Iquitos is the largest city in the world unreachable by road and is the gateway to Peru’s northern Amazon Rainforest. From Iquitos, you can enjoy tours into the surrounding rainforest to find Iquitos wildlife, such as different Amazonian monkeys, fascinating and colorful frogs, black caiman, anaconda, and an incredible diversity of birdlife.
The best places to see Iquitos wildlife are in the different protected areas, such as the most famous of the reserves, the Pacaya Samiria, which is one of the largest of Peru’s protected areas. You then have the adjacent Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve for an incredible diversity of primates and the closest protected area to the city, the Allpahuayo Mishana with its high endemism of birdlife. You can explore these areas on some of the top Iquitos Amazon River tours.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve covers around 20,000 km² of flooded tropical forest with an impressive amount of wildlife. The Pacaya protects over 100 different types of mammals, including giant otters, jaguar, puma, and pink dolphins; over 500 different bird species, and over 100 different types of reptiles and amphibians. The best way to explore this reserve is on a cruise due to its vast expanses and flooded nature. Recommended cruises include the El Dorado and Amatista (contact us for more info) or you can opt for luxury cruises, which offer the best way to cruise such a remarkable area, such as the Delfin I or Delfin II luxury Amazon Cruises.
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is located close to the Pacaya and shares continuous forest, but offers a higher amount of accessible higher ground areas to enjoy walks through the Amazon. Covering a smaller area of 4,200 km2, the Tamshiyacu contains a high diversity of wildlife, such as over 500 different bird species, over 200 types of amphibians and reptiles, and 100 or so different mammals, including jaguars, giant otters, puma, and tapir. A great lodge to explore the area and the only lodge with good access to the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo is the Tahuayo Lodge.
Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve
The Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is a great area to visit from Iquitos city where you don’t need to organise a tour beforehand as you can hire a guide at the information center. Due to the abundance of white sand areas, the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is well known to have a high number of endemic white sand specialist bird species making a must visit area for birders. The reserve has around 145 species of mammals, 475 different types of birds, and over 100 different reptiles and amphibians. This is a great add-on tour in addition for dedicated visits to either the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve of Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
Iquitos Wildlife Examples
Here we’ll provide some more detailed information on Iquitos wildlife and which animals you’re likely to see on your Amazon Rainforest tour from Iquitos, such as the different monkeys, frogs, reptiles, and Amazon birds.
There are fantastic mammals in the Amazon Rainforest and some of the favorites include the pink dolphins, tamandua anteaters, tayra weasels, two-toed and three-toed sloths, jaguar, coatis, and a wide variety of monkeys. Here we will focus on the more commonly encountered mammals, but if you are more interested in the larger and more elusive animals, you can see the article on the images from the Tahuayo Lodge camera traps.
Pink Dolphins can be seen in the waterways of the Iquitos protected areas and other Amazon waterways from Peru through to the Orinoco Basin and Venezuela. They have a flexible neck and body, which is useful in finding hiding fish and crustaceans from under sunken logs at the river bottom, and for maneuverability in a flooded forest.
Tamandua are a tree living anteater living in the Central American and Amazon Rainforest. A favorite wildlife sighting in the rainforest, tamanduas have a golden and dark coat. They are often seen climbing down or up trees or hanging out in tree holes. Feeding on ants and termites, tamanduas lack teeth and instead use their long sticky tongue to lap up these small insects.
Tayra weasels are a rarely seen predatory weasel-like mammal. They patrol the trees and canopy of Central American and Amazon Rainforest forests scouting for a variety of prey, such as small mammals, birds, small reptiles, and insects.
The sloths are another favorite wildlife sighting and one of the most commonly encountered large mammals in the Amazon Rainforest of Iquitos. The most often seen are the three-toed sloths, which remain high in the trees unless needing to cross a riverway or venture down to the ground to defecate. The males can be recognised by an orange colored patch on the back. The two-toed sloths then looks completely different from the grey three-toes with their long shaggy and golden coat.
Jaguar are perhaps the most desired wildlife sighting for Amazon tourists, but in reality the chances of an encounter are very low. You can, however, see from camera traps in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve that there is a high population living in the protected areas. Jaguar are the dominant predator in the Amazon and feed on a range of predators, such as capybara, agouti, and even tapir.
The monkeys of the Amazon Rainforest are one of the major draws for nature lovers and there are many species to see.
Squirrel monkeys are one of the most often encountered Amazon monkeys and have a very inquisitive nature. Seeming to cope better with habitat degradation than others, squirrel monkeys are a small monkeys at 35 cm long and feed on fruits and insects. They have a golden and dark coat with a very friendly-looking appearance.
The smallest monkey in the New World, pygmy marmosets are one of the favorites to encounter on your Amazon adventure. A tree gum specialist, these monkeys are often found in forests near waterways. A great place to see these monkeys is near the Tahuayo Lodge and in the surrounding native villages.
