A Guide to Manu, Tambopata and Iquitos
One of the three central regions of Peru, next to the coast and mountains, is the fantastic jungle. The rainforest in Peru encompasses approximately 60% of the entire country. The Amazon is quite expansive and spreads through many cities in Peru. When preparing your trip to Peru, you may be overwhelmed deciding what are the beste Amazon Tours in Peru. In this article, we will outline the highlights of our Amazon tours to the Manu National Park, Tambopata and Iquitos. Dos Manos Travel Peru promotes responsible tourism within these three unique destinations. This is a Guide to Manu, Tambopata and Iquitos to see the Best Amazon Tours in Peru.
I – Best Amazon Tours in Peru: Manu Tours
Do you want to enjoy the warm and humid air that envelops you like a hug? Listen to the frogs and insects chirping in the night or wake up to an orchestra of a hundred different bird calls? In Manu, you can sit back and enjoy the breeze during a boat ride along the river, try fresh fruit, explore the rainforest during the day and night and see many varieties of flora and fauna? Manu is a superb destination for you.
The National Park of Manu is a World Cultural Heritage Site and an area with some of the most extraordinary biodiversity on the planet. Manu is located in the department of Cusco and Madre de Dios, including the entire basin of the River Manu. This is the only park in Latin America to cover a full range of environments from low, tropical jungle to cold and high grasslands over 4,000 meters or 13,123 feet above sea level. The park was established on May 29, 1973, and reaches an area of 1,716,295.22 hectares.
The entrance to Manu National Park is located about 10 hours from Cusco by bus, including some time to visit various stops along the way. Once you arrive at the lowlands, you will have to take a boat to your destination, depending on where you are going.
One of the main attractions of the Manu National Park are the clay licks, a natural feeding ground for macaws and parakeets. Manu also has one of the most renowned research centers in the Amazon: the biological station of Cocha Cashu. A large part of the park is indigenous territory, including 30 communities that speak Quechua and many Amazonian tribes, including the Matsiguenka, Amahuaca, Yine, Amarakaeri, Huashipaire and Nahua people.
Manu is one of the prominent supporters of ecotourism in Peru. Ecotourism is a form of tourism that preserves nature and provides sustainable development to the natural habitats communities. The park contains 221 species of mammals, including the otorongo (jaguar), black panther, tapir, collared peccary, deer, capybara, spider monkey, etc. In terms of birds, highlights include the harpy eagle, jabiru, roseate spoonbill, jungle goose and the national bird: cock of the rock.
Best Amazon Tours in Peru
|Dos Manos offers Manu tours to both the Cultural Zone (4 or 5 days) and the Reserved Zone of Manu National Park (7 or 8 days). Manu is great for people who want a trip to the jungle and indulge in more in-depth adventures. All the tours include optional zip-lining and river rafting.|
Both zones contain the wildlife typical of Manu National Park, but wildlife sightings cannot be guaranteed. Tours to the Cultural Zone are generally shorter, and the area has educational, cultural, tourist and recreational facilities. The Reserved Zone is for controlled tourism and scientific investigation; it is great for real wildlife explorers with more time, while the cultural zone offers an excellent place for families or people looking to get a first impression of the jungle.
Activities in Manu:
include bird observation, flora, fauna and scenery, walking, camping, research studies, photography and filming.
Weather in Manu
Manu Biodiversity Records:
The lower zones enjoy an average temperature of 35º C or 95 º F during the day and 25º C or 77 º F at night. However, the temperature can drop during the year due to prolonged periods of heavy rain. During this time, the maximum temperature during the day is 18º C or 64 º F, and the minimum temperature is 10º C or 50 º F at night. The rainy season runs from January to March, but there is a chance of rain all year round. Therefore, the best time to visit Manu is between April and December.
II – Best Amazon Tours in Peru: Tambopata Tours
Tambopata offers tours for travellers on a monetary or time budget; it is also a great destination to travel to with children and families. Dos Manos Travel offers tours ranging from 2 days and one night to 5 days and four nights. So if you are looking for a last-minute or in-depth tour of the Peruvian jungle, Tambopata is the option for you!
Tambopata is a province and a national reserve accessible by the gateway city of Puerto Maldonado. You can travel there by plane from Lima or Cusco to take a (night) bus from Cusco. We recommend flying between December to March due to heavy rain, although there are buses year-round. Upon arrival at the airport or bus terminal in Puerto Maldonado, you will take a boat along the river to reach your lodge or destination.
The Tambopata Reserve has 274,690.00 hectares and is located in the department of Madre de Dios and within the province of Tambopata. Tambopata Reserve has been protected since 1990, and before the protection was initiated, the reserve suffered little destruction from fishing, hunting or logging as Tambopata was difficult to reach.
