Tambopata National Reserve is a protected section of the Amazon Rainforest in southern Peru. Tambopata is a fraction of one of the largest sections of continuous tropical forest and is full of wildlife. On guided expeditions into this area of the Amazon, you will find fascinating diversity of animals and plants, which we will mention a little later. But to give a summary, Tambopata wildlife you’re likely to see on Amazon tours include different monkeys, fascinating reptiles, many different birds, and much more.
The Tambopata National Reserve is accessed from the dusty town of Puerto Maldonado, just a short flight south of Cusco. You can be in this incredible reserve in around 30 minutes. Being so close to incredibly biodiverse forest means this is a great Amazon destinations for short tours of 2 or 3 days. With so much rainforest home to all the iconic Amazon animals, it’s also a great place for deep Amazon adventures. To help give examples of wildlife you’re likely to see, we will go over these below and mention some fantastic lodges for exploring Tambopata.
You will find several different monkeys in Tambopata’s Amazon Rainforest. Some are very commonly encountered, such as capuchins and squirrel monkeys, while some are a little more elusive. Great places to see monkeys include oxbow lakes early in the morning, but you will also see troops of monkeys moving through the trees while you’re on rainforest walks. Other monkeys you’re likely to spot include large howler monkeys with their impressive calls, tamarins with their diversity of forms and colors, titi monkeys feeding on fruits in the mornings, and hopefully the less common spider monkeys, the largest species in the Amazon.
Reptiles have called this rainforest home since its formation around 10 million years ago and were here long before the first Amazonian plant took root. Harder to spot, the reptiles you’re likely to see in Tambopata include the caiman crocodiles, such as spectacled caiman and the impressive black caiman. You will head out on night hikes and boat trips to find these prehistoric looking animals and they make for some fantastic photos. If you’re lucky, you will also spot some of the lizards and snakes. The largest snake here is the anaconda, which is easier to spot in the dry season as there is less water to hide their gigantic bodies.
A birdwatcher’s paradise, birding in Peru is an incredible experience. There a many different species to be found in Tambopata and many more waiting to be identified. The favorite species include the colorful macaws, distinct looking toucans, a multitude of parrots, and the many different lake birds. Harpy eagles are then known to nest around a few specific Tambopata lodges, such as the family friendly Refugio Amazonas. Of the lake species, some of the favorites include the hoatzins and horned screamers. About the same size, hoatzins don’t fly far and instead like hopping from branch to branch around the lakes. Horned screamers are then an elegant looking species with their tell-tale ‘horn’ dangling from their heads. Possibly the most famous feature of the Tambopata National Reserve is the abundance of clay licks, which are fantastic places to see hundreds of parrots flocking together for the salt-rich and medicinal clay. Many lodges have hides setup for fantastic photographs of this incredible display.
One of Tambopata’s most anticipated wildlife sightings, big cats have highly specialized senses and move quietly and quickly through the rainforest making their sighting a very rare event. However, a lucky few tourists, often those who venture to some of deeper lodges in Tambopata, enjoy seeing a jaguar sunning itself by the river or a margay darting through the darkness. The deeper Tambopata lodges offering a higher chance of seeing jaguar in the Amazon, include Tambopata Research Center, in the middle of Tambopata Reserve, and the Heath River Wildlife Center, which is located between the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bolivian Madidi National Park.
One of the rainforest’s strangest looking large mammals, tapir are about the same size as a large pig but with a larger and prehensile snout. They sleep on the forest floor during the day then move about the rainforest at night scouting for food. Tapir are also known to frequent clay licks, which provide the animals with much needed salts. With this in mind, certain Tambopata lodges, such as Heath River Wildlife Center, are located very close to tapir licks and have built hides specifically designed to maximize your chances of seeing this large land mammal.
The hot and humid environment of the Tambopata rainforest creates a perfect habitat for a range of different frogs, including some very colorful species. One of the favorite groups, enjoy seeing different tree frogs on forest walks as they cling to the leaves. You may also see some different interesting species on the forest floor, such as horned toads hiding in the substrate.
Giant River Otters
These magnificent and highly social mammals can be seen in a number of Tambopata’s oxbow lakes. Identified individually by their unique throat patch, otters communicate using a series of snorts and screeches. Enjoy catching sight of giant otters playing, hunting, and resting on the banks, as they like leaving the water to enjoy their catch. An endangered species, oxbow lakes and the Tambopata National Reserve help protect these animals when hunting and habitat loss threaten their population.
Lodges to see Tambopata Wildlife
The Tambopata region is home to fantastic lodges to see a wide range of forest wildlife. If you only have a few days to spend here, we recommend the following inclusive Amazon tours, which are located a little closer to the base town of Puerto Maldonado. Despite being more easily accessible, these lodges provide fantastic wildlife sightings and some offer optional activities in Tambopata’s rainforest.
Deeper Amazon Lodges
If you want to dedicate more time to experience the Tambopata rainforest, we recommend some of the deeper Amazon tours or combination inclusive packages to combine one of the above tours with a deeper Tambopata lodge. Deep lodges provide access to macaw clay licks to see hundreds of brightly colored large parrots. These lodges also offer a higher chance of spotting larger and more rarely seen Amazonian animals.