I recently had the opportunity to experience a four-day excursion in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. While I was in the Galapagos in Ecuador, I began researching my options of where to go to next and stumbled upon the website for ManitiExpeditions which was advertising a camping excursion which included numerous activities and wildlife encounters while sleeping in a tent in the middle of the rainforest. Perfect! At that time, I reserved my flights and accommodations to stay in Iquitos, Peru for a month.
Locals going up the river in their boat
The more I researched Iquitos, the more my excitement grew. It is the largest city in the world not connected by roads to the outside world. There are roadways within the city and a long road which connects to another city, Nuata. Upon my arrival in this special place, I had some medical questions to address and decided to push back my excursion and stay in the city a couple weeks more, which turned out to be a great idea as this meant more time to explore other attractions in the area, make friends with a local and even experience a 24 hour boat ride down the Amazon River to another small town.
The Start of an Adventure
The camping excursion was booked for the first few days of December and may mission to purchase appropriate long pants and insect repellant has been completed. The reservation included pickup from the hostel I was staying in early in the morning which was followed by a boat ride to the site. Unfortunately, when I was collected from the hostel is when they told me I was unable to partake in the camping due to the site being inaccessible after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake occurred just two days prior to my reservation. I was promised my experience would still be great and they had me set up for their other (and more expensive) option of staying in the lodge, still in the jungle.
Though this news was disappointing, in tune with my usual go-with-the-flow nature I remained excited for the experience. After meeting with Segundo, my guide for the next few days and the young couple from Europe whom I was grouped up with, we embarked down the river. After a stop by the local cheese vendor on the banks of the river and visit to one of the local native tribes we reached the lodge. Walking into the property, I was met with a feeling of pure refreshment, either from the excess of oxygen in the middle of the Amazon or just the sight of how beautiful this place was.
We were given a tour of the grounds, aka shown the dining hall, and brought to our individual bungalows with information to enjoy some rest prior to meeting up an hour later to set off on the first hike into the jungle. The experience was mostly the same each day. The couple had only reserved the three-day option so those days that they were also there were filled with various hikes through the jungle, each time taking a different path mixed in with a couple hours here and there for resting in the bungalows.
A small frog and a wasp for scale. Saw him during one of the treks into the rainforest
Home away from home in the rainforest
During my time at the lodge, there were a few other small groups also there, and everyone mostly hid inside, except myself. During the breaks, I was either sitting outside on the porch of the bungalow, exploring the grounds with camera in hand or socializing with the team working hard to provide a great experience for every guest. Esmeralda and Arraselo were extremely kind and cooked up some delicious meals for us. The company provided three meals a day as well as coffee, tea and drinkable water. Pedro and Listado were also always present, looking over the grounds and piloting the boat for the many voyages up and down the river.
As mentioned previously, the itinerary included a visit to a local tribe as well a visit to Monkey Island where we met with local wildlife from Macaws, Three-Toed Sloths, Anacondas and of course Monkeys. After meeting all of these beautiful creatures, we also spent some time fishing for Piranha and spotted several Pink River Dolphins.
Woolly Monkey stretching out his legs
My goal while in the rainforest was to see either a lancehead or bushmaster. So happy to see this beautiful creature
On my final night, after the European couple had departed, Segundo took me to a more remote site. This last night was an experience much closer than I had expected for what I had booked although it was still not sleeping in a tent. An hour ride down the river, we disembarked on the banks of the river and hiked our way through a small village and into the depths of the rainforest, about an hour hike to reach the location. On our way, we were greeted by many birds and several groups of monkeys. The site offered a small hut in the middle of no where, perched along a marshy area which had a small rowboat for us to take to a huge tower set up to watch sunset. This was definitely the highlight of my experience as during the walk back, we had several encounters with various tarantulas as well as a beautiful juvenile Common Lancehead Pit Viper, one of the species I hoped most to see. During the rowboat back to the hut for a bite to eat and some sleep we also had the chance to hear the Potoo and other unique birds in the region and see the glowworms in the marsh.
After an early alarm the next morning, we set off back to the same location to hike through the rainforest again. It is quite fascinating to see the difference of the nocturnal versus diurnal life in the jungle. Once again, there were plenty of monkeys causing a ruckus high up in the trees as well as some beautiful plants. After two nearly two hours trekking through the jungle, we stopped back at the hut to collect our things and made the way back to the lodge. There was some final time to enjoy a much needed shower and soak in the last of the serenity and songs of the birds until lunch time. After lunch, my adventure was officially over and it was time to return to Iquitos.
Pygmy Marmoset on the leaf of a banana plant
There were only a couple things I wish I could have changed about the tour. The impression from visiting the native tribe did not feel genuine and felt forced to sell trinkets. There was also much more down time than I had expected based upon the itineraries listed on the website. I do understand these are my views and likely not applicable to most, however. It did appear to me that others enjoyed the down time between activities in order to rest and relax.
Despite this and the experience not as I had anticipated due to the unforeseen last minute change in plans, it was still very enjoyable. I learned a lot about some of the plants and animals and was able to encounter new species. I would absolutely do the same tour again, and of course would love to try again for the camping experience if I can return to Peru one day. I would highly recommend working with ManitiExpeditions as well. The entire team was warm and welcoming and were an absolute pleasure to get to know. They really cared for every guest, and it shows.
Making friends with the locals on La Isla de Los Monos