Puerto Maldonado, capital of Madre de Dios, is the city that can be considered the most accessible gateway to the Peruvian jungle, allowing entry to as many attractions as almost any other of the most famous cities such as Iquitos, Tarapoto or Tingo María. Tambopata is the jungle that attracts us this time.
However, the convenient accessibility of Tambopata has unfortunately also been the cause of the region’s main problems, which mainly result in logging and illegal mining, but also encompasses many other environmental and social problems for which the reputation of this region has suffered a lot, but in these times is beginning to see results after years of struggle, mainly driven by people from civil society and local communities (#somostambopata).
Our contribution comes from focusing on giving a fresh and encouraging look to the beauties and goodness of Tambopata, promoting the options of enjoyment (while collaborating with conservation), classified according to the time available for travel, budget, and interests.
Initially we could divide the options into three: visit the Tambopata tourist corridor, near the city; go further south, in the area of the most exclusive lodges in the vicinity of the reserve or within it; and finally, heading north of the city for more variety in the offer. But the best experience comes from combining options.
The tourist corridor is the alternative for modest budgets where you will mainly find small community-based tourism (CBT) ventures and an animal shelter. Here you could develop a relatively (but not necessarily) short itinerary by knowing different families or individuals whose actions are oriented, among other things, to the protection of the Tambopata National Reserve (TNR) in the vicinity they are located in.
But if you continue upstream (south) of the Tambopata River to get closer, or go into the same reserve and enjoy many more amenities, although you will still find CBT, you will also encounter options of much greater contact with wildlife and possibilities of scientific tourism devoted to nature research, since Tambopata is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.
The activities of greatest demand in Tambopata are mostly oriented, but not limited, to those around the visits to oxbow lakes and clay licks. These are places where nature is the protagonist, because the oxbow lakes are meanders of rivers that have turned into lagoons, while the clay licks are places where different animals come to obtain minerals from the earth, and therefore, offer unique opportunities for sightings.
It would be too long a list of those animals that could be observed, but caymans are almost guaranteed, as well as a variety of birds, also turtles, monkeys, large rodents, and with a bit more luck giant river otters, not to mention a feline.
Accessing oxbow lakes and clay licks usually require two ways of traveling: hiking and boating. In both, you can enjoy the natural environment while heading to the climax point of the tour. The use of binoculars is always recommended to enjoy a greater “approach” to the fauna, while to contemplate the flora there will be times that you will have to take steps back, because the Tambopata forest is the refuge of the largest trees of the Amazon rainforest.
See kapoc trees, strangler figs, Brazilian nut trees, cumarus, as well as many other species of less familiar names and sizes even more difficult to estimate, if you have the opportunity to climb (through scaffolding and platforms), we highly recommend you do it, the feeling is overwhelming, the vision is unique and the connection is instantaneous.
Other members of the forest community that are popular for their well-known direct benefits to man can also be seen in Tambopata and it is worth dedicating them separate time: the rubber tree and its infamous history; the cat’s claw; dragon’s blood; as well as edible delights and many other medicinal plants.
But let’s talk now about the lodges that will give you accommodation and the people who will be hosting your vacations, and who will help you get to know Tambopata up close.
The tourist corridor
Víctor Zambrano and Rosa Herrera await your arrival at the K’erenda Homet Nature Reserve. Don Víctor is one of the best-known people of Madre de Dios (Department whose capital is Puerto Maldonado) simply because he is one of the most visionary and fighter characters that the recent history of that land has had. To summarize, Don Víctor reforested nearly 40 hectares of land during the past 30 years, to demonstrate that what seems impossible can be achieved by getting down to work. For her part, Rosa takes advantage of the open spaces of the property to cultivate the most beautiful tropical flowers that find admirers everywhere. In addition, both remain in a state of alert to combat irregularities that occur in the highly threatened buffer zone of the reserve, due to illegal activities such as logging, hunting, and illegal mining.
A buffer zone is a space that separates a protected area (without being part of it) from the urban territory and has the purpose of absorbing and mitigating the possible harmful effects of human activities in the surroundings.
In Kapievi the dedicated attention of Anthony Zlatar, and above all his kitchen, will make you forget the outside world (despite being very close to the city) and if some yoga or meditation is what you want to practice, then this is the appropriate place to connect with your inner self. Being already in a state of full consciousness, you will appreciate life in the jungle much better. Reaching Kapievi in the first place is an initial activity recommended to later continue your journey as “floating” and with a more sublime vision of Tambopata.
