Touring the Amazon Jungle from Puerto Maldonado
With only a few weeks left of being backpackers and with our first FIFA World Cup game on the horizon in Southern Brazil we needed to make our way from the middle of Peru, 3500km’s away to Curitiba. An international flight would be pricey so we crafted a way to get over the Brazilian border and to take a domestic flight directly there, the alternative would have been 3-4 long bus trips. So the plan was born to get ourselves to Rio Branco via the Amazonian gateway town of Puerto Maldonado, stopping in for a romp around the jungle.
How things work in this part of the Amazon, is lodges offer all-inclusive packages for two, three, four plus night stays, the price you will be paying will include three meals a day and the majority of your activities, which can include night walks, piranha fishing, canopy walks etc. We went with a company Amazon Planet, whose point of difference is that it work’s alongside the animal rescue center Taricaya who work with a multitude of indigenous animals, meaning a visit to the center is one of the included activities. We chose a three day/two night stay for $230US, I would recommend if you have the time and the money to perhaps stay one more night.
It was fantastic to be able to visit the animal sanctuary, however the lodge along with others in the area I am sure has been recently affected by severe flooding meaning it isn’t all that polished as it once was, we felt perhaps what we paid for a two night stay was a little pricey for this reason. For the price we paid we were probably expecting to be looked after a little better, the food was rather plain, no soup or hot drinks offered (we’ve been told in the past this is a Peruvian tradition at meal times), we were also left out of our group and had to ask the tour guide to include us. We were most probably spoiled on the Inca Trail and expected something similar, I kind of felt it almost needed a woman’s touch to shake things up a bit.
The activities were pretty cool, we went on a night walk the first night and spotted tarantulas, fire fly’s and basically took in the night time sounds of the tremendous jungle and all it’s inhabitants.
The second day and our only full day at the lodge, started with a short walk out to the animal rescue center where we met with the resident jaguar, puma, ocelot and various breeds of monkey. The visit felt so much better than any zoo excursion i’ve taken in the past, perhaps it was the relaxed South American regulations and the very close proximity we got to the animals but it felt to me a very serene, rural and happy place.
We then took off to the tree canopy, a 90 foot suspended walkway that takes you to the highest tree platform in South America, 47 meters high in the crown of an ancient Lapuna tree. It apparently only recently went under maintenance but is still at that South American standard which gives you the extra kick of adrenalin when you realize the little bit of string holding the safety net affixed would simple rip off should I take a dive and require it to prevent me from dropping off the side.
After lunch and an afternoon rest we were then took off to the pilot farm, an initiative to show the locals that if they can manage their land efficiently by using it for cultivation they can make money and also reduce their impact on the surrounding forest. Non indigenous fruit grows and a small forest of mahogany tree’s grow with the foresight of 30 years when they will finally be felled for other purposes. It was a most interesting visit however the flooding had once again played it’s part and the majority of the fruit trees were dead.
Later that night once the sun had gone down we took to the river one on of the long boats to do some caiman spotting as they lay along the river banks. Using flashlights and headlamps we searched for the red eyes of the caiman staring back us, we saw quite a few and were lucky to be on the good side of the boat. Cute little guys, but they have nothing on the enormous alligators we have seen in the North of Australia, a fun activity none-the-less.
Finally on our third day, after breakfast we were personally driving back to Puerto Maldonado by one of the guides, it was here we met a taxi driver that gave our trip into Brazil the following day a bit of a shake up (more on that at a later date). We stayed the night at Tambopata Hostel, a very laid back hostel with mosquito nets and outside showers but perfect for it’s location and ate at Burgos’s Restaurante, where we couldn’t quite believe we were in a small town on the edge of Amazon Jungle, it was superb.