Discover the wildlife and culture of the rainforest on a small group expedition hosted by researchers and members of the native community. You'll divide your time between the Tambopata Research Center and Refugio Amazonas Lodges on the Tambopata River. From here you will explore the rainforest in search of a variety of wildlife, including the howler monkey and harpy eagle. Paddle on an oxbow lake to get glimpses of giant river otters, and learn about the medicinal properties of the local flora from an expert native Peruvian guide. One of the least inhabited areas of the Amazon is yours to explore!
Day 1: Lima.
Day 2: Lima/Puerto Maldonado/Refugio Amazonas.
Day 3: Refugio Amazonas.
Day 4: Refugio/Tambopata Research Center.
Day 5: Tambopata Research Center.
Day 6: Tambopata Research Center.
Day 7: Tambopata/Refugio Amazonas.
Day 8: Puerto Maldonado/Lima/Onwards.
Day 1: Lima. Upon arrival in Lima, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Lima is Peru's capital and is a mainly modern city situated on the coastal desert. If you have time, you can explore the city's museums, churches, and colonial homes on your own today.
Day 2: Lima/Puerto Maldonado/Refugio Amazonas. You will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Puerto Maldonado. Situated at the confluence of the mighty Madre de Dios and Tambopata Rivers, it is a bustling, booming tropical frontier town. You will be met at the airport, and after a brief stop at our local office (where you may leave extra luggage if necessary) you depart on a 30-minute drive to the Infierno Community River Port.
From here, you will embark on a 2 1/2- to 3-hour boat journey by motorized canoe to Refugio Amazonas. You'll have a boxed lunch aboard the boat. During the voyage you may see a number of different bird species, such as the black skimmer, the pied lapwing, the capped heron, the jabiru stork, the roadside hawk, and several species of kingfishers, swallows, and flycatchers. When you arrive at the lodge, you will have time to unpack and unwind. You'll have a short orientation and a complete briefing on the lodge before your afternoon activity: the canopy tower.
In this activity, you will visit a 35 meter/100 foot scaffolding tower. The tower is built so that you can safely climb using the internal staircase with verandas on each side, and it allows you to rest on platforms present every 6 feet. From the top, you not only get spectacular views of the river and the surrounding forest, but also excellent opportunities to observe birds from the canopy including parrots, toucans, and macaws. A video about the forest of Tambopata will be shown after dinner. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Day 3: Refugio Amazonas. Prepare to be up at dawn this morning for a visit to a small parakeet clay lick. Dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of blue-headed parrots, orange-cheeked parrots, cobalt-winged parakeets, and sometimes even the rare rock parakeet, congregate here on clear days to ingest clay. This congregation creates a riotous and colorful wildlife spectacle where the greens, oranges, reds, and blues of the parrots dance around the bank competing for their choice of clay.
When you are done, you will return to the lodge for lunch before embarking on your afternoon outing. In the afternoon you'll visit the ethnobotanical trail. Hike the trails and learn the everyday uses of forest resources in medicine, construction, food, and fiber. Return to Refugio Amazonas for dinner and overnight. After enjoying the popular happy hour and recharging your batteries, you will be offered an optional night walk to look for amphibians and insects. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4: Refugio/Tambopata Research Center. You'll be up at dawn again for a visit to the oxbow lake. After an early breakfast, you depart on a 1 1/2-hour hike to the Sachavacayoc Lake shore. From here you take a long, easy canoe ride around it. Look for giant river otters, turtles, hoatzin, and wading birds. Giant river otters can be seen at the lakes on about 65% of the visits. As noon approaches, animal activity decreases, and you will continue traveling up the Tambopata River for five hours into the pristine heart of the reserve.
You will leave the final traces of human habitation behind as you cross the northern boundary of the 700,000 hectare, completely uninhabited nucleus of the Tambopata National Reserve. Differences in wildlife abundance will be noted immediately: you begin to sight macaws, herons, and kingfishers frequently, and you improve your chances of encounters with capybaras, caiman, storks, ducks, and other wildlife. You will have a boxed lunch on the boat.
Arrive at Tambopata Research Center in the afternoon, and enjoy being greeted by the chicos, their flock of semi-wild, rescued macaws. The lodge is located less than a 10-minute walk from the river. On arrival, you will have an orientation session. After this you will hike the 1.5-mile Bamboo Trail, which passes above the clay cliff and has beautiful views of the Tambopata winding its way down from the Andes.
