The Puerto Maldonado rainforest includes one of the world’s largest tracts of protected tropical forest. This makes it a great place to experience Amazonia. Filled with fascinating animals, plants and beautiful scenery, the rainforest makes a great choice for an adventure holiday or even a memorable family vacation.
The Amazon Rainforest
The world’s rainforests cover just 7% of the Earth’s surface, but contain 50% of all the world’s wildlife.
The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is large enough to contain both the Congo rainforest and the rainforest of New Guinea, which are the world’s second and third largest tropical forests.
Crossing nine nations, the Amazon Rainforest contains some incredible attractions. For example, the Peruvian rainforest contains beautiful Amazonian lakes, large clay licks, and incredible wildlife. This is then combined with the most developed tourism industry in Amazonia.
The Amazon of Peru
The Amazon Rainforest covers 40% of the South American continent fed by the Amazon’s tributaries. The Amazon River in Peru is located in the north by the rainforest gateway of Iquitos. The rainforest itself stretches along the eastern side of the Andes and down the entire length of Peru. A great place to access the Peruvian Amazon is from Puerto Maldonado, which is just a 30 minute flight east of Cusco.
The Peruvian Amazon contains all the icons you would expect from Amazonia, including jaguars, macaw parrots, toucans, black caiman, anaconda, beautiful orchids, and tall emergent trees.
The Amazon River and Peru
The many tributaries of the Amazon River feed the rainforest after they’re formed high on the Andes mountains. Running northwards from the famous Lake Titicaca, you can find the Tambopata River. This river runs northwards to join with the Madre de Dios River, which itself was joined by the Manu River farther down. It is at this confluence of the Madre de Dios and Tambopata Rivers that you find the Amazon Rainforest gateway town of Puerto Maldonado.
Before meeting here, these rivers have passed through the incredible protected areas of the Manu National Park and Tambopata National Reserve. And so, it’s these rivers that provide a way of accessing the Puerto Maldonado rainforest.
On a short 40-minute flight from Cusco (or direct from Lima) you can arrive in the steamy jungle town of Puerto Maldonado.
Nestled at the confluence of the Madre de Dios River and Tambopata River, Puerto Maldonado is surrounded by wildlife-rich Amazon Rainforest. The Puerto Maldonado rainforest is composed of different protected areas, including Tambopata National Reserve, the Ese Ejja Communal Reserve, the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, and Manu National Park.
When taken together, the rainforest around Puerto Maldonado represents one of the largest tracts of protected tropical forest on Earth.
As a much smaller gateway than Iquitos in the northern Amazon, the Puerto Maldonado rainforest is much less disturbed. For example, Iquitos is about five times the size of Puerto Maldonado. In addition, the protected Tambopata National Reserve is located only 30 minutes from this fantastic Amazon gateway town.
Although the main attraction here is heading into the rainforest from the different Puerto Maldonado lodges, you can still visit the market and obelisk in Puerto Maldonado town itself. The obelisk is a tall tower to get a fantastic view over the surrounding rainforest.
The Tambopata National Reserve
From Puerto Maldonado, you can be inside Tambopata National Reserve after only 30 minutes. Usually, getting to protected areas from your gateway town takes a few hours, which makes Puerto Maldonado a fantastic choice for an Amazon tour.
Tambopata National Reserve is one of the most wildlife-rich sections of rainforest there is. The Tambopata section is also connected all the way to the famous Manu National Park by continuous protected forest.
What’s more, unlike the Manu National Park, you can actually get deep inside Tambopata National Reserve to experience the abundant wildlife.
Within roughly 275,000 hectares of protected Tambopata rainforest, you can find some fantastic attractions. Dotting this wildlife rich reserve are beautiful Amazonian lakes home to endangered giant river otters, clay licks where hundreds of brightly colored macaw parrots feed from the clay, and even areas where jaguar prowl the rainforest.
You can find all the iconic Amazon Rainforest wildlife in Tambopata, including jaguar, toucans, macaws, capybara, anaconda, and the black caiman. The reserve is home to around 100 different mammals, over 600 different bird, 90 different frogs, many beautiful butterflies, and the giant trees.
Around the rainforest are different Brazil nut concessions where communities sustainably harvest Brazil nuts, which you can visit on your stay from certain lodges, such as the Refugio Amazonas or the luxury-class Amazon Villa. Within the rainforest, you can also find other giant emergent trees of mahogany and cedar. They make spectacular discoveries when you find them on the trails.
To get deep inside the Tambopata National Reserve, we recommend a visit from the fantastic Tambopata Research Center. The lodge is located near one of the largest macaw clay licks Amazonia. We will mention more about this lodge later.
The Esa Eje Communal Reserve
Located in connected rainforest with the incredible Tambopata National Reserve, you can find the communal reserve of the Esa Eje indigenous group. The Esa Eje are the largest and most well known indigenous community living in the Puerto Maldonado area.
The community is involved in sustainable practises, such as harvesting Brazil nuts, small-scale agriculture, and even tourism.
Within the Esa Eje Communal Reserve, you can find the Posada Amazonas Lodge, which is owned and operated by the Esa Eje themselves. One of the best things for tourism is to benefit local communities and the Posada Amazonas is a fantastic example of this.
Within the reserve, you can find different small clay licks to see parakeets, oxbow lakes to find giant river otters, many trails to find several different rainforest monkeys, and much more.
From Posada Amazonas Lodge, you will also enjoy a canopy tower to look over the rainforest to see different toucans, macaws, and other colorful birds.
The Manu National Park
Although located much farther away from Puerto Maldonado than the Tambopata National Reserve and Esa Eje Communal Reserve, Puerto Maldonado is also the base to experience the incredible Manu National Park rainforest.
Manu is one of the largest national parks in Peru and was recently declared the site of the most biodiversity in the Amazon Rainforest. Although visitors aren’t permitted inside Manu National Park itself, you can still visit the Reserved Zone or the surrounding rainforest.
See different oxbow lakes to find giant river otters, walk the trails to find several different mammals, visit large macaw clay licks, and even enjoy spotting tapir, the largest land-mammal in South America. Our recommendation for Manu is the Manu Adventurer tour, which takes you to a lodge in the surrounding Manu rainforest and into the Reserved Zone of Manu National Park.
The Wildlife of the Puerto Maldonado Rainforest
The wildlife you can see in the rainforest of Puerto Maldonado is incredible and becomes more diverse the deeper into the rainforest you travel. However, you can still see some fascinating animals from lodges closer to Puerto Maldonado, such as the Posada Amazonas Lodge.
As wildlife is constantly moving around, it’s difficult to predict which animals you can see on your visit. However, the following table illustrates the percentage of guests that have been lucky enough to see specific animals. The table shows three lodges placed in different areas of the Puerto Maldonado rainforest.
We will mention these lodges next in more detail. Note that the Amazon Villa is located beside the Refugio Amazonas, so the wildlife seen from these two lodges will be identical.
Lodges for the Puerto Maldonado Rainforest
Here, we will provide our selection of 4 different lodges for the Puerto Maldonado rainforest suited to different numbers of days in Amazonia. Not only suited to different days, each of the lodges provides its own slightly different experience of Amazonia.
The Posada Amazonas Lodge
The Posada Amazonas Lodge is a community-owned rainforest lodge in the Ese-Eja’s communal reserve.
From the Posada Amazonas, enjoy guided rainforest tours to find some fascinating rainforest wildlife. The lodge is located within easy reach of a beautiful oxbow lake where you can find the resident population of giant river otters.
The lodge offers a canopy tower in the rainforest where you can climb to look out over the beautiful Amazon Rainforest canopy to spot different birds, such as toucans, macaws, parrots, and many others. You may even spot some different monkeys moving their way through the trees.
You will visit a small parrot lick to see parakeets and other birds feeding from the salt-rich and medicinal clay. Explore the rainforest to find different animals, such as several different monkeys, smaller mammals, delicate tree frogs, many colorful birds, and beautiful butterflies.
In addition to wildlife, you will also visit a working jungle farm. Taste delicious tropical fruit and see how communities live in the rainforest. You can enjoy different activities, such as night walks, birdwatching and ethnobotanical tours. The Posada Amazonas also offers a small spa room for a relaxing massage surrounded by the rainforest.
The Posada Amazonas Lodge makes a great choice for 2 or 3 days in the Puerto Maldonado rainforest.
The Refugio Amazonas Lodge
The Refugio Amazonas is a similar lodge to the Posada Amazonas above, but located in the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve.
Enjoy guided rainforest walks to find capuchins, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, tamarins, and marmosets. You will also see many beautiful birds.
At Refugio Amazonas Lodge, visit a parrot clay lick and a small mammal clay lick. These are great places for almost guaranteed wildlife sightings. On the Refugio program, you have a choice from a number of activities, including a visit the the large Chuncho claylick. This is one of the largest claylicks in Amazonia where hundreds of macaw parrots can be seen at one time.
From the Refugio Amazonas Lodge, visit a working jungle farm, Brazil nut concession, and enjoy a wellness center for massages and aromatherapy treatments.
The Refugio Amazonas also offers a tall canopy tower to look over the rainforest of Tambopata National Reserve. This is a great place to spot toucans and other iconic birds flying high over the rainforest. Recently, guests at the Refugio Amazonas have also had a higher chance of spotting harpy eagles, as the magnificent birds are nesting in the rainforest near the lodge.
The Amazon Villa
The Amazon Villa offers a luxurious visit to the Puerto Maldonado rainforest. Enjoy your own private bungalow in the middle of Amazonia. In addition to the privacy, you will be assigned a private guide for your own personal adventure in this incredible environment.
At the Amazon Villa, choose from a variety of activity options, including visits to clay licks for macaws, smaller parrots, and small mammals. Visit the canopy tower to see over the Tambopata National Reserve canopy, see a working jungle farm, a real Brazil nut concession, and explore Lake Condenado on a catamaran.
You can also choose from a range of other activities, such as aerobotany, birdwatching, and citizen science projects.
The villa features:
- A luxurious king-sized bed.
- 40 inch flat screen television to watch nature videos and documentaries.
- A place to use your laptop for writing or checking out the photos from every memorable day in the jungle.
- A satellite Internet connection.
- Electricity in the middle of the rainforest at all times of the day.
- A dining room where you can take fresh meals delivered to the bungalow.
- Dining table with 6 chairs.
- A refrigerator and microwave.
- A spacious bathroom equipped with hot water and a tub for soaking in comfort at the end of a long, incredible day in the Peruvian rainforest.
The Tambopata Research Center
One of the deepest lodges in the Amazon Rainforest, from the Tambopata Research Center enjoy visiting a large claylick and exploring the incredible Tambopata National Reserve.
The Tambopata Research Center is located in the middle of Tambopata National Reserve and is positioned by one of the Amazon’s largest claylicks. Researchers are studying this particular claylick to gain more information on macaws, which can be used in conservation.
The rainforest around the Tambopata Research Center is at carrying capacity for wildlife, which means you have a better chance of seeing more abundant and rare wildlife. For example, around 10% of guests to the Tambopata Research Center get lucky and spot wild jaguar in the reserve.
Explore the rainforest with your rainforest guide to find several different monkeys, including spider monkeys, capuchins, large and loud howler monkeys, and much more. See beautiful birds, delicate tree frogs, and some fascinating plant life. Find the emergent trees in the rainforest, see bromeliads in the trees, and chance upon beautiful and delicate orchids.
The Tambopata Research Center makes a great choice for 4 or more days in the Puerto Maldonado rainforest.