The Amazon – a miracle of nature
The Amazon blows your imaginations! It is a unique place on our planet that impresses with giant figures and facts. I don’t want to bore you but I am so deeply impressed, that I would like to begin this post with some unimaginable facts, to give you an idea of how special the Amazon is:
The Amazon rainforest spans across eight countries – Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana – and covers an area almost as big as Australia. With an incredible length of 6,400 kilometers the Amazon River is the second largest river in the world. Two-thirds of all river water that exists in the world flows through the Amazon River.
It is assumed that 400 to 500 indigenous tribes live in the Amazon rainforest and that about 50 of these tribes have never had contact with the outside world!
Also, 40,000 plant species, 3,000 freshwater fish species and more than 370 types of reptiles call the Amazon their home.
Okay, these are enough figures! I hope you didn’t fall asleep already. 🙂
Funny golf ball BoB, Lars and I spent 5 days/4 nights in the beautiful jungle during an Amazon jungle tour through the Peruvian rainforest and we had a fantastic time. Be part of our trip and discover with us this special animal kingdom and the beauty of the Amazon…
The beginning of the Amazon River
The beginning of our Amazon jungle tour
Our Amazon jungle tour started from the city of Nauta (see post about our trip fom Yurimaguas to Nauto on a cargo baot), one hour from Iquitos, where a boat already awaited us. We boarded our mototaxi , called “peque peque” by the locals due to the sound of the engine, and after one hour we already arrived at our first highlight: the point where the Marañón and the Ucayali river meet. This spot indicates the beginning of the famous Amazon River. The place itself does not look very special but just to know that this is THE Amazon River which we just knew from TV made it to a special place. Of course Lars and I had to hold a finger into the water and also BoB touched the surface.
Our jungle lodge
Our jungle lodge
2.5 hours later we arrived at our jungle lodge and left 260 kilometers behind us from Iquitos. The lodge was basic but much better than expected. Lars, BoB and I got a private double room with own bathroom. We even had a shower and a proper toilet. A big ugly spider welcomed us in our shower and we knew “Now we are in the jungle”. The double bed was equipped with a thick mosquito net which looked very safe.
Our group with Yoav, Liane, Lars, driver, guide, Gil, and Roy
During lunch we got to know our boat driver for the next five days of our Amazon jungle tour. Valdir was in the beginning of his 20ies and was born in the rainforest. Later on we realized that he was an expert and he knew every bit of our surrounding. And he also became the hero of our tour. Why? I will tell you later :).
The first jungle trip
Lush green everywhere
After a cloudy morning the sun came out and we had a clear blue sky above us. We entered our “peque peque” and the first trip into the jungle started. The lush green of the rainforest was impressive and everywhere we could hear different animal sounds. It was the rainy season and almost every piece of land was flooded. At the tree trunks we could see the marks of the highest water level and we were surprised how much higher it can get. Our guide Carlos told us that every seven years, during El Nino, the water level can rise much higher. But even during a normal rainy season the water rises by up to seven meters!
The canopy of the Amazon rainforest is so thick that it takes around 10 minutes until rain water reaches the ground!
Different insects like a beautiful small butterfly, very small frogs and flies made a stop on our boat. Suddenly Carlos shouted and we observed a huge tarantula climbing up a tree. From the distance it looked big already. I’m sure it was a giant ;). We also saw a curious dusky titi monkey in the trees and we learned how to spot monkeys by their smell. They really have a special, very strong smell and on the following days we got a sense of it. Even BoB became very good in spotting them.
A curious Dusky Titi Monkey
We almost missed a sloth climbing down a tree. Luckily our guide spotted everything and for all of us it was the first time ever to see a sloth. It was a mummy with a little baby at the belly. So cute!
A sloth with its baby
Our driver navigated us through waters full of water lettuce and different birds crossed our path.
The sun started to set and the reflections of the sun and the trees in the water were so beautiful. When we arrived back at the lodge we were already overwhelmed by all the impressions.
