Untamed Jungle Expedition takes you to the lowlands of the Peruvian Rainforest. Here, flows the Tambopata River, one of the many tributaries that feed into the great Amazon River. It winds its way through the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park (established 1996) and the Tambopata National Reserve (2004), the latter bordering the National Park to create a buffer zone.
Alive with around 600 species of bird recorded, it is a birders paradise. Large and colourful macaws, green parrots, and small parakeets fly over the canopies and visit clay licks along the river banks. Noisy toucans call from tree tops, herons and the strange hoatzin inhabit oxbow lakes, while hummingbirds buzz through lodge gardens.
These pristine jungles are home to various primate species, eight of which there is a good chance of seeing. Ranging from the large and noisy Peruvian spider monkey (Endangered – IUCN Redlist), down to the nocturnal night monkey and the small frugivorous and insectivorous saddleback tamarins.
Lakes created by the ever-changing course of the rivers are ideal places to spot water birds such as herons and egrets, the five different species of kingfisher, anhingas, sungrebes and sunbitterns. On sunny days river turtles climb onto fallen logs to sunbathe, attracting multicoloured groups of butterflies.
Trails offer the chance to spot frogs, lizards, snakes, squirrels, agouti, armadillos, tortoises, peccary, deer, anteaters, and small carnivores such as ocelots and tayra.
River trips yield the opportunity to see capybara, tapir, and even the rare giant river otters and the elusive jaguar.
The Amazon jungle is a challenging but exciting place to put your photography skills to work. Excellent opportunities for macro, bird and wildlife, and astrophotography.
- Tambopata National Reserve – an area protected from activities such as mining and logging but that allows guests to visit and enjoy the immense beauty and biodiversity the region has to offer.
- Ecotourism lodges set along the banks of the Tambopata help prevent illegal encroachment into the reserve and provide plenty of options for visitors for a stay to suit their needs.
- World renowned claylicks (collpas) where 100’s of multicoloured macaws, parrots, parakeets and parrotlets descend from the trees to feed on exposed clay of the river banks.
- Of the approximately 600 bird species recorded in the area, 15 are listed as under threat and seven of which can be seen during your trip – Orinoco goose, razor-billed curassow, blue-throated piping guan, curl-crested aracari, red-and-green macaw, scarlet macaw, and blue-headed Macaw. Rarer sightings of wood stork, Peregrine falcon, Amazonian parrotlet and Peruvian recurvebill are possible.
- Possibility of seeing up to eight species of monkey, including the endangered (IUCN Redlist) Peruvian spider monkey, howlers, capuchins, squirrel monkeys and tamarins.
- Increasing numbers of jaguar sightings along the Tambopata river.
- Rainforest mammals such as peccaries, capybara, agouti, deer, squirrels and more
- Extensive trail systems, swamp walkways, canopy towers, observation points.
- Endless opportunities to photograph the variety of wildlife that can be seen in the Peruvian Amazon.
- Enjoy local cuisine and beverages from the country of 1000 tastes – a little bit of luxury in the depth of the rainforest.
Expedition lengths are flexible, but as several hours travel are required to reach the lodges from the airport we suggest a minimum of 4d/3n plus 2 nights extra for every additional lodge you stay at if exploring more than one, particularly the more remote lodges.
Please note that as sunset is between 17:30 and 18:10, flight arrivals and departures to and from Puerto Maldonado are at midday, and to avoid travelling by river in the dark no activites are planned for the first day, nor the final day when leaving so as to enjoy a relaxed exit without the worry of missing a flight.
Day 1: Puerto Maldonado – a rainforest lodge
Meet and greet at Puerto Maldonado Airport (or hotel if you have arrived prior to the start of the expedition), and transfer by vehicle to a river port before the final leg of the journey by boat to your chosen accommodation. Arrival late afternoon gives you time to settle in, and perhaps explore the lodge garden before dinner. If you are not too tired, the opportunity to go for a short night walk after dinner.