Titi monkeys are often seen in rainforest near water and feed on flowers, fruits and leaves early in the mornings. They have a furry, non-prehensile tails and live in family groups where you can often find two parents and their offspring.
Capuchins are a very intelligent Amazon monkey and one of the world’s most famous looking primates. Capuchins are omnivorous and very adaptable. They feed on a range of food, such as small mammals, insects, and plant material.
Fitting this ancient environment well, the reptiles to be found in the Amazon Rainforest from Iquitos include the caiman crocodilians and fantastic snakes like emerald boas, rainbow boas, anaconda, and many more.
Emerald Tree Boas
A great snake to find in the rainforest, emerald boas have a fantastic green coloration and hang from the branches matching their leafy background. From the branches, they then catch different small mammals and birds.
Matching some of the largest crocodiles in size, black caiman are the dominant predator in the Amazon’s waterways. They are now recovering after being hunted intensely in the past and can be commonly found in areas like the Pacaya Samiria Reserve and Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve. Taking a range of prey using sit-and-wait tactics at the water’s edge, black caiman take capybara, peccary, tapir, deer and any manageable prey item. They also feed on turtles, birds, and snakes.
Possible one of the most attractive snakes in the Amazon, rainbow boas have iridescent scales giving them their common name and fantastic patterning. They feed on birds, lizards, and small mammals.
Often found resting on branches over water, caiman lizards are an interesting looking crocodilian-like lizard, which gives them their common name. They feed on different invertebrates and seem to prefer water snails. Although found in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo, usually over the wetter season, they are more often encountered in the flooded forests of the Pacaya Samiria.
At home in this wet and humid environment, there are many different amphibians to find in the Amazon Rainforest. Here we will mention a few of the favorites and commonly encountered species groups, such as poison dart frogs, harlequin toads, and gladiator tree frogs.
Poison Dart Frogs
Another favorite animal to spot in the rainforest, poison dart frogs have fantastic coloration used as a way to communicate and warn predators that the frogs contain a toxin. A great place to find poison dart frogs near Iquitos is on tour from the Tahuayo Lodge for an expedition to Frog Belly, a conservation section set up to protect these remarkable amphibians.
Living in similar areas as the poison dart frogs and having a fascinating coloration, harlequin frogs are another favorite sight in the rainforest. They are diurnal toad and have a play-dead-like behavior when threatened where they lay on their backs exposing the colors on their palms and underside, which is thought to advertise toxicity.
As a nocturnal species, gladiator frogs are often found while on night walks around the Tahuayo Lodge and are a large tree frog. They are found throughout the Amazon and Orinoco basins.
A bird lover’s paradise, the Amazon contains a fantastic amount of bird life. The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve and Pacaya Samiria each contains around 500 different species, such as toucans, parrots, kingfishers, hawks, manakins, trogons, cotingas and many more.
Aracaris are a commonly encountered medium-sized toucan in the Amazon and have a usually bright plumage. There are a few different types of toucan to be seen on Amazon tours from Iquitos, such as the chestnut eared aracari and lettered aracari.
One of the favorite birds to spot on Amazon tours from Iquitos, the plum throated cotinga has a magnificent blue coloration with a plum-colored throat. These are found throughout the Amazon Rainforest and have a preference for the canopy areas of varzea forest.
Kingfishers are often seen flying over the waterways or resting on branches scouting the water below for fish. In the Iquitos Amazon, you can enjoy spotting Amazon kingfishers, ringed kingfishers, American pygmy kingfisher, and green kingfishers.
Another commonly encountered and favorite bird to spot, hoatzins are a strange bird that digests food by fermentation. They live around the Amazon’s lakes where they often hop between branches and are only able to fly short distances. The young of these birds are more fascinating still as they have a claw, which juvenile hoatzins use to climb their way through the branches.
Tours to see Iquitos Wildlife
Our recommendation for the best lodge from Iquitos to see wildlife is the Tahuayo Lodge, which consists of a main lodge and the Tahuayo Lodge Amazon Research Center situated in a different section of the rainforest. On tours of 6 days or more, you can visit both areas to get a better experience of the Tahuayo and see a lot more wildlife.
Explore the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve to find pygmy marmosets, many different monkeys on the research center’s 1000 acre primate trail grid, poison dart frogs, numerous birds, and much more.
At the Tahuayo Lodge, you will enjoy a privately guided and custom itinerary where you can focus on your interests, such as cultural tours in the surrounding villages, the incredible birdlife, finding fascinating plants, or scouting for the many different monkeys. The lodge also provides camping programs to get a little closer to the rainforest and survival programs for the more adventurous.
If you’re after a little more comfort while still seeing incredible wildlife, our recommendation is the Delfin II Luxury Cruise, which takes you deep in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Enjoy gourmet food, expert guides, kayaking tours, and luxurious comfort.