Long before European explorers arrived to South America, indigenous tribes inhabited the Amazon of present-day Peru. These peoples were mostly nomadic and survived by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods. Archaeological evidence of the oldest known Amazonian settlement dates back an estimated 11,000 years.
1450-1535 AD: The Inca Empire comes in contact with indigenous jungle cultures. Some tribes were conquered and integrated into the expanding empire. Others successfully warded off the Inca incursions and their ferociousness in battle became a detail weaved into oral traditions in the Andes and Amazon.
16th century: Spanish explorers write about their first expeditions into the jungle. Some were sent to settle the area, but often failed. Others set out in search of the fabled jungle city of gold, El Dorado. Catholic missionaries also set out on a mission to spread Christianity among remaining jungle communities.
19th century: Opportunistic businesses began to exploit natural resources from the Amazon under that assumption that it was all inexhaustible. In southern Peru, the city of Puerto Maldonado developed as a frontier town as demand for natural rubber took off. Later, timber, animal products, and fertile land for farming was later exploiting. Disease spread rapidly among the indigenous people and resulted in a high mortality rate and rapid depopulation.
Puerto Maldonado Today: The southern jungle of Peru is a hotspot for nature lovers and thrill seekers. Travelers can get to jungle lodges in the nearby Tambopata National Park the same day they arrive to Puerto Maldonado by plane.
What are the main threats to the Amazon Rainforest?
The bounty of natural resources from the Amazon and the challenge that comes with controlling activity within its remote regions makes the world’s largest rainforest susceptible to exploitation from the outside world. Photos depicting large plots of trees burned to the ground and once pristine rivers now flowing black with oil are snapshots of the devastating environmental destruction taking place in present times.
Despite the establishment of national reserves in southern Peru during the 90s, illegal mining and logging continue to threaten the region’s delicate jungle ecosystems. The completion of the Transoceanic Highway (a paved road connecting Puerto Maldonado to the outside world) also poses questions about the pros and cons of increased accessibility to the already at-risk region.
Fortunately, major players in ecotourism and research are driving forces behind efforts to save the Amazon and grow awareness for conservation programs.
A multi-day adventure at a jungle lodge is one of the best ways to capitalize on the outdoor highlights of southern Peru’s Tambopata and Manu National Parks. Excursions and activities offered at each jungle lodge vary.
Large flocks of macaws and parrots congregate around exposed sections of riverbeds, called clay licks, to nibble at the clay and socialize. Why do the birds eat the clay? Some scientists theorize the clay contains sodium and other minerals that they may need but don’t get from their food. Others think that the birds ingest the clay to help neutralize the toxins they eat from certain plants. To observe these beautiful birds in clay-eating action, guides may point out claylicks along the river while traveling in boat or take you to a protective dry-lead camouflage covering.
Oxbow lakes are unique habitats to Peru’s southern Amazon basin region. These lakes are formed as bends in the river are slowly cut off from the main water flow over hundreds of years. Get an early start to your day and explore the lake waters aboard a paddle-driven boat. With luck on your side, caimans, several species of birds, and resident families of giant otters are among the wildlife you can see!
Gain new perspective of the Amazon on a visit to the jungle canopy. The startling diversity in flora and fauna varies not only by habitat but also by distance from the rainforest floor. The canopy bridge at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica jungle lodge swings 31 meters (103 feet) above the rainforest floor.
Guided jungle walks are a chance to soak in the surrounding nature you at a slower. Some trails meander old-growth forests of towering trees, others explore shin-deep waters. Along the way, your expert guide will point out hidden wildlife and share knowledge about the native vegetation.
Local Community Visit
Many jungle lodges work closely with local communities. Posada Amazonas is a popular jungle lodge near the Tambopata National Reserve that’s owned in partnership between the native Ese’eja community and Rainforest Expeditions. Visiting a local farm or traditional community clinic offer great insight to how locals live in harmony with the Amazon.
