The southern Amazon Rainforest is the place to see the best macaw clay licks in Peru as the rainforest accessed from Puerto Maldonado contains more clay licks than anywhere else in Amazonia. Macaw clay licks are most abundant in this area of Amazonia because of a few factors. These include the type of forest, exposed river banks, and the position of the Andean mountains, not to mention the abundance of different macaws from the nearby Manu and Tambopata areas.
Not only containing the most clay licks, the different reserves and national parks in this area of Peru create one of the largest sections of protected tropical forest on Earth. For the best time of year to visit the clay licks, note that as macaw activity is most closely linked to fruit availability in the forest, macaw activity at clay licks drops from April and July coinciding with the arrival of the dry season.
Many animals worldwide are known to feed on different clays and around 30 species of parrots in southern Peru use the clay licks. The parrots visit the clay to obtain different salts and to help detoxify fruits and seeds the birds have eaten in the forest.
The rainforest here is incredible and the main areas to visit incredible clay licks are the rainforest surrounding Manu National Park and the Tambopata National Reserve. These areas contains the best macaw clay licks in Peru and 200 macaws can be seen at one time. Because of the fantastic display of giant colorful parrots, we ranked visiting the clay licks as one of the best things to do Peru.
The clay licks are the best places to see macaws in the country and a number of different species can be seen, such as scarlet macaws, blue-and-gold macaws, and red-and-green macaws. In addition to these large and beautifully colored birds, the licks are also frequented by other parrots and parakeets.
A few of the licks are also visited by other Amazon animals, such as tapir, capybara, peccaries, and different monkeys. We will mention some great areas with mammal clay licks at the end of the article. However, both the Manu Wildlife Center and Heath River Wildlife Center provide tours to see both the macaw clay licks and a tapir clay lick for one of the best chances to see South America’s largest land mammal.
Here we will provide a selection of the best lodges that provide guided tours to see the best macaw clay licks and other mammal clay licks in Peru’s Amazon Rainforest.
Manu Wildlife Center
One of the best lodges in Peru to see the most wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest, Manu Wildlife Center offers guided tours in the surrounding rainforest to find many different monkeys, colorful birds, interesting reptiles, beautiful butterflies, and delicate amphibians.
Located in the Amarakaeri Reserved Zone of the Manu rainforest, the area is known for its incredible diversity of wildlife. The main attractions are the oxbow lake with its resident family of giant river otters, the clay lick to see tapir, and also one of the largest and most photogenic macaw clay licks in Peru. The Manu Wildlife Center also reports that 10% of all guests are lucky enough to spot wild jaguar sunning themselves by the river.
Hundreds of brightly colored macaws visit the clay lick near Manu Wildlife Center and the most often seen species here are the beautiful scarlet macaws. You can watch and photograph the birds visiting the clay lick from a perfectly positioned hide, which is about 15 meters from the activity. There are some chairs in the hide and places to put cameras to keep you comfortable. After watching the activity, you will enjoy exploring the rainforest to see other colorful birds, monkeys, and different animals.
You can enjoy the regular departures to the Manu Wildlife Center from March through December, but private departures are available throughout the year.
Tambopata Research Center
The Tambopata Research Center is located near one of the largest macaw clay licks in the Amazon Rainforest and researchers studying macaw behavior use the lodge as a base. This means you can have a very macaw-focused stay by seeing the activity at the clay lick, talking to researchers about their work, and listening to talks by the experts to teach you what they have learned from their studies.
The Tambopata Research Center is positioned in the middle of the highly diverse Tambopata National Reserve and there are many trails around the lodge to show off the reserve’s wildlife, which includes howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, capuchins, titi monkeys, marmosets, and spider monkeys. You will also see different fascinating birds, reptiles, and colorful frogs.
At the Tambopata Research Center, you have access to two macaw clay licks known as the Colorado and Chuncho clay lick. The site of the macaws visiting the clay licks here inspired a National Geographic cover story.
On the way to Tambopata Research Center, visitors will enjoy one night at the Refugio Amazonas Lodge, which we will also mention below. From the Refugio Amazonas, you can enjoy the canopy tower and different add-on activities, such as jungle mountain biking, canopy climbing, and kayaking.
Heath River Wildlife Center
The only lodge positioned on the Heath River between the highly diverse Tambopata National Reserve and the Madidi National Park, the Heath River Wildlife Center provides guided tours to another of Peru’s largest macaw clay licks.
The rainforest where the Heath River Wildlife Center is located is part of a protected area complex that spans an area the size of Belgium. Not only is this a massive area at over 3,000,000 hectares, but it’s one of the world’s most species-rich forests. The wildlife here is at carrying capacity and is home to a healthy population of large mammals, including tapir, monkeys, and even jaguar.
The Heath River Wildlife Center allows you to get a little closer to the clay lick for superb photographs as you visit the lick from a floating hide. Not only can you get closer to the activity, but the lick is another of the largest in Amazonia where 260 macaws have been seen at one time.
From Heath River Wildlife Center, you also have a chance to see tapir from the tapir clay lick and giant river otters in the oxbow lake. It should be noted, however, that you will have a bit more chance of seeing all three of these animals at the Manu Wildlife Center mentioned further up.
In addition to the chance of seeing all three of these iconic animals, you will enjoy guided tours on many different rainforest trails to find howler monkeys, capuchins, tamarins, marmosets, saki monkeys, and spider monkeys. You will also see fascinating amphibians, reptiles, and colorful birds. In addition to the rainforest habitat, enjoy areas of savanna habitat along the Heath River where camera traps have caught images of maned wolves, anteaters, and other wildlife. On the way here, we will pass through a macaw breeding area where you can see the tree holes where the birds nest for a glimpse at another stage of a macaw’s life.
Refugio Amazonas Lodge
Refugio Amazonas Lodge is located in the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve and is a great choice for tours of as little as 3 nights. From the Refugio Amazonas Lodge, you can visit a small parakeet clay lick and a mammal clay lick to see different small mammals like peccaries. As a new excursion option, visitors to Refugio Amazonas Lodge can also add-on a visit the impressive Chuncho Clay Lick, which is one of the largest macaw clay licks in Peru and the entire Amazon Rainforest.
The large Chuncho Clay Lick is located about 2 hours from Refugio Amazonas and attracts one of the highest amounts of macaws in the world. You will be greeted after a short walk through the forest from the river to a spectacular sight of sound and color as the macaws visit the clay to detoxify food they have eaten in the forest. It’s good to note that the macaw activity does depend on the time of year and weather.
From Refugio Amazonas Lodge, you will also enjoy guided tours in the rainforest to find many different monkeys, interesting birds, fascinating reptiles, and different tree frogs. You will climb a tall canopy tower to gaze over the rainforest where you can spot different toucans and parrots. You will also visit a beautiful rainforest lake and can choose from a range of add-on activities, such as jungle mountain biking, canopy climbing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.
Posada Amazonas Lodge
Posada Amazonas Lodge is a great lodge for short stays of as little as 2 nights. Although not providing access to macaw clay licks, from the community-owned Posada Amazonas Lodge you can visit a small parakeet clay lick and a mammal clay lick to have a chance of seeing different small parrots and peccary visiting the clay.
At the Posada Amazonas Lodge, enjoy visiting a beautiful oxbow lake with its resident family of giant river otters, climb a canopy tower to spot different parrots and toucans, and enjoy a range of add-on activities. The activities include canopy climbing, jungle mountain biking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.