Amazing reflections in the water
Life at the Amazon River
Visiting a local family
Our second jungle day was dominated by compassion, incredibility and admiration. We visited a local family who lived in a house at the river and whose life totally depends on the food the river gives them. The family consisted of a grandma, one of her daughters and four grandchildren. The house they live in is more a shelter than a proper house as it was only a wooden deck with a roof. There are no walls so that all sides are open. The few things they own are stored under the roof and for the night they would put some blankets on the floor to sleep on.
The “kitchen”, which is only a fireplace, is in a separate part on an own deck. When we arrived the grandma was grilling a caiman the daughter caught the day before.
Grandma at the fireplace
It was a strange feeling when we, the rich people from the “western world” with their big cameras and money in their pockets, arrived and realized in what conditions these children grow up. I guess they are happy children and appreciate the things they have but they will never go to school, never leave their surroundings, never play with funny toys. But they grow up with two little monkeys :).
And suddenly we were speechless when our guide told us that the grandma just offered us her caiman that she was grilling. How generous can people be who are happy that they caught a caiman and could secure the food for the next two days? We were deeply impressed and also felt a bit ashamed.
A tasty jungle walk
Amazed by the way of living of the family we started a walk through the jungle. This time Carlos wanted to show us some typical plants of their “backyard”. The tour started with something creamy. Have you known that there is a fruit that tastes like ice-cream? It really exists and it’s called pacay or ice-cream bean. It’s a legume that contains edible white pulp surrounding large seeds. When you are in Central or South America you have to try it!
After the “ice-cream” our driver Valdir cut some sugar cane into small pieces. We tried to get the sweet liquid out of it and were surprised how much is hidden in there. The next course of our jungle menu was a liquid from a tree bark. Our guide pressed a small ball of bark and out came a bitter-like juice that made the tongue numb. It’s traditionally used for stomach problems. We also passed rubber trees where our driver made incisions into the bark and collected the fluid. After forming it into one mass in his hands he produced a tiny bit of rubber.
The variety of the flora in the jungle is so immense and even for our experienced guide and driver it was sometimes hard to identify the type of tree as other plants grow over trunks. The leaves of the trees are hard to see. Many different kinds of fungus can be seen everywhere and their shapes and colors are beautiful. A very typical plant is the Heliconia with its striking pink color in the lush green of the jungle.
A giant ant hill crossed our path. I’m sure it was New York of the ants. It was immense. Our guide also showed us one type of ants that is used to staple wounds. Everywhere around us were long Lianas and Lars tried to climb up on one. He looked like Tarzan swinging from tree to tree :).
Lars as Tarzan
Another interesting plant we got to know was the so called walking palm. This type of palm has stilts so high that you can easily stand under them. The function of the stilt roots is very interesting. When another tree collapses on the stem of the palm new roots form along the old stem and the palm continues to grow normally. As a result the palm changes its position and that’s why it’s called the walking palm.
BoB and the giant water lily leave
Golf ball BoB on agiant water lily leave
The second day of our Amazon jungle tour ended with another natural highlight: Victoria regia, the largest type of water lilies. Before we started the trip we already saw some pictures of these giant floating leaves with babies sitting in them. Of course we wanted to know if they are really that big. And yes, the leaves can have a diameter of up to 3 meters and they are quiet thick. Little BoB was so excited that he wanted to sit on one of these giant leaves and… what can I say… his weight was nothing for the water lily :).
Giant leaves of a water lily
Hunting a caiman at night
Our driver with a caiman
Caimans are alligator-like animals that live in Central and South America. They are smaller than alligators and can grow to 1 to 4 meters. They live along the edges of rivers and other bodies of water. Carslos promised to show us a caiman but he explained that it’s easier to spot them after sunset because their red eyes will reflect in our torch’s light.