Many of these remote lodges offer all-inclusive tour packages (accommodation, meals, guided excursions). Amenities vary from lodge to lodge. The following are lodges in Puerto Maldonado our team recommends.
About 45 minutes by boat from Puerto Maldonado
In a place like the Amazon where nature rules, the high-end amenities and rustic chic feel of Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica gives new meaning to the phrase “jungle experience.” Enjoy a spa treatment infused with exotic native ingredients and dine on tasty cuisine at the lodge’s two-story pavilion. Cabanas and suites are spacious and come with complimentary ecologically friendly toiletries. The modern comforts at Reserva Amazonica are just a stone’s throw from jungle exploration. At 103 ft (32 m) above the ground, the lodge’s tree canopy bridge literally lets you walk through the treetops!
About 25 minutes by boat from Puerto Maldonado
Surrounded by unspoiled wilderness and within walking distance of the secluded Lake Sandoval, it’s hard to beat the location of Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion. All of the 6 rooms and 19 private cabanas are spacious and have views of the forest. When guests aren’t out exploring with their guides, they can mingle at Casa Grade. Here, meals are served on the first-level dining area and the second level has a scenic lounge.
About 2 hours by boat from Puerto Maldonado
The Inotawa Lodge, built by a Swiss-Peruvian family on the border of the Tambopata Candamo Reserve, is considered by its owners to be more than a lodge: “it’s a tribute to nature, whose beauty and majesty inspire us to love, respect, and preserve it.” The large and comfortable rooms are ideal for relaxing and enjoying the natural surroundings, and by adapting the traditional native style of construction, they keep visitors in permanent contact with the rainforest.
See all Puerto Maldonado Lodges
What is it like to stay at a jungle lodge?
Lodges range drastically in style and amenities, from the luxurious jungle resort Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica to the rustic and remote Tambopata Research Center. Many Puerto Maldonado lodges are eco-friendly, which means no electricity; offering instead kerosine lamps for night time illumination. WiFi, if available, is usually spotty and slow. A surprising number of jungle lodges actually have hot water for showering.
Days at jungle lodges usually begin early and are filled with different activities. Some excursions, like extending hikes, are more physically demanding than others. Expert guides are always there for your safety, to answer questions, and to point out unique plants and animals you might otherwise overlook. In the evenings you can relax in a hammock and listen to the sounds of the jungle.
Do I need any vaccines before I travel to the Amazon in Peru?
No vaccines are required for entry, but yellow fever immunization is recommended if you travel to the Amazon region. Consult with your doctor before your trip.
When is the best time to visit the Amazon?
The Amazon is a year-round destination. There are pros and cons to visiting during each season, and the “best time” to visit really depends on your preferences or interests. If you don’t like the idea of walking in mud, then visit during the dry season. To avoid hotter temperatures, the rainy season is a more enjoyable time. Animal activity varies throughout the year and is a good way to narrow down specific travel dates for your jungle adventure. For example, opportunities to see macaws and parrots at the clay clicks are higher during the dry season.
What’s the best way to protect myself from mosquitoes in the jungle?
- Dress in lightweight pants, long sleeves, and wear shoes rather than sandals.
- Apply insect repellent containing DEET to areas of exposed skin; for extra measure, spray it on your clothing.
- Note that insect repellants with a high concentration of DEET should not be applied to children under the age of two because of the increased risk of neurologic toxicity.
- At night, sleep under a mosquito net and make sure the edges are tucked under the mattress.
What should I pack to go to the jungle?
- Long pants and shirts (made of light, quick-dry material)
- Water resistant shoes (especially during the wet season)
- Head lamp (and extra batteries, just in case)
- Insect repellant
- Sun protection (hat, sunblock, glasses)
- Binoculars are an added plus
- Reusable water bottle
- Local currency for small purchases and tips
For a jungle tour, it is important to pack light and bring only the necessary equipment and clothing. Space on the river boat to your lodge is limited. Amazon bound travelers will likely make a stop at their lodge’s office near the Puerto Maldonado airport where they can safely store the belonging they don’t need.