The Lonely Planet guidebook calls Peru’s Amazon basin “the best-protected tract of the world’s most bio-diverse forest.” Puerto Maldonado (photos) is in the southern Amazon zone of Peru, due East of Cusco near the border with Bolivia. It sits at the confluence of Rio Tambopata and Rio Madre de Dios. The Rio Madre de Dios continues through Bolivia and into Brazil where it joins with the Amazon. There are a series of jungle lodges along the banks of this river downstream from Puerto Maldonado. We chose to spend 3 nights at the Eco Amazonia Lodge.
This lodge offers regular travelers like ourselves the opportunity to visit the jungle in a fairly easy manner. The lodge has a number of standalone cabins, provides all meals and a variety of guided outings, both on the river and in the jungle.
To get to Puerto Maldonado, we took an overnight bus from Cusco that arrived early the next morning. The climate change was significant from the relative cold mountain air of Cusco at around 10,000 feet above sea level to the hot humid jungle environment of Puerto Maldonado at 650 feet above sea level. The lodge representative picked us up at the bus terminal and took us to their office. Later on, along with other arriving guests, we were taken to the dock to board one of their boats for the approximately 1 hour trip downriver to the lodge.
The lodge owns a vast tract of land along the river as well as a sizeable island which sits out in the river directly across from the lodge. They have populated the island with a variety of monkeys that they have acquired through various rescue activities, thus it has been dubbed Monkey Island. Our first outing on the afternoon of our arrival was to this island. The guide put out some cut up bananas on a plank suspended between two trees and called the monkeys. They came and enthusiastically cooperated by helping themselves to some of the banana pieces and chattering happily.
Some of the other outings we had during our stay were for fishing on a tributary called Gamitana, Caiman hunting in a lagoon located about a twenty minute walk behind the lodge, a 6 to 7 hour hike through the jungle to an area called Cocha Perdida (lost lake) and a guided tour of their botanical garden with many different fruit trees and medicinal trees and plants.
We were able to see many different birds and animals in their natural habitat: macaws, parrots, several types of monkeys, caimans, frogs, turtles, spiders, etc. Also, many amazing plants and trees.
It was an amazing experience of which we were happy to be able to take advantage. Most of us aren’t able to explore the jungle on our own and lodges like this one offer us the opportunity to get a glimpse into a wild and untamed portion of our world.
Since Cusco is the major hub of Southern Peru, after Puerto Maldonado we return to Cusco before moving on the Puno and Lake Titicaca.