piece of cloth that has been loosely stretched on a frame so that it sags in the middle, this causes the tops to want to travel towards the center where they collide, the last top still spinning is the winner.
Day 3 started off with an early breakfast and then a boat ride up river to the trail that would take us to Lake Sandoval.
The walk on the trail was for me the most enjoyable part of this activity as we saw a wide variety of birds, butterflies and even two different troops of monkeys, one troop of Capuchin Monkeys and a troop of Squirrel Monkeys. Upon arrival at the lake our guide got us a boat and we started out through the shallows and trees towards the lake.
Overall the time on the lake was okay, we saw a variety of birds including the hoatzin, a prehistoric and very colorful bird. While Lake Sandoval is home to the largest species of Cayman in the region as well as the giant river otters we saw neither of these, according to our guide the river otters tend to stick to the restricted area and only occasionally venture out into the area where the tours are permitted. We ate lunch in the boat while enjoying the scenery and the chorus of birds and monkeys that could be heard in the forest, after lunch we made our way back to the lodge.
After arriving at the lodge we had a little time to relax and then took a late afternoon tour to monkey island, here you are guaranteed to see a variety of monkeys as it is essentially an open sanctuary. Our guide explained to us that the island is home for monkeys that have previously been captive, as they can not be returned to the wild the island provides them a home where they can live without the risk of predators. The monkeys are fed by the tour groups that visit the island and while not overly friendly, they will come down and take fruit from your hand, so here you are basically guaranteed to see some monkeys.
Our day finished with a canopy walk and zip-line tour, these were both right on the lodges grounds and while not amazing, it was interesting to get up above most of the trees, from here we were able to observe many of the parrots that we could usually hear but not see as they do tend to stick to the higher trees in the forest canopy. We enjoyed our walk as well as learning a bit about some of the life up in the canopy from our guide, unfortunately though I was a little big for the zip line (max weight was 110 kg.) and Lily decided to pass so neither of us did this.
This evening there was an optional night walk but we were both tired and decided to pass on this opting instead for a dip in the pool to cool off and then dinner followed by bed.
Today started with one of my favorite activities, FISHING….Anyone that knows me knows that I love to fish, so today was my favorite day of the trip, Lily of course took advantage of the fact that she has no interest in fishing and stayed in bed to sleep in. The day started early with the guide and I setting out for the small pond where they take guests to fish. This mornings walk through the jungle was one of my favorite walks as we were the only ones out there, so we actually saw a fair number of birds, including some blue parrots that were perched high overhead in the tree tops.
On the way to the fishing hole we also had a bit of excitement, during our walk the guide had brought a machete with him and was doing a little trail clearing as we went. At one point on the trail the guide told me to stop so he could clear some small palm branches and as he did so he learned that some hornets were calling that particular palm home. Need less to say we both received a few stings from the agitated hornets, and the guide had to cut a new trail around the palm so that we could continue.
At the fishing hole we got on the boat that was tied up and polled 20 yards or so to a point where the guide felt would be good fishing. The fishing was a little slow as the majority of the fish were small and voracious, although I did not see any piranhas, and it was difficult to get the bait to the bottom where the larger fish were at. Despite this I did manage to catch three fish which we cleaned and returned to the lodge to be shared with all that were staying there.
We spent the afternoon this day relaxing at the pool and in the late afternoon (around 5pm) we went down to the river for some Kayaking, we paddled across the river to a nice sandy beach where we all went for a swim in the river and enjoyed one last jungle sunset. Just before the sun was fully set and there was still some light left we paddled our kayaks up river a bit and then crossed once again, allowing the river to carry us back to the lodge for dinner.
Sadly this was our departure day and after breakfast we packed everything back into our packs and went down to the river to catch our boat back to civilization. Arriving back in Puerto Maldonado we had a little time to kill before our flight out, so we wandered around town a bit and had some lunch, then after lunch we returned to the agency’s office for our ride back to the airport and our departure from Puerto Maldonado.
We really enjoyed our time at the Monte Amazonico Lodge and would happily recommend this tour to anyone that is interested in visiting the Tambopata region. The lodge itself was large and spacious with the rooms being grouped in blocks of 2 to about 10 or so, the blocks are scattered around the property with some being close to the main building, some being close to the pool and some being a little isolated, like our room which was at the end (I think it was 24) so the only thing outside of our windows was jungle.
During our stay we had 3 different guides and all seemed knowledgeable, spoke good English and were very friendly and helpful, our favorite guide was Frank who grew up in the region and would spend months with his father deep in the jungle logging when he was growing up. The food was also very good, fruit juices were served at every meal along with water, tea or coffee, and the meals were all typical Peruvian dishes.
Overall we had a great experience and would happily return if the opportunity presents itself in the future.
Things to Know:
1) If interested in booking a tour to Puerto Maldonado and you are staying with us at GringoWasi, then just let us know and we will be happy to help you plan and book the tour. If you are interested in doing a Puerto Maldonado tour and do not wish to stay at GringoWasi, then feel free to contact us through our website or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to recommend a tour provider.
2) Keep in mind that this is a jungle trip and despite the fact you will be staying in a lodge, the lodge is located in the jungle. During our stay there was actually one couple that did none of the activities and even left early due to the amount of wildlife (lizards, butterfly’s and insects) that were just around the lodge grounds.
3) Pink Dolphins – There are no pink dolphins in the Tambopata region, to the best of my knowledge they can only be seen by doing a tour from Iquitos in the north. Yes there was a couple that was unfortunately promised pink dolphins by their tour agency (not the operator). So if you are interested in seeing pink dolphins then you should consider tours from Iquitos.
4) This is a rustic lodge, as such there is no hot water and power only from 5pm to 10pm for recharging of batteries, additionally there is no internet.
5) Pack light, while there are short times of the year where it can get cool, most of the time it is hot and humid, so lightweight clothing that can dry fast is a good choice along with light weight rain gear although you may find wearing rain gear makes you even hotter.
6) The boats have limited space, and because of this agencies generally request that you not bring any more gear than necessary with you, so if planing the tour from and then returning to Cusco, just leave any extra gear with your hotel in Cusco. If on the other hand you are planing to fly into Puerto Maldonado , then continue on to another location after your tour, it would be best to have things ready to separate in the event the agency does not have room for all of your bags on the boat (I know some of you travel with your whole house).