Peru is a fantastic country to experience the Amazon Rainforest.
The Amazon covers 40% of South America. Cradled by the Andes, Peru’s rainforest is one of the most wildlife-rich areas of this vast wilderness.
And Peru is fortunate to contain one of the highest amounts of the forest. Puerto Maldonado is a main gateway town for you to enjoy high-rated rainforest tours.
To help you get the best experience of Amazonia, we’ve made this Puerto Maldonado Travel Guide. Below you can find information on when to visit, Puerto Maldonado attractions and recommended Amazon tours.
We have also included a table showing your chance of seeing certain animals.
But first an introduction to the Peruvian Amazon.
An Introduction to Peru’s Amazon Rainforest
Crossing nine nations, the Amazon Rainforest covers a very large area. And Peru contains the most of Amazonia after Brazil. The main gateways to experience the Amazon in Peru are Iquitos in the north and Puerto Maldonado in the south.
Both Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado offer fascinating Amazon experiences.
However, the rainforest from Puerto Maldonado provides more claylicks. These are visited by different animals providing excellent wildlife experiences. Puerto Maldonado is also home to some of the Amazon’s most beautiful and wildlife-rich lakes.
Puerto Maldonado also offers less travel-time to reach some of the most wildlife-rich areas of Amazonia. This makes it ideal for a tour of 3 or more days.
There are a few Puerto Maldonado jungle lodges to choose from. Each offers a slightly different experience.
We have picked the lodges that provide a fantastic rainforest experience and a responsible approach to tourism. These offer wildlife-rich rainforest, comfortable accommodation, delicious meals and professionally guided tours. You will explore the rainforest led by knowledgeable, well-trained and friendly guides.
Let’s have a brief introduction to Puerto Maldonado itself.
An Introduction to Puerto Maldonado
The jungle town of Puerto Maldonado is in south Peru, about a 40 minute flight east of Cusco. Because it’s so close to Cusco, it makes a great Amazon add-on area after your experience of Machu Picchu.
Puerto Maldonado lies in the steamy lowland Amazon Rainforest. And you can find it near the Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers. The area became of interest to Europeans due to the rubber boom like the other Amazon gateways. These were regions where people could base themselves to access the rubber trees. However, unlike other rainforest gateways, Puerto Maldonado only became of interest late in the rubber boom. This was in the late 19th Century. The trees were a source of rubber for the growing bicycle and automobile industries.
Puerto Maldonado is now a major tourist destination for Peru’s Amazon Rainforest. And it’s home to one of the most thought out tourism industries in Amazonia. There is a fantastic amount of protected area accessible from Puerto Maldonado.
- Tambopata National Reserve
- Bahuaja-Sonene National Park
- Manu National Park
There are also different communal reserves.
Puerto Maldonado is a much smaller gateway than Iquitos, which is about 5 times the size. This means the Puerto Maldonado rainforest is much less disturbed. And you can experience high biodiversity areas after a short amount of travel time.
This rainforest is a section of one of the world’s largest areas of protected tropical forest. When the taken together, the protected forest around Puerto Maldonado covers an area about the same size as Belgium.
Not only a large area, this rainforest is home to incredible Amazon animals. You can find jaguar, tapir, macaw parrots, toucans, anaconda and many different monkeys.
The rainforest from Puerto Maldonado is also home to the most claylicks. And you can visit some of the most beautiful oxbow lakes in Amazonia.
We will mention these a little later.
When to visit Puerto Maldonado
Puerto Maldonado makes a great place to enjoy an Amazon Rainforest tour at all times of year. There are always different things to see depending on when you visit.
As we’re in the tropics, there aren’t the usual cycle of seasons. And instead the year is broken down into a wet season and dry season. Temperature stays around 31°C (88°F) throughout the year. However, the intensity of rain changes dependent on either the wet or dry season.
You should still expect some showers no matter when you visit. The rainforest here is by definition a wet tropical forest. However, the wet season experiences more frequent and intense downpours. These are often from mid-October to mid-March. But the wet season sometimes starts a bit earlier or later.
The dry season is often noticeable from mid-April to mid-November. Note that the months with the most rain are usually November and April.
Things to do in Puerto Maldonado
As well as exploring the Amazon from high-rated jungle lodges, there are attractions in Puerto Maldonado itself.
The Puerto Maldonado Market
If you have a day or half day in Puerto Maldonado itself, an interesting thing to do is to visit the market. On sale are the different products from the surrounding farms and communities. This is a great place to stock up on Brazil nuts.
Brazil nuts are sustainably harvested from different Brazil nut concessions around Puerto Maldonado. You can visit some of these from a few different jungle lodges. As well as Brazil nuts, you can see clothing for sale and try unusual tropical fruits. One of the most interesting for many people to see in the market is cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate.
Possibly the most interesting attraction in Puerto Maldonado itself is the obelisk. For a small fee, you can climb the obelisk to look out over the incredible Amazon Rainforest. See over the Madre de Dios and Tambopata Rivers and into the nearby Tambopata National Reserve. See over the rainforest canopy creating some beautiful views from the tower.
