The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is located about 150 km from Iquitos in Loreto, northern Peru, and was established in 1991 due to the area’s well known diverse wildlife as well as local initiatives. One of the major reasons was to protect the habitat of the red uakaris, which are unusual looking monkeys with orange fur and a bald head. Although rarely seen, a few lucky visitors who enjoy deep treks catch a glimpse of these mysterious primates.
The full name of the protected area is the Area de Conservación Regional Comunal Tamshiyacu Tahuayo and the reserve covers 420,000 hectares (1,038,000 acres) of Amazon Rainforest habitat. The reserve is especially known for its high diversity of primates and you can visit the Tahuayo Amazon River Research Center to walk their 1000 acre research grid where people are studying the different species.
As well as several different monkeys, the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve contains a considerable diversity of Amazon Rainforest birds and many other rainforest animals, including jaguar, tapir, and giant river otters. The giant river otters have started to be seen on tours from the Tahuayo Lodge, which is the recommended lodge to experience the reserve. From this lodge, you can also enjoy a stay at their research center mentioned above.
The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest container of wildlife and it’s this side of the rainforest where researchers have found the highest number of species. A number of factors contribute to the Tahuayo Reserve’s impressive diversity, such as proximity to the Andes and to the gigantic protected area of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which covers 1.5% of Peru’s land area and is adjacent to the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve. Both areas are joined by continuous rainforest and animals move freely across both areas. Because of its flooded nature, the Pacaya Samiria is best explored on a cruise and the Tahuayo Reserve is best explored from a deep rainforest lodge.
Rivers of the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo
The reserve gets its name from the Tamshiyacu River bordering the northern section and the Tahuayo River bordering the reserve’s western edge. Here you will find one of the reserve’s favorite sights, the pink river dolphins, which often swim up to canoeing and swimming tourists. Their curiosity often means they also swim up to the skiff or cruise vessel allowing for some fantastic photographs if you can time it well. Recently, a group of Amazon manatees have been released into the reserve as part of reintroduction programmes by different institutions in cooperation with the Manatee Rescue Center in Iquitos city.
Communities of the Reserve
The locals of the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo are the ribereños or river people who live off small-scale agriculture, fishing, and harvesting minor forests products e.g. fruit and nuts to make their living. Unusually for Amazon Rainforest communities, the ribereños have a connection to the global market and much of their produce is sold overseas in Europe and North America. On stays at the Tahuayo Lodge, you can enjoy visiting different rainforest communities along the river to enjoy an interesting cultural exchange.
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve contains one of the highest diversities of primates of any protected area and the trail grid behind the Tahuayo Lodge‘s research center makes viewing these fascinating animals a lot easier than in other places. The reserve has an incredible diversity of different birds and there are 600 documented species to find, which is more than can be found in many countries. The favorite species to spot include the macaws and other parrots, different toucans and kingfishers, several colorful tanagers, many heron varieties, and the fascinating hoatzins and horned screamers in the Amazon lakes.
There are many different monkeys to find on guided trail walks from the Tahuayo Lodge and you can spot several different species. The monkeys closer to the lodge include the adorable looking pygmy marmosets, which are the smallest in the New World, squirrel monkeys, capuchins, tamarins, and the howler monkeys deeper in the forest. The best place to see different monkeys in the reserve is the research grid near the Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center, which we will mention further down. On the grid, you can see the species mentioned, plus titi monkeys and the sakis. Some determined guests who choose deep forest hikes may even see the mysterious uakari monkeys, although they are rarely seen. Even the name of these monkeys is mysterious as the word uakari is from an extinct tribe and language. The meaning of the word was lost with the tribe.
In addition to the incredible birds and primates, the Tahuayo Lodge has an active conservation program within the reserve for poison dart frogs, which you can view on your Amazon tour. On visits to Frog Bellow, you can see a few different species that range in color, such as the yellow and orange. There is also the commonly encountered harlequin toad with its attractive and colorful skin.
Other favorite animals and plants to see include the giant emergent trees dotting the reserve, beautiful orchids and bromeliads, aquatic caiman lizards, intimidating black caiman, large, colorful butterflies, and tamandua tree-living anteaters.
Best Time to Visit
There are advantages to visit the reserve at all times of year, but the main points to consider are the high and low water seasons. The high water season (between October/November and May/June) is when snow melt from the Andes raises the water level of the Amazon River and its tributaries. This can be loosely referred to as the ‘wet season’ and is also when the forest fruits and flowers. This is a the most important time for seed dispersal in the reserve and you can often see different birds and monkeys feeding from abundant fruit. The months with the most fruit are between December and April. The most flowering plants in the reserve can be seen between May and July.
The dry season (September/October – April/May) is when terrestrial water in the reserve shrinks in size, which is thought to concentrate dependent wildlife and is a preferred time to visit for many people. The trails can be less muddy and there is less chance of activities being postponed due to rainfall.
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve Tours
To visit the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve, you can stay at the Tahuayo Lodge, which is owned by a native family and the recommended lodge for access to the reserve.
The Tahuayo Lodge
The Tahuayo Lodge is one of the most highly acclaimed northern Amazon lodges and for your tour, you are assigned a private guide and can customize the experience to your interests. The lodge is located next to the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve and is about 150 km from Iquitos city. After arranging your tour, you will be collected from Iquitos airport and taken down the Amazon River, into the Tahuayo Tributary to arrive at the recently renovated lodge. After some acclimatisation and orientation by Tahuayo Lodge staff, you will begin your first exploration of this incredible reserve.
The reserve is a top destination for bird watchers due to the abundance of species. You can see many animals from several different monkeys to dart frogs and river dolphins. If you have specific interests in birds, monkeys, or medicinal plants etc. you will be assigned a guide with this speciality.
In addition to exploring the reserve to find different plants and animals, enjoy the largest canopy zipline in the Amazon Rainforest. The zipline has been enjoyed by visitors of all ages, from grandparents right through to children and is an exhilarating way to explore the canopy environment. The different canopy platforms that link the zipline are great place to spot different birds, such as toucans and parrots flying over the rainforest.
Explore the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve on guided forest walks to spot wildlife, kayak the flooded sections and waterways, head out on night walks to spotlight for caiman, tree frogs, and nocturnal monkeys, and relax aboard motorized boats to more easily spot different sloths and many different birds.
Ongoing scientific research supported by the Tahuayo Lodge is directed to conservation management of the reserve’s biodiversity, as well as the introduction of sustainable economic practices among the native indigenous communities.
The Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center (A.R.C)
In addition to a comfortable stay at the Tahuayo Lodge, you can stay one to three nights at the Amazon Research Center on tours of 6 days or more, which is located in more remote pristine forest. The research center also has home comforts like private cabins and flushing toilets. The research center has a 1000 acre primate research grid you can visit to see many different Amazon Rainforest monkeys.