In the darkness our boat went back to the lagoon where we saw the giant water lilies. Slowly our boat moved on the water surface and all our torches searched for red eyes. Then our guide spotted one and tried to catch it from the boat. But it was a big one and too dangerous. Just a few minutes later our driver saw something in the bush. Suddenly he jumped out off the boat into the water and we all were irritated. In the black water we could only see the light of his head light. It was insane… he really caught a caiman! He brought it into the boat so that we could see it from close. This was absolute adventurous! Our driver was the hero of our tour! A real jungle boy! 🙂
Lars with a cute sloth
Cuddling super lazy sloths
In the morning our boat brought us to another local family who lives under one roof with various animals. As soon as our boat was within sight, we were welcomed by a dog and… a little monkey on his back! The picture was hilarious and these two guys were best buddies!
Daughter playing with the family’s monkey and dog
In the house we discovered two lazy sloths hanging under the roof chilling and enjoying their animal life. Although we don’t like to treat animals like on a petting farm, I have to admit that we enjoyed holding them in our arms. Sloths hardly move because they only get very little energy from the leaves and fruits they eat. Their body temperature is low and they don’t have a lot of muscles. Also, the few movements help sloths to protect from predators. They are gorgeous and we wanted to take them with us.
Baby caimans, two dusky titi monkeys and a paca where also part of the family. At home cats, dogs or guinea pigs become family members but to see these unusual pets was very funny. And how cool is it to have sloths and monkeys in your home!? I think it’s great!
Having tea time with monkeys
A howler monkey and a spider monkey
After lunch our guide decided to spend the afternoon with some monkeys. Equipped with a papaya our boat took off to a new, to us unknown place. An hour later we arrived in a huge lagoon where we recognized the smell of monkeys before we actually saw them. The boat stopped, our driver cut the fruits into pieces and put them on a piece of wood that floated on the surface of the water.
Howler monkey and capuchin monkeys getting our fruits
Like little children the monkeys became curious about the visitors and the things they brought. The rustling in the leaves got louder and suddenly the first monkeys appeared. Shy, but willing to take the risk, they approached the fruits. Brown capuchin monkeys, a spider monkey and a howler monkey enjoyed our papaya. We had never seen a howler monkey out of a zoo before and were impressed by the way he moved and behaved – like the king of the jungle. Instead the spider monkey looked very funny with the “styled” hair as if it just returned from the hairdresser. To feed monkeys in their natural surrounding was definitely one of the nicest moments on this trip.
Fishing piranhas with a stick and meat
Liane fished her first piranha
Piranhas, the fish about so many stories exist, is home to the tropical waters of South America. When we heard that fishing piranhas is also part of our tour, we couldn’t wait to see these little famous bastards.
Our driver navigated our boat through bushes and branches and stopped in shallow water. Everybody got a wooden stick with a simple string and a fish hook. As piranhas are sophisticated species they are not happy with average worms. Piranhas want more… they want proper meat! Cut into small pieces the piranhas awaited a delicious meal.
Our driver preparing meat for the hook
Then the adventure started. Concentrated and in silence, with slight movements of the fishing rod, we waited and waited. After a short time we all felt something pulling on the hook. The first attempts of the piranhas started. We lifted up the hook and were surprised how clever they are. The meat was gone but no piranha was on the hook. You have to be patient and when you feel something you have to be very quick. Our driver was the first lucky one who caught one. A few attempts later Gil caught one and then I and all the others. Except Lars :(.
In the end we caught about 15 piranhas and were curious about trying them for dinner. They don’t have a strong fish taste, what I personally preferred, but they didn’t have a special taste either.
Roy, Gil, Yoav and Lars on the way to the camp
Camping in the jungle
Sleeping in the jungle in a lodge is great. But camping in the rainforest is even better! Our last night should be an adventurous one. Equipped with food, cooking utensils, mosquito nets and a lot more things we headed to a spot in the jungle where we could built up a camp.
Nowadays fishers still go on longer tours in the jungle to cast their nets. We wanted to learn how they prepare their camp and how it feels to sleep in the rainforest. In the beginning we cleaned the floor from vegetation as dangerous animals could hide in there. The air humidity was very high and everybody sweat like hell.
