The Peru Rainforest: 6 Amazing Reasons to Choose the Amazon
The Peru Rainforest: 6 Amazing Reasons to Choose the Amazon
When you think of the Amazon jungle, Brazil probably springs to mind. Containing around 60% of this rainforest, this South American country might seem like the obvious choice for a trip to discover the secrets of the jungle. But the Peruvian rainforest actually makes a compelling alternative. Not only is it far more accessible, but it’s also home to an incredible array of wildlife and indigenous culture. Find out why the Peru rainforest should be your introduction to the Amazon jungle by reading:
6 Amazing Reasons to Choose the Amazon in Peru
1. Peru has little competition when it comes to biodiversity
In global terms, Peru is considered a megadiverse country. This stems from its extraordinary richness of flora and fauna, containing approximately 10% of the world’s flora species – despite covering only 0.9% of the world’s territory.
In addition, there are some 1,700 species of birds – second in the world behind Colombia – 460 species of mammals and 365 species of reptiles.
We will be honest: in biodiversity terms, Brazil does just pip Peru to the post when it comes to numbers of mammals and flora – however, given that Brazil is roughly eight times the size of Peru, it’s got to be said that the smaller country is definitely punching above its weight.
2. Peru is home to one of the world’s biggest clay licks
Within Peru’s epic biodiversity of bird species lies its abundance of macaws. These elegant, vibrant coloured birds flock to clay licks across the Amazon jungle, where they lick at the nutrient-rich minerals of clay rock faces – a truly dazzling sight. Why do they do it, though? It’s thought to help the birds neutralise toxins in their diet, as well as making up for a lack of salt.
In the Tambopata National Reserve in the Peruvian rainforest, the Colpa de Guacamayos is the place to observe this natural phenomenon, as it’s one of the largest in South America. The reserve also has the highest concentration of salt licks in the world, so you have plenty of choices for where you want to go and observe the birds.
3. The Peruvian Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet
This exceptional biodiversity is thanks, in part, to the park’s natural geography. It’s situated at the meeting point between the lowland Amazon jungle and the high-altitude Andes Mountains, which results in 14 different types of ecosystems – a truly rich habitat for wildlife.
What’s more, it’s largely undisturbed by humans, beyond uncontacted indigenous tribes who are the region’s only inhabitants – thus making it a widely pristine and truly astounding place to visit. It’s home to 10% of the world’s vascular plant species, plus some of Peru’s most unique wildlife. This includes 850 species of birds, plus 200 mammal species with eight members of the cat family, such as the elusive jaguar, puma and Andean mountain cat.
The park is divided into three sections: the Core Zone, which is only accessible to scientists, the Reserved Zone, open to limited tourist numbers, and the Cultural Zone, the section most visited by travellers.
For a truly unique experience, opt to take a tour into the Reserved Zone, which is easily accessed from nearby Cusco. It’s an excellent place for birdwatching as you’ll likely spot the Cock-of-the-Rock, Peru’s national bird. Tours combine overland travel with speedboats up the Amazon tributaries deep into the jungle, where you stay overnight at exclusive lodges with specialist guides.
4. Experience local jungle culture through the Peruvian rainforest’s myriad festivities
Although a trip to the Peruvian Amazon might be more associated with spotting rare wildlife, it’s also a unique opportunity to learn more about indigenous cultures and traditions that have survived through the centuries.
One of the most colourful events is the celebration of Carnaval (carnival) held in the region of Madre de Dios, where Manú National Park is located. Puerto Maldonado, the capital of the area, is a filled with lively parades of music and dancing troupes during February and March as full carnival season grips the country.
All of the Amazon towns in Peru also celebrate the Feast of Saint John the Baptist annually on June 24. This festival celebrates the patron saint of the Amazon, with water as a symbol of life being celebrated across the region. Parties and processions held in big cities such as Iquitos, Tarapoto and Puerto Maldonado and a huge feast of the traditional juane dish, a mix of chicken, sticky rice and herbs and spices.
5. The Peruvian rainforest is exceptionally accessible
One of the real attractions of a Peru rainforest tour is how accessible the entire Amazon region is to reach, regardless of where you are.
Firstly, gateway cities such as Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado are easily reached by plane from airports in Lima and Cusco, meaning you’re never more than two hours away from starting your trip. This is not the case in other parts of South America, where access into the jungle can be a significantly more difficult journey.
One of the best things about visiting the Peruvian rainforest is that it can easily be combined with a trip to Cusco, as Manu National Park is accessible by plane and canoe or overland from the city. Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to Tambopata National Reserve, is also reached by flight or bus from Cusco.
6. There’s so much more than wildlife in Peruvian Amazon
Beyond the extraordinary wealth of biodiversity in the Peruvian rainforest, it’s also a fascinating place to visit for its cities. Iquitos is one of the most visited places in the Peruvian Amazon and is only accessible by flight or boat as there are no roads leading directly there.
One of its most fascinating sights it the Belen floating houses, a series of houses built on stilts along the river. Here you can find a daily market. However, its main attraction is that, in the rainy season, the first floor of the houses becomes swallowed up under the water and so vendors must move upstairs to the second floor. Boats help shuttle visitors between the different buildings so that you can get your shopping done. To see this unique phenomenon, make sure to check when is the best time to visit the Amazon.
What’s more, you can also go zip lining through the jungle canopy, kayak along caiman-infested waterways and other high-adrenaline activities in the Peruvian jungle.
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