Amazon Claylicks & Jaguar Photography

Overview

This expedition is designed for small groups of serious wildlife photographers and involves early mornings, long outings, often taking breakfast with us, to maximise our time and be out at the ideal hours for wildlife activity.

A week-long trip into the Peruvian Amazon, dedicated to the photography of colourful macaws, parrots and parakeets at some of the world’s best clay licks, and the hunt for the king of the Amazon jungle – the jaguar.

South-east Peru is renowned for its clay lick activity with multiple species of brightly coloured and raucous Psittacidae’s coming down every morning from the rainforest canopy to the riverbanks to eat clay. This gives us the amazing opportunity to photograph these birds together and in large numbers – perched in the surrounding trees, slowly descending until a few brave individuals move down to the open riverbank as newly arriving family groups fly by.

The same area also offers opportunities to observe and photograph many species of the Amazon Rainforest, including increasing sightings of the elusive jaguar. This, the largest feline in the Americas is found in many habitats across South and Central America but is an iconic figure in the Amazon Rainforest fauna. Along the banks of the Tambopata River, these cats are being more regularly seen as they emerge from the dense rainforest in the early mornings and late afternoon to soak up the sun or escape the oppressive humidity of the forest. No longer hunted, they are slowly becoming more tolerant of human observation, giving visitors the exciting opportunity to see and photograph these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

 

 

Highlights

 

Outings dedicated to wildlife photography

  • Daily visits to the two largest and most active clay licks in the region
  • Daily boat outings searching for jaguars and other wildlife along the banks of the Tambopata River
  • Staying at the most remote but comfortable lodge on the limit of the Tambopata National Reserve and the pristine Bahuaja-Sonene National Park
  • Experiencing the sounds, sights, smells of the Peruvian Amazon jungle and its wildlife
  • Knowledgeable, bilingual guides with interests and experience in wildlife photography of the area

 

 

Example Itinerary

Expedition lengths are flexible, and personalized, but the first and final day will be given to travelling in and out of the reserve from the city of Puerto Maldonado. Flights to Puerto Maldonado are now limited to one airline and so on the day of arrival and departure, activities are minimal to ensure time for last minute or unexpected changes.

For these reasons we suggest a minimum of 7 days 6 nights itinerary to allow ample time to get the photographic shots you want at the clay licks, and increased chances of jaguar sightings.

Day 1

Arrival to Puerto Maldonado in the early afternoon where you will be met by your guide at the airport. If you have excess luggage you do not need for this part of your trip, this can be left at the agency office to reduce excessive weight on the boats.

Setting out first by land vehicle, travelling away from the city to one of the local ports. From here we will head up the Tambopata River to our first destination, Refugio Amazonas. Stopping on route for photographic opportunities, keeping in mind the early sunset and avoiding travelling by boat in the dark. Once arrived and settled into our rooms for our one night at this lodge, there is the option for a short afternoon walk and/or night walk for frogs, reptiles, nocturnal birds and mammals.

Overnight at Refugio Amazonas

 

Day 2

Early morning departure to get to the local and most productive clay lick where you will be greeted by the dawn and a cacophony of sounds as a multitude of parrots and macaws gather above the exposed clay banks. Here we will spend a large part of the morning photographing these gaudy colored birds as they perch, fly, eat and squabble.

As the activity waxes and wanes, we will eat our boxed breakfast in front of the clay lick, ensuring we don’t miss any activity. Mid to late morning we will head out and make our way further upriver to our base for the rest of the trip – the most remote lodge in the Tambopata National Reserve, located on the border with the untouched National Park. Always on the look-out for one of the regions jaguars, as well as other wildlife and photography opportunities en route.

Arriving at the lodge, we will lunch and take a short rest before our afternoon outing focused on finding jaguars.

Returning to the lodge as the day fades into night, increasing the possibility of tapirs and other nocturnal animals.

Spend the evening sorting through your photos of the day, dinner and early night.

Overnight at Tambopata Research Center

 

Day 3

Starting early but a more relaxed departure as the lodging was strategically built in close proximity to the most biodiverse of the clay licks of the region – with more species of birds visiting the lick than any other. After enjoying the peak period of activity, we will head back to the lodge for breakfast / we will take our breakfast in front of the lick or on the boat as we head out for a morning of jaguar hunting, enjoying the different landscape, birdlife and mammals along the way.

Returning to the lodge for lunch, resting through the heat of the day, before returning to our riparian search for the panther of the rainforest.

Overnight at Tambopata Research Center

 

Day 4

Today we visit the first clay lick again, searching for jaguars en route as we go downstream, photography and breakfast in front of the clay lick. Returning to the lodge for lunch, followed by afternoon boat outing.