Preparing the ground for the camp
Then we put up a construction of branches for the roof. The ground as well as the roof were covered with canvas. Thick mosquito nets were our shelter for the night.
Our guide and driver started with the lunch preparation. We all helped with finding fire wood and for our driver it was a simple thing to make fire. Valdir even built a table out of sticks. An hour later we had rice, beef, and vegetables on our plates.
Lars, Gil and Yoav at the fireplace
Liane is happy having lunch in the jungle
With full stomachs we went into the jungle for another walk. This time we spotted some scarlet macaws sitting high up in the trees and the spoor of pumas.
Scarlet macaws sitting in the treetop
Later, after sunset, we went on a night tour through the jungle when tarantulas and scorpions became visible.
A scorpion at night
After coming back from our night walk we all were very exhausted. Everybody crawled under the mosquito net and checked, if any animals are inside the net. With heavy things, like water bottles, we weight down the net. As we all knew that dangerous bullet ants were close to our camp, it took a while until we fell asleep. During the night came the rain but our “beds” stayed dry. As soon as the daylight started we put down our camp and we were all very happy that we spent a night in the Amazon jungle. What a fantastic experience!
Heavy rain in the rainforest
The end of our jungle tour
Tired but happy we arrived in our lodge. After a delicious breakfast and lunch, as well as strong rain, we boarded our baot that brought us back to Nauta.
We are proud that we survived the night in the jungle 🙂
Our agency and prices
There are numerous agencies in Iquitos that offer jungle trips from 1 to 5 days. Some look serious, some very dodgy. After checking some agencies we decided to book with our hostel Hospedaje Golondrinas. Their staff is very nice and friendly and the hostel was very clean so that we were sure that the tour will also have a good quality. Also the price didn’t differ from other agencies that had good reviews on tripadvisor and the program sounded interesting. It included everything we wanted to do (camping in the jungle, fishing piranhas, visiting a local family).
Their tour agency is called Jungle Wolf Expeditions. We recommend at least a 3 days/2 nights Amazon jungle tour as you need half a day to get to and away from the lodge. The perfect length is 4 days/3 nights as you have enough time for different walks and the third night could be spent in the jungle. The price of the Amazon jungle tour is 150 Soles (around US$52) per day/per person in a group of 5 people. The day price is always the same which means that you pay 600 Soles (around US$206) per person for 4 days.
The tour includes three meals a day (except breakfast on the first day and dinner on the last day), drinking water, transportation, English speaking guide, driver, camping equipment, accommodation in the lodge (dorm room with shared bathroom and private room with private or shared bathroom), rubber boots.
What to bring
Our insect repellent
- Strong insect repellent: As you are in the jungle you should bring a strong insect repellent with 40% DEET.
- Clothing: To be protected from the strong sun and mosquitoes you need light long trousers and shirts with bright colors. Don’t wear black as dark colors attract mosquitoes.
- Sun hat and sun screen: Don’t underestimate the sun! Even when it’s cloudy you should wear a sunhat and use sun screen (min. 50 SPF). The sunhat also protects from things falling down from the trees.
- Drinking water: You need to bring water for the car and boat ride from Nauta to the jungle lodge.
- Mosquito net: When you book a trip, always ask if there are mosquito nets in the lodge. Otherwise bring one to cover your bed.
- Headlight or torch: From 6pm to 10pm the current generator is turned on. During that time you can recharge your batteries and you have light in the lodge. For night walks through the jungle headlights are perfect.
- Rain jacket or poncho: Don’t forget, you are in the rainforest! Even during the dry season it rains. The rainy season is from January to June, the dry season from July to December.
- Shoes: One pair of closed shoes (for the time when you are in the lodge) and one pair of flip flops (for the shower). During the tours and walks you get rubber boots, you don’t need proper trekking shoes. You can leave them in the hostel in Iquitos.
- Extra money: Your guide and driver will be thankful for some tip at the end of the tour.