It is also the home of the frequently found howler and dusky titi monkeys. These are also good places to observe canopy birds like tanagers, jacamars, elaenias, guans, and oropendolas. You return to TRC for dinner. After dinner, to cap off a fulfilling day, you can have a frog walk through the forest, allowing the photo lovers to take macro shots of American bullfrogs, horned frogs, tree frogs, and an incredible variety of colorful insects. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Day 5: Tambopata Research Center. At dawn, you will cross the river and enjoy the world's largest macaw clay lick where hundreds of parrots and macaws of up to 15 species congregate daily. The January 1994 issue of National Geographic features an article on Tambopata Research Center and the Tambopata Macaw Project. It begins with a description of the daily spectacle at the clay lick:
"When the morning sun clears the Amazon tree line in southeastern Peru and strikes a gray-pink clay bank on the upper Tambopata River, one of the world's most dazzling wildlife gatherings is nearing its riotous peak. The steep bank has become a pulsing, 130-foot-high palette of red, blue, yellow and green as more than a thousand parrots squabble over choice perches to grab a beakful of clay, a vital but mysterious part of their diet. More than a dozen parrot species will visit the clay lick throughout the day, but this mid-morning crush belongs to the giants of the parrot world, the macaws".
You can expect to see ten to twelve of the following members of the parrot family: red-and-green, blue-and-gold, scarlet, red-bellied, chestnut-fronted and blue-headed macaws; mealy and yellow-crowned Amazons; blue-headed, orange-cheeked, and white-bellied parrots; dusky-headed, white-eyed, cobalt-winged and Tui Parakeets and dusky-billed parrotlets. This show will continue until the macaws sense danger, usually in the form of an eagle, and depart simultaneously in an explosion of sound and color.
Around mid-morning, when the most intense clay lick activity is over for the day, you will return to TRC for breakfast. After breakfast you'll hike the 1.5-mile Ocelot Trail, which exemplifies the quintessential rainforest. Although at this time of day mammals and birds are not as active as in the early morning, you concentrate on the forest itself and discuss general rain forest ecology. This forest, which is estimated to be 200 to 300 years old, includes truly huge Ceiba trees and strangler figs, and is home to several mammals that are occasionally encountered such as saddleback tamarins, squirrel monkeys, brown capuchin monkeys, and the collared peccary.
This trail is the one that most often sports ocelot, puma, and jaguar tracks, although any one of these three large cats is extremely difficult to spot. You will return to TRC for lunch and take a short, five-minute boat ride to a small, drying oxbow lake. Here you will spend the morning on a platform in the middle of the pond observing some of its birdlife, which may include hoatzin, duck, ibis, woodpeckers, chachalaca, parakeets, oropendolas, and numerous flycatcher species. After a lazy afternoon at the pond you will hike back to the lodge for dinner and a presentation on the macaw project. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Day 6: Tambopata Research Center. After dawn visit to the macaw clay lick, you will return to TRC for breakfast. Then you embark on a hike of the Toucan Trail that visits terra firme forests. You will visit beautiful pristine creeks that wind their way through forested hills, in some cases following dry stream beds. The community of birds and other wildlife that lives in the hilly terra firme, is very different from that of the bamboo or mature flood plain. After a long, easy hike, you will return to the lodge for lunch. Then you'll embark on a 2 mile hike to the palm swamp, a nesting colony and preferred roost for blue-and-gold and red-bellied macaws.
Although there are different degrees of macaw activity at the swamp year round, the most exciting time to visit it is from October to March, during the nesting season. This is the time when macaws will land on the nests and stand there for several minutes, interacting with other individuals at less then 20 feet from the observation tower. The scenes at the swamp, especially with late afternoon sun at your back, make prized photo opportunities. After a lazy afternoon with the macaws you will hike back to the lodge for dinner. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Day 7: Tambopata/Refugio Amazonas. You will return to the clay lick at dawn. Around mid-morning, when the most intense clay lick activity is over for the day, you will return to TRC for breakfast. After breakfast you will take a short hike on one of the trails, before returning to TRC for your return down the river to Refugio Amazonas, arriving at mid-afternoon. You will spend your last night in the rainforest in this wonderfully designed lodge enjoying its happy hour as you ponder over the exciting happenings of the past week. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Day 8: Puerto Maldonado/Lima/Onward. After an early breakfast you will return to Puerto Maldonado by motorized canoe for your flight back to Lima. You'll have the use of a day room at a Lima hotel until your transfer to the airport for your late departure. Meals: Breakfast.
Plus domestic airfare, approximately $410.
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