Finally, there is also Magali Salinas and its Amazon Shelter (not a lodge but offers accomodation for volunteers), formally known as Centro de Rehabilitación y Conservación de Animales Silvestres (CRCAS), where a new opportunity is given to the unfortunate fauna, which after being rescued by unscrupulous traffickers, collectors, and ignorant people, is subjected to a loving treatment of medical recovery in search of achieving the restoration of their health as much as possible with the ultimate goal of being reinserted into nature.
Proximities and National Reserve
Posada Amazonas | Refugio Amazonas | Tambopata Research Center by Rainforest Expeditions
This Peruvian company is one of the pioneers in the field of sustainable tourism in the country and having focused on Tambopata for several decades, today you can have the privilege to say that it has the best lodges and the best experiences of jungle and community tourism that can be chosen in the region, if not in the entire country.
In order of minor to major distance of the city of Tambopata and smaller to greater proximity to the TNR they are located: Posada Amazonas (administered mainly by the native community Ese Eja of Infierno); Refugio Amazonas; and Tambopata Research Center, the only lodge within the Tambopata NR.
In the three lodges mentioned, the knowledge of the area is evident because of its personnel, in the first, because the natives themselves are in charge of providing all the services and in the rest, because they are a highly trained human team and for having the collaboration of resident scientists and interns in its facilities.
It is another of our favorite lodges since it puts into practice multiple sustainable strategies and guarantees an incredible natural experience also supported by its research center. It has 15 km of trails and canopy activities.
To the north of the city
Estancia Bello Horizonte
It is a social enterprise, which emerged as an initiative of the youth of the foster house for children at risk in Puerto Maldonado. The hostel is located 20 km from the city and employs the same teenagers giving them the opportunity to develop professionally, receiving and caring for passengers as hosts in their own land. They have a botanical garden, aguaje forest, and their own canopy bridges.
Las Piedras Amazon Center is another lodge whose purpose of hosting tourists is secondary, but which emerges as an economic activity that supports scientific research and conservation efforts, so the experiences that are lived there have a load highly based on natural history.
As they say: “Rustic, Comfortable, Low impact, Wild nature immersion.”
In LPAC, original activities are carried out such as: walks led by biologists/ecologists, scientific research, patrols with forest rangers, visits to the local community and ethnobotany with indigenous people, survival tests and orientation in the forest.
As you might already realize, Tambopata has many facilities to ensure full enjoyment of nature, to know the reality of the area and to collaborate with conservation and biological research. Tourism activity is one of the main economic activities in the RNT, and it is important that the increase in the influx of visitors goes hand in hand with the sustainable development of the region.
Fortunately, today, faced with pressure from civil society for large losses, more serious government actions begin to be seen in terms of the protection of Tambopata, but the greatest force continues to be exercised by organized civil society and communities. With them, we allied to collaborate in the cause #somostambopata.
At RESPONS we identify a lot with Tambopata. We have been present from the beginning to achieve the realization of the tourist corridor. We are also fortunate to have had Kerenda, the daughter of Don Víctor and Rosa, as part of our operations team in Cusco for a few years. And of course, we promote responsible trips to Tambopata, as well as the entire region of Madre de Dios and Peru in general.
To get in touch with us you can use any of the different means that we put at your disposal for your convenience.
The expression Have a good trip! has never had so much meaning!
What else can you do in Puerto Maldonado?
Recommendations to visit:
- Butterfly garden
- Amazon Shelter (animal rescue center)
- “Embarcadero” Artisanal Center
- K’erenda Homet botanical garden
- Exhibition room of the Ministry of Culture (historical-cultural)
- Touristic lookout
Recommended for active people:
- Bicycle ride along the city or eco-touristic corridor
- Various at Centro Cachuela
Food and more:
- La Semilla is our new favorite in Puerto Maldonado! A nice place located on a kind of covered rooftop terrace, overlooking the main square. Lovely place with tasty and healthy food.
- Burgos’s is a more stylish place with delicious local meals, with two locations. The furthest is the best but you might have to take a taxi to get there.
- And you can not leave Puerto Maldonado without getting an ice cream at Los Gustitos del Cura or El Trópico. The copoazú taste is delicious, but there are many more local fruit flavors that will surprise you!
This post was first published in July 2019 and updated in November 2021