Tambopata Biodiversity Records:
During your trip into the Tambopata National Reserve, you could possibly see 3 to 5 species of monkeys (howler monkey, brown capuchin monkey, dusky titi monkey, saddleback tamarin, and squirrel monkeys), agouti and capybara (world largest rodent), white caiman and giant river and dozens of species of birds. Don’t forget about the treehoppers, scorpion wasps, dung beetles, army ants, tiger moths, and millions of species of insects. You may even discover a new species of insect. During my time in Tambopata, I was lucky enough to see toads that were so large they could have been garden ornaments!
Main Attractions of Tambopata
One of the main attractions of the Tambopata reserve is Lake Sandoval, which is about 2 miles or 3.2 kilometres long, .6 miles or .96 kilometres wide and almost 10 feet or 3 meters deep. The lake is located in the Madre de Dios river basin and is surrounded by palm trees to find macaws, toucans and cormorants. On the boat ride, you can see otters and turtles.
Another attraction in Tambopata is the collpas, or the clay lick, located on the bank of the river. A collpas is a mound of earth that is abundant in certain minerals like sodium, which help to neutralize toxins that are present in the bird’s diet. Here, hundreds of birds (parrots, macaws and hawks) gather between 5:30 AM and 9:00 AM. The collpas are a perfect place for bird watchers and bird lovers!
Tambopata is also home to the Ese Eja indigenous group, currently grouped into three different communities called the Palma Real, the Sonene and the Infierno.
Climate in Tambopata
The average annual temperature is 26º C or 79 º F but fluctuates between 10º C or 50 º F and 38º C or 100 º F. Low temperatures are caused by cold Antarctic winds that arrive through the Andes and enter the Amazon basin. The presence of cold wind is reported more often during June and July. The rainy season is between December to March. Therefore, the recommended time to visit is between April and November.
include the observation of fauna, flora and birds, hiking, camping, observation of butterflies, taking pictures and filming.
III – Best Amazon Tours in Peru Iquitos Tours
Iquitos is the capital city of the department of Loreto in the very North of Peru. The city is only accessible by air or by the river and is an excellent destination if you want to take an Amazon cruise, learn about the Amazon River and the ribereño culture; those who live along the riverbanks and are made up of a mix of ethnic backgrounds. There are regular flights to Iquitos from Lima, Tarapoto and Pucallpa.
|Dos Manos offers tours in Iquitos from a minimum of 2 days and 1 night to a maximum of 5 days and 4 nights if you are looking for short or extended Peruvian jungle experiences. If you plan to see wildlife, we would recommend Manu or Tambopata as Iquitos. Iquitos has 458,600 inhabitants that use the Amazon River and forest to live, farm, hunt and log, meaning that wildlife is somehow affected by human activity (but not absent).|
Iquitos also offers a variety of biodiversity distinct from Manu or Tambopata. Some of the species present in Iquitos include many types of jungle fruits, from cacao to exotic fruits like açaí, aguaje, cocona and camu camu. The fruit trees grow with other plant life of the forest, like the huimba, the walking palm, thick rubber trees and various zigzagging, old-growth vines. The Iquitos jungle also contains a natural pharmacy with plants such as chuchuhuasi, uña de gato and ajo sacha.
Iquitos is also home to an impressive list of mammals, including the pink river dolphin, grey river dolphin, Peruvian black-capped squirrel monkey, Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkey, saddleback tamarin, large-headed capuchin, red howler monkey, and brown-throated three-toed sloth. You also have a chance to see the red uakari, monk saki, Spix’s white-fronted capuchin, South American coati and the giant river otter.
18 species of macaws, parrots, and parakeets 27 species of raptor (including the endangered Harpy Eagle and Ornate Hawk) falcons, herons, egrets, toucans, owls, woodpeckers and kingfishers Fish, reptiles and amphibians: (include the red-bellied piranha, the paiche, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, the bushmaster and anaconda, caiman lizard the giant black caiman, yellow-footed tortoise, endangered river turtles and small frogs tarantulas and spiders, stick insects, scorpions, beetles, ants, moths, dragonflies and the magnificent blue morpho butterfly.
Climate in Iquitos:
The maximum average temperature is 38 º C or 100 º F, and the average low temperature is 21 º C or 70 º F.
include bird, flora and fauna observation, navigating the rivers of the Amazon, visits to the Yagua native group and a visit to the floating houseboats (depending on the month of your visit).
*Please note that on these jungle tours we cannot guarantee that you will see wildlife.
Where to go: Iquitos or Tambopata?