Day 2 – 3+: a rainforest lodge
Early morning activities include visiting the world famous Chuncho and Colorado claylicks to see hundreds of macaws and parrots gather along the river edges in a riot of colour and noise, descending to eat clay from the exposed banks. They offer amazing opportunities to photograph thes large and colourful birds which are normally up in the canopy or flying over head at lower elevations in an open environment – flying by as they check you out before landing on the exposed river bank or perched low in the vegetation.
Explore some of the lodge trails, listening to the jungle dawn chorus – the far carrying roar of the howler monkeys proclaiming their territory, and the weird and wonderful sounds of Amazonian birds. Experience the rainforest come to life around you.
Return for breakfast, followed by further exploration of trails, visiting tall towering trees with their large buttress roots, searching for interior forest birds, and keeping an eye and an ear out for diurnal mammals. The insect diversity is truly incredible – butterflies, bees, praying mantis, and beetles come in all shapes and sizes and colours.
As the heat of the day builds, take the time to retreat and rest like many of the rainforest inhabitants. Enjoy your lunch of delicious local cuisine and fresh fruit juices.
Setting out again in the afternoon dependent on which each local has to offer. There may be the opportunity to climb a tower up into the rainforest canopy looking for new bird species or an eye level view of monkey troops, or visit an oxbow lake or palm swamp.
Returning from the afternoon activities around 6pm as darkness descends, take the opportunity to rest, shower and check your photos before dinner.
Your day doesn’t have to end here – try local drinks at the bar or go for a night walk to look for owls, nightjars, frogs, snakes, and some of the nocturnal mammals, or out on a lake or the river in search of caiman.
Day 4-6: different rainforest lodge (optional)
Take a final stroll round the lodge grounds before breakfast and setting out to your next destination lodge. Trips on the river provide the best opportunity for seeing and photographing species such as lowland tapir, capybara, and the occasional jaguar.
Lunch at your new accommodation before exploring what the area has to offer – bamboo forests, terra firma forest, streams, oxbow lakes, observation towers, and canopy walkways.
Some locations also offer adventure activities such as tree climbing, kayaking etc.
Final Day: a rainforest lodge – Puerto Maldonado
Pack your bags, enjoy your last breakfast to the sounds of the jungle before heading back down the Tambopata river, wildlife spotting as you go. Transfer to the airport or your hotel in town.
- Guide for duration of expedition (from airport meeting to drop off)
- Transport between Puerto Maldonado and rainforest lodges (any special / extra activities may require additional costs to cover fuel)
- Accommodation for the duration of the expedition
- All meals from departure to drop off
- Safe drinking water, tea and coffee
- Soft or alcoholic drinks
- Additional snacks
- 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
To cater to your budget and your reasons for visiting the area, there are no specific lodges that we work with exclusively. Get in contact with us about what you are looking for and we can advise you on the right place to stay!
What To Expect & Packing List
You won’t be surprised to hear that it is hot and humid in the rainforest. Average temperatures throughout the year is 23-28°C (73-82°F) with highs of 35-38°C (95-100°F).
Occasionally in the months of June and July, temperatures can drop dramatically in something locally called a “friaje”. Cold winds come from the south, dropping temperatures to 10-15 degrees (50-60), or even below. Always bring one set of warm clothing! Early morning boat rides can also be chilly.
Humidity in Puerto Maldonado is recorded between 60-80% throughout the year, but is higher in the rainforest, often in the 90’s.
In this region, the rainy season is considered to start November and continue until April / May. The wettest typically being January, but it can rain during any month of the year, so always bring a raincoat or poncho. Limited numbers of rubber boots are available at the lodges if trails are particularly muddy.
Unfortunately, the lodges, trails and boats are not currently wheelchair friendly, but the majority of activities should be possible by generally able-bodied individuals.
The trails can be uneven under foot, with tree roots and creeping stems a potential tripping hazard.
Occasional tree falls can result in obstacles that have to be climbed or ducked under if the lodge staff have not yet cleared it with chainsaws.
Walks in the jungle can range from <1km to >5km, but more typically around 3 km, walked slowly to listen to the birds and sounds of movements by mammals. There are some trails that will contain short hills or gradual inclines, but often the resulting view from the top is worth it, as it allows you look out over the rainforest canopy.
Streams and other water bodies (such as swamps) are traversed via wooden planks, wooden bridges or raised walkways. These can get slippery when wet so should be traversed with care.
The canopy towers are optional and may have different rules, listen carefully to your guide about instructions and please let them know if you have any issues at all with heights if you do want to go up. These may not be suitable for young children or individuals with vertigo, discretion is left to the parents and the individuals.
- Sturdy shoes that can survive getting a little wet / muddy (like walking boots)
- Clean trainers, sandals, and or flip-flops for in the lodge and bungalows (indoor only shoes)
- 2+ pairs of long walking trousers
- 2+ long sleeved shirts
- A pair of comfortable, cool, long trousers (evening wear)
- A pair of shorts
- Comfortable cool tops
- Warm (ideally windproof) jumper or jacket
- Waterproof jacket (and trousers)
- Baseball cap or wide-brimmed hat
- Insect repellent (sprays, creams, stickers)
- Small daypack or camera bag
- Waterproof backpack cover or other form to protect your equipment from rain
- Charging equipment and adaptors
- Binoculars (highly useful for seeing wildlife more clearly)
- Refillable water bottle (water filling stations are available at all lodges)
- Flashlight or head torch (electricity is often limited to certain times of day)
- Travel First Aid Kit (ideal to take with you on walks in case of cuts or stings etc)
Tropical rainforests are well known for their astounding diversity and the Peruvian Amazon is no exception.
Bird species diversity is particularly impressive, with around 600 recorded in the Tambopata National Reserve. The different habitats provide homes for different species – flood plains, terra firma, bamboo forests, palm swamps, rivers, streams and oxbow lakes.
A typical trip will give you a chance of seeing a wide variety of bird species such as up to 14 members of the parrot family, various raptors and owls, perhaps even the mightiest of them all – the Harpy Eagle. Also, the beautiful sunbittern; the strange and prehistoric looking hoatzin; as many as 15 species of hummingbird, trogons, motmots, five species of kingfisher, colourful toucans and araçaris, or stumble across a mixed species flock of ant followers, and groups of small, brightly coloured tanagers and euphonias.
From small rodents and the pygmy anteater, to the five giants – tapir, jaguar, giant anteater, giant river otter and giant armadillo – the jungle is home to many creatures, though even the largest can be difficult to spot amongst the dense rainforest understory.
Mammals you may spot during trips on the lake, river, or walking along the trails during the day includes squirrels, agouti, capybara, peccary, tamarins, squirrel monkeys, capuchins, titi monkeys, howlers and spider monkeys.
Other species you are more likely to see during the dawn and dusk hours, or at night. So early morning or night walks can yield sightings of tapeti, opossums, lowland paca, armadillos, anteaters, the night monkey, kinkajou, deer, ocelot, and more likely along the river banks – jaguar and tapir.
The rivers and lakes are home to caiman. Four species are found within the National Reserve – the small but aggressive dwarf caiman, spectacled caiman, smooth-fronted caiman, and the largest species – the black caiman. They can be found drifting across the lakes during the daytime, sunning themselves on beaches and river banks, or more often spotted by their eye shine when searching by flashlight at night.
On sunny days, turtles from the size of your palm to 40cm emerge to sunbathe on logs, often attracting colourful butterflies which feed on the salts in the mucus of their noses. Lodge gardens are often full of rustling sounds made by the quick amazonian race runners. Check sunny patches in the forest and along streams for the tegu lizards, or tree trunks for arboreal species. Yellow-footed tortoises are occasionally spotted making their slow progress across forest trails.
Night walks, especially after a rain, are an excellent way to search for frogs and snakes.