When you hear the name “Peru,” what comes to mind? Perhaps one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites, Machu Picchu? If so, you’re not alone. Discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, the site continues to attract a steady supply of travelers with nearly 1.2 million tourists visiting in 2013 alone.
Other people might think of the llamas and alpacas of the Sacred Valley or perhaps the giant condors soaring above Colca Canyon. And who could forget about the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca with its reed-constructed Uros Islands?
Visiting the Peruvian Amazon rainforest may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, Peru also boasts lush, verdant jungles. The city of Puerto Maldonado represents one of the main gateways to Peru’s splendid tropical jungles where an unforgettable family adventure awaits you.
Puerto Maldonado: The Gateway to the Peruvian Amazon
The Peruvian Amazon covers about half of the nation of Peru and can be divided into three distinct areas or selvas (jungles):
The southern selva is easily accessed through Cusco, which links visitors to the bustling frontier town of Puerto Maldonado. The capital of the Madre de Dios region, it contains some of the most spectacular swathes of rainforest in Peru, areas much less frequented than the jungles near Iquitos.
A handful of indigenous tribes live in relative isolation in the Madre de Dios. When on a jungle tour to one of their villages, keep a few things in mind. Show respect to the local people by asking before taking any photos. Be kind and smile often. Finally, avoid giving indigenous children candy or soda since there is no dental care in the area.
The Reserva Nacional Tambopata
In the southeastern region of the Madre de Dios sits Reserva Nacional Tambopata. Established in 2000, it contains a wealth of biodiversity and encompasses 1,061 square miles (274,690 hectares). Easily accessible from the lodges of Puerto Maldonado, the reserve contains a variety of habitats from lowland Amazon rainforest to riverine forests and oxbow lakes. Three rivers flow through the area: the Malinowski, the Tambopata, and the Madre de Dios.
Consisting of forested hills and plains, elevations vary from 656 to 1,312 feet above sea level, and it stretches to the border with Bolivia in the east and the Bahuaja Sonene National Park in the south. Because of the reserve’s protected status, you’ll find a spectacular array of biodiversity including more than 1,000 species of butterflies, 600 species of birds, and 100 species of mammals.
Activities include hiking to Sandoval Lake and scoping out gorgeous rainforest animals including wild macaws. The reserve also contains clay licks, which draw hundreds of these vibrantly colored birds together in one spot, making for a once-in-a-lifetime photo op.
Manú National Park
The Madre de Dios also encompasses Manú National Park, a UNESCO-certified destination. The park offers some of the best chances for tropical wildlife viewing in South America. Covering almost 7,722 square miles (20,000 square km), it protects diverse ecosystems ranging from lowland rainforests to Andean grasslands and cloud forests.
More than 1,000 species of birds live in the park including scarlet-plumed Andean cocks-of-the-rock and macaws as well as giant hummingbirds and Amazonian pygmy owls. It boasts 155 amphibian species and 132 species of reptiles including yellow-spotted river turtles and black and spectacled caimans. Its 160 species of mammals include jaguars, tayras, ocelots, giant otters, and Peruvian spider monkeys.
Other wildlife found in the park includes more than 210 species of fish, 300 types of ants, 650 species of beetles, and 136 types of dragonflies. More than 1,300 different butterflies soar above the park, too. This dizzying array of wildlife can be viewed from five areas along paths, swamps, river shores, and oxbow lakes. The lower basin of the Manú river also includes four viewing spots and a canopy walkway.
Taking Kids to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest
What’s one of the best parts of visiting the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest with kids? Besides the incredible parade of wildlife, it puts you just a short travel distance to Cusco and the awe-inspiring Sacred