Iquitos is a port city of the Amazon River in the north east of Peru and is the Peruvian gateway to the Amazon Rainforest near the Amazon River. There are a few fantastic protected areas accessible from Iquitos aboard some of the Amazon’s best cruises and rainforest lodges, which will collect you from Iquitos airport and guide you through these areas of outstanding diversity and natural beauty. You can enjoy these protected areas on some of the top Iquitos Amazon River tours.
Perhaps the most well known of Iquitos protected areas is the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, a fantastic flooded forest containing an enormous diversity of animals and plants. This reserve covers around five million acres making it the second largest protected areas in Peru (after Manu). The main rivers that border the reserve are the Ucayali and Marañon, which later merge to form the main body of the Amazon River and create the reserve’s triangular shape, which points towards Iquitos and the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve. The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo is another fantastically diverse protected Amazon area accessible from Iquitos city that we will cover later.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve protects many different animals, including a variety of monkeys such as capuchins, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, titi monkeys, and sakis. Other animals of the reserve include a diversity of beautiful birds, such as different brightly colored macaw parrots, toucans, tanagers and kingfishers. You can also enjoy spotting caiman lizards resting above the water, tree frogs in the foliage, and black caiman lurking in the shallows.
Because this is a flooded forest and is quite far from Iquitos city itself, the best way to experience the protected area to see an abundance of animals and plants is aboard a Pacaya Samiria cruise. The reserve has been chosen by some of the best Amazon cruises in the entire rainforest, so there are a few different choices, but if you want to spoil yourself we recommend the Delfin II Luxury Cruise.
Aboard the Delfin you will enjoy gourmet cuisine with white glove service, some of the Amazon’s best wildlife guides, deluxe suites with luxury linens, organic shower products, and carefully thought out little touches that push this cruise into the premier fleet of luxury cruising.
Another fantastic section of the Iquitos Amazon Rainforest is within the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve, a reserve close to the Pacaya Samiria formed to protect the range of the rare red uakari monkey.
The only tourist lodge with good access to the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is the Tahuayo Lodge, which also happens to be one of the top rated lodges in the Amazon Rainforest. The lodge’s reputation comes from the high diversity of wildlife within the reserve, the customized and private tour, the skill of their guides, and the hospitable and friendly staff.
On stays of 6 days or more, you can visit the Tahuayo Lodge Amazon Research Center, which is home to a 1000 acre primate research grid to find several different monkeys. Explore the grid with your Amazon guide to find many different animals and plants. As the tour is customized and private, you can contact the lodge directly using the contact bubble below and let them know your interests. You can also ask for a guide suited to your requirements.
Iquitos & the Allpahuayo Mishana Reserve
Iquitos is a rubber boom city, which means that in the early days of the bicycle and motor car, these cities grew to prosperity due to the supply of rubber from the Amazon rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). This industry attracted people from all over the world and has greatly affected the Iquitos region as well as other Amazon areas. Dotting the streets are large and highly decorated mansions, which were the homes of the rich and powerful rubber barons.
An area of Iquitos Amazon Rainforest you can visit without a guided tour is the highly diverse Allpahuayo Mishana Reserve very close to the city. You can reach the reserve by taking a moto taxi 26.5 Km (16 miles) from Iquitos on the Iquitos – Nauta highway. The reserve is home to a record breaking diversity and includes many endemic birds due to the white sand of the reserve.
Best Time to Visit the Iquitos Amazon
The best time to visit the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve really depends on what time you have available to travel. As we’re in the Iquitos Amazon Rainforest, with its lack of distinguishable seasons, there is is really only a high and low water season. These descriptions are used as the Amazon here is humid and wet year round with a tropical climate and it doesn’t even have an official dry season, usual to most areas of the tropics. This doesn’t mean the weather is always wet, as the rain usually falls in a predictable pattern. Even over the wettest months rain usually only falls in the later afternoons until early morning. And so there should be little disturbance to your daily schedule. Although, as this is the rainforest, even in the low water season the rain still falls.
The low water season is roughly at the same time as winter in the southern hemisphere, from June to October / November. December to May can therefore be regarded as the higher water season, but there will be some variation year to year.
The high water season means more flooding and more waterways open up. This means its great for cruises, and even for lodge visits it means you can get deeper into the rainforest using motor boats. If you have a main interest in canoeing this is also the best time to visit. Hiking opportunities will be limited to high ground areas, however, such as Frog Belly in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve. This area of the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo is a great place to find colorful poison dart frogs, reptiles and different monkeys.
The low water season therefore means less flooding and so some waterways close up, but means there are more opportunities for walking in the rainforest to find some forest-dwelling wildlife. Wildlife is in abundance in the Pacaya no matter when you visit. For example, the wet season is when the forest flowers and fruits drawing animals from all over the rainforest to feed from a plentiful food supply. The low water season on the other hand means areas of terrestrial water can shrink, hypothetically concentrating dependent wildlife. As many of the animals don’t migrate, they can still be found month to month and finding them depends more on luck, previous sightings for location data, and the knowledge and experience of your naturalist guide.