Overnight at Tambopata Research Center

 

Day 5

Repeat of day three, enjoying the nature and wildlife the rainforest provides us.

Overnight at Tambopata Research Center

 

Day 6

Repeat of day 4.

Overnight at Tambopata Research Center

 

Day 7

Early morning transfer to Puerto Maldonado, with the last chance of spotting and photographing wildlife along the rivers as we descend the Tambopata river. Drop off at the airport or your hotel.

 

Included:

  • Guide for duration of expedition (from airport meeting to drop off)
  • Transport between Puerto Maldonado and rainforest lodges
  • Accommodation for the duration of the expedition
  • All meals from departure to drop off
  • Transport during expedition
  • Safe drinking water, fresh fruit juices with meals, tea, coffee, fruit and biscuit snacks

 Not included:

  • Extra or alcoholic drinks
  • Tips for guide and lodge staff
  • Travel and health insurance
  • Air fares or other transport before arrival to Puerto Maldonado
  • Accommodation in Puerto Maldonado before or after expedition

 

About The Area

The Bahuaja-Sonene National Park is a government protected area in the department of Madre de Dios, Peru, created to protect an extensive area of pristine Amazon rainforest. Predominantly untouched by man, except for the indigenous and uncontacted tribes and historic exploration.  It is bordered by the Tambopata National Reserve, a buffer zone to the park given to tourism and conservation concessions with the aims to protect the National Park from intrusion by loggers, hunters, gold miners while offering a source of sustainable income to the local people.

Accessed via the town of Puerto Maldonado, <2 hours direct flight from the capital of Lima. Near the city, the forests have been extensively hunted in the past, leaving the devoid of many of its large mammals – spider monkeys, peccaries, tapirs etc.

Travelling first by paved and then dirt road out of the city, making our way speedily towards one of the ports along the Tambopata river. Once the road ends and we can travel no further by land, we will switch to motorised long-boats and travel the rainforest the traditional way, along the rivers.

What To Expect & Packing List

Weather

The area experiences two seasons – the wet and the dry season. Most visitors visit during the dry season as trails and transport are more easily navigated, not being so flooded or muddy. Saying that, it is the Amazon Rainforest and it can rain any time of year.

In some parts of the year (typically June & July), visitors may be surprised to learn that unpredictable cold snaps can come from the south, dropping tropical temperatures into the low double or even single digits (Celsius), leaving guests unprepared for the cold.

Average temperatures range from low to high 20’s (Celsius), sometimes reaching the 30’s, but the humidity which can be >70% makes it feel a lot hotter.

Insects

All the regular beasties are present – mosquitos, ticks, chiggers, ants, wasps, bees etc. If you have any allergies or reactions to bites, bring medicine and have it with you on every outing. No recent outbreaks or mosquito borne diseases have been reported.

Chiggers are small but highly annoying skin mites. Very difficult to see, in good light they can be identified as tiny red dots the size of a pinpoint, usually in the middle of a red rash the size of a fingertip. Their saliva as they feed causes a reaction that is very itchy but does no real harm unless you scratch too much. Alcohol supposedly helps kill them, and anti-itch cream will help with the effects.

Ticks are present, but it is rare that guests get them, especially if taking precautions such as tucking in trouser legs, not sitting on your bed or wearing clothes you have been out in for a long time and checking yourself for ticks. No diseases are reported.

Physical Requirements

Minimal physical requirements – ability to carry your own photographic equipment and day packs, traverse stairs and walk moderate distances (1-2km max) on trails that are mostly flat but with one or two steep inclines that could be muddy if there have been recent rains.

 

Packing Suggestions:

Sun and insect protection

  • Light, quick-drying long-sleeved shirts
  • Light, quick-drying long trousers
  • Wide-brimmed hat / cap with neck protection
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun cream
  • Insect repellent

Rain & Cold

  • Warm jacket
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Thick pair of trousers
  • Waterproof trousers

Shoes

  • Comfortable, waterproof walking boots
  • Trainers or other indoor shoes

Additional

  • Comfortable clothes for relaxing in
  • Extra warm set of clothes in case some get wet
  • Small day pack or camera bag
  • Camera equipment (and waterproof covers)
  • Binoculars
  • Re-fillable water bottle
  • Head torch
  • Toilet paper (just in case)
  • Travel First Aid Kit (ideal to take with you on walks in case of cuts or stings etc)
  • Cash in US Dollars (without any rips or stains) or Peruvian Nuevo Soles
  • Flat or round two-pronged plugs are used so many US appliances won’t need adaptors (110v)
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