If you do not have enough time to enter deep into the Manu National Park and you want to reach your jungle destination by plane, you might have narrowed your choice down to Iquitos or Tambopata.
How to choose between those two? Iquitos vs. Tambopata?
The truth is that they both are unique places to visit while travelling around the Peru jungle.
First, it is important to know that Iquitos itself is a big city (almost 500 thousand inhabitants) in the northern jungle of Peru, while Tambopata is a natural protected area in the south part of the country. From Iquitos, it is possible to visit Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and some other natural areas and even cruise the Amazon River, considered the largest in the world. In Tambopata, you will be able to spot some amazing animals and enjoy the peace of nature.
How to get there: Iquitos and Tambopata
If you arrive in Peru via Lima (the most common), it is easy to fly to both Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado (the city where you start the trip to Tambopata).
Flights to Iquitos from Lima take about two hours. Tourists can also fly directly from Cusco to Iquitos, but this route is not available daily.
To get to Puerto Maldonado (the starting point to get to Tambopata National Reserve), you can fly from Lima or Cusco. Whether you decide to fly from Lima or Cusco, you will find several itineraries during the day, every day of the week. You can also take a night bus from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado.
How to choose between Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado?
Both Peru’s northern and southern jungles offer incredible landscapes. But the opportunities to spot wildlife in both areas are different.
More about Iquitos
Iquitos is the most populated city in the Peruvian Amazon. Most of the people living there are farmers. Their activities have degraded the forest nearby Iquitos, and it is challenging to enjoy wildlife in the areas close to the city. Still, Iquitos is an excellent place to get a sense of the ribereño culture (the culture of the people living by the river).
The best option to experience wildlife nearby Iquitos is to visit Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, the second largest protected natural area in Peru or the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Communal Reserve. Unfortunately, there are no lodges inside Pacaya Samiria, but you can stay in lodges close to them (some located inside Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve). Another way to visit the Pacaya Samiria is doing a cruise; this is one of the most luxurious experiences you can have as a tourist in Peru.
More about Puerto Maldonado/ Tambopata
Puerto Maldonado is a small city without a long history of industry and migration (compared to Iquitos); the forests near Puerto Maldonado are some of the most pristine in the world. The city is not very exciting, and it is mainly used as a departure point for jungle expeditions. One of the best natural areas to visit from Puerto Maldonado is Tambopata, where you can find different types of Amazon lodges, from the more basic ones to very luxurious.
To give you an idea:
In a three-day trip to Tambopata, you can see between three to five species of monkeys, agoutis, capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), white caimans, giant river otters, and many species of birds and insects.
With just one more day (four-day tour to Tambopata), you can make it to the heart of the reserve and visit the famous macaw clay licks, see herds of the white-lipped peccary, and maybe even spot a jaguar (estimations of seeing it: 25 %- 30% ).
Best Amazon Tours in Peru: Comparing Wildlife and Nature
For large flocks of macaws & parrots Tambopata is the place; also for bird & frog species, monkey viewing and trails. All of this cannot be seen in the Iquitos area.
Iquitos is usually considered for the river dolphins and offers more species of monkeys & a cultural experience.
Tambopata offers arguably the better wilderness experience, especially if you go deep into the reserve; here, you will get good views, including the Andes in the distance & incredible sunrises.
But only Iquitos puts you on the actual mighty Amazon River. Puerto Maldonado’s Madre de Dios and Tambopata Rivers are both tributaries of the Amazon and in the Amazon Basin, but not the Amazon River proper itself. Therefore, Pacaya (Iquitos) is better photographically for wide-open areas, local people/tribes, reflective lakes et; Pacaya-Samiria is huge a mosaic of rivers & lakes.
What makes each destination unique? What is the best place to go to the rainforest in Peru? Where can you find the best Amazon Tours in Peru?
Near Iquitos, excursions include opportunities to see the elusive pink river dolphins of the Amazon and visits to local native communities.
Near Puerto Maldonado, tours are known for their clay licks and other birdlife, interpretive excursions to explain the Amazonian flora and child-centric programs.
Most people decide on their rainforest sections depending on other parts of their itinerary. For example, if you are travelling in Southern Peru (Machu Picchu & Cusco), Tambopata makes sense as it is only a 30-minute flight from Cusco (or a nightbus). If you go far from Puerto Maldonado, you have excellent wildlife viewing in low, mid & upper canopies and on the ground.
For Iquitos, you need to go first to Lima in either direction, so consider your flights, the costs & the available time first. The advantages of going to Iquitos are described above. Now it’s your choice to decide what are the Best Amazon Tours in Peru, for you.
Need more advice?
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