Things to Eat in Puerto Maldonado
The Peruvian jungle is known for its own typical cuisine. This is influenced by the more tropical climate, the different fruits and vegetables available. The missionaries over the years and indigenous groups have also left their mark on the foods.
A favorite dish in the Peruvian Amazon is called juane. This is rice, chicken and an olive cooked with spices in a banana leaf. You will also notice plantains featuring a lot in the different dishes. A favorite breakfast dish is called tacacho. And this is made with mashed plantain flavored with pork.
Communities of Puerto Maldonado
There are a few different indigenous communities of Puerto Maldonado. And the most well known are the Ese Ejja who also operate jungle lodges in their protected communal area. A favorite community-owned lodge is the highly rated Posada Amazonas Lodge. One of the best effects of tourism is when it benefits local people and the surrounding environment.
The Ese Ejja live across the jungle between Peru and Bolivia. Many people in Puerto Maldonado are members of the Ese Ejja group. There are also indigenous groups living in voluntary isolation in the surrounding rainforest.
The Wildlife of Puerto Maldonado
The wildlife you can spot on tours from Puerto Maldonado is nothing short of incredible. The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest container of wildlife and this section is particularly diverse.
There are great places to have almost guaranteed wildlife sightings around Puerto Maldonado. These include the different claylicks and oxbow lakes we will mention later. However, you can also spot an incredible diversity of animals on guided rainforest walks.
You can spot the toucans, macaws, parrots, and many colorful birds flying over the forest. In the lakes you can find resident giant otters. In the trees, you can also spot the different primates. These include capuchins, tamarins, marmosets, sakis, howler monkeys, spider monkeys and squirrel monkeys.
Head out on night expeditions to find caiman crocodilians and nocturnal birds. You will also find many reptiles and amphibians.
The plants here are also fascinating. Enjoy the large buttress roots of towering emergent trees and delicate orchids. And see the bromeliads clinging to the branches.
Your Chance of Seeing Certain Animals
This section is to provide an example of the wildlife you’re likely to see from different lodges. The table shows your probability of seeing different species.
The table includes the percentage of guests that have seen certain animals. And this is based on three recommended lodges for the Puerto Maldonado rainforest.
We will include a lodge close to Puerto Maldonado called the Posada Amazonas. Another is in the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve called the Refugio Amazonas. And finally you have a deep Amazon lodge in the middle of Tambopata Reserve called the Tambopata Research Center. As you can see from the table, this is the option for the best wildlife experiences.
The Puerto Maldonado Claylicks
Claylicks are areas of exposed riverbank visited by different animals. The clay neutralizes toxins found in a forest diet of various unripe seeds and fruits. And the clay is also high in essential salt hard to find in the rainforest.
Because of this, the clay areas are very attractive for a number of Amazon Rainforest animals.
The most famous animals to visit the clay are the iconic macaws, which are often the symbols of Amazonia. And many different macaws visit the licks. These include scarlet macaws, blue and yellow macaws, red-bellied macaws and red-shouldered macaws.
It’s not just the macaws that visit the different claylicks. They are also attractive to other parrots and various mammals. The visiting mammals include tapir, monkeys, capybara and paca among others.
The Puerto Maldonado rainforest is fortunate to contain the most claylicks in Amazonia. This is mainly because of the proximity to the Andes as well as other factors.
Tour operators have built environmentally responsible lodges near the different claylicks. This provides almost guaranteed wildlife sightings. Interestingly, different claylicks are visited by different animals. This means some lodges are better for seeing certain Amazonian animals.
Here is a table with different Puerto Maldonado lodges and the accessible claylicks.
The Puerto Maldonado Oxbow Lakes
Oxbow lakes are where tributaries of the Amazon River once flowed. The tributaries have since changed direction leaving arc-shaped bodies of water. These lakes are very attractive to Amazon Rainforest animals.
The different oxbow lakes are now home to a wide range of Amazon Rainforest wildlife. Some of the lakes have even provided homes and refuges for endangered giant river otters. These are often one of the most sought after wildlife sightings in Amazonia. And they can be spotted from the Posada Amazonas Lodge.
In addition to the giant river otters, the lakes are more often home to many others animals. You will no doubt see hoatzins. These are a chicken-sized bird that digest food by fermentation. And they seems to prefer hopping from branch to branch rather than flying.
Other animals to find include caiman crocodilians, cormorants and a diversity of herons. Some lake areas are a preferred nesting site for macaws. Another star of certain lakes are the horned screamers. These resemble hoatzins with black feathers and a long ornament atop their heads.
The different Amazon Rainforest lodges from Puerto Maldonado often include lake visits.
For example, you can visit lodges to visit the following lakes:
- Lake Tres Chimbadas from Posada Amazonas Lodge (Giant otters)
- Lake Condenado from Refugio Amazonas Lodge (Hoatzin, Horned Screamers)
Puerto Maldonado National Parks & Reserves
There are some fantastic protected areas from Puerto Maldonado to visit. These include the Manu National Park area and the nearby Tambopata National Reserve. This rainforest represents one of the world’s largest tracts of protected tropical forest.
Note that you can visit deep within the Tambopata National Reserve. But visitors are not permitted inside the national parks.
The Tambopata National Reserve
The Tambopata National Reserve is the closest national reserve to Puerto Maldonado. And this protects an incredible amount of Amazonian animals and plants. The reserve protects some of the largest claylicks. And you can find the most attractive oxbow lakes in southern Peru.
The reserve covers 274,690 hectares in the lowland rainforest. Within the reserve, you can find around 100 different mammals. There are also 90 different frogs, over 600 bird species and over 1,000 different butterflies.
The trees you can find in Tambopata include the giants of Brazil nut, mahogany and cedar. Each of these makes an impressive sight when you chance across them in the rainforest.
The iconic wildlife you can find in Tambopata includes the tapir, jaguar and macaws. You can also spot giant river otters, toucans, capybara, anaconda and black caiman.
The Manu National Park
Manu is possibly the most famous protected area of Amazon Rainforest in Peru. The park covers an impressive 1.5 million hectares. And it includes both lowland and Andean tropical forest.
Although not permitted in the actual park itself, there are some excellent Manu tours that visit connected forest at the park’s boundary.
With over 1,000 different birds, the Manu National Park protects an impressive 10% of the world’s bird species.
In addition to birds, there are 15,000 different plants, 120 species of fish and reptiles, and over 1,000 different mammals. The reason for the high numbers is the park’s vast size. But it’s also because of the different habitats protected.
Activities in the Puerto Maldonado Rainforest
You can enjoy a number of activities in the Puerto Maldonado rainforest.
The different activities are offered by different rainforest lodges. Activities include the usual guided tours to find fascinating rainforest animals. But you can also enjoy a number of others. In addition to lake and claylick visits, enjoy science activities, birdwatching and culture tours.
- Citizen Science
- Medicine Plant Trails
- Night Walks
- Visiting Jungle Farms
The Jungle lodges from Puerto Maldonado
There are a few recommended lodges to visit from Puerto Maldonado.
We will include our recommendations below.
The following lodges offer a responsible approach to tourism. Enjoy comfortable accommodation, delicious meals and high quality service. Experience the rainforest on professional tours by friendly and knowledgeable guides. And you will explore some of the Amazon’s most wildlife-rich rainforest.
The Posada Amazonas
The Posada Amazonas Lodge is a community-owned lodge. And you find this in connected rainforest with Tambopata Reserve. The lodge is within the Ese-Eja’s communal protected area.
From the Posada Amazonas, enjoy a variety of activities. You will explore a lake home to endangered giant river otters and admire views from a tall canopy tower. This is a great place to spot toucans and parrots. You can also visit a working jungle farm. And on guided trail walks, you will spot different monkeys and colorful birds. You will also enjoy ethnobotanical walks, night walks and cultural activities.
You can click the video above for a quick introduction.
From the Posada Amazonas, you will visit a small parrot claylick. This is a fantastic place to see different parrots gathered to feed from the salt-rich clay.
The lodge is near Puerto Maldonado yet in a section of wildlife-rich rainforest. Because of this, it makes a great choice for a short tour of 3 or 4 days as you will maximize your time exploring Amazonia.
To check availability for your travel dates, send the lodge a request using the button below.
The Refugio Amazonas
The Refugio Amazonas Lodge is in the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve. The lodge is a little deeper in the rainforest than the Posada Amazonas. Because of this, you can find a higher diversity of animals.
From the Refugio Amazonas, enjoy views from a canopy tower. From here you can also spot toucans, parrots and other colorful birds. Visit a small parrot claylick and also a small mammal claylick. On the Refugio’s program, you can also add a visit to the large Chuncho claylick. This is where you can see hundreds of macaw parrots gathered at the clay.
Click the video above for a short introduction to the Refugio Amazonas.
You can also visit a working jungle farm. And you will explore a lake to spot hoatzins, caiman and lake-living birds. Other activities include aerobotany, birdwatching, citizen science and cultural tours.
In addition to the above activities, you can also enjoy the spa. Relax with a massage surrounded by the Amazon Rainforest. The Refugio Amazonas is an excellent lodge for families. This is because the lodge is home to a children’s trail. This has been designed to teach kids about the jungle in a more relatable way.
The Refugio Amazonas makes a great choice for tours of 4 to 5 days. To check availability for your dates, send the lodge a request using the button below.
The Tambopata Research Center
The Tambopata Research Center is located deep in Tambopata National Reserve. The lodge is near one of the largest macaw claylicks in the Amazon Rainforest.
Because of its deep position in the Tambopata Reserve, this is the best option for wildlife.
Click the video below for an introduction.
Explore the surrounding Amazon Rainforest on expertly guided tours. And find several different monkeys. You can find howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins, tamarins and marmosets. In addition to the monkeys, spot a variety of colorful birds. The spiders monkeys in particular are hard to see wild from other lodges. These are the largest monkeys in the Amazon. And their presence symbolizes healthy rainforest.
In addition, at the Tambopata Research Center you will have a 20% chance of spotting wild jaguar.
The check availability for your travel dates, send the lodge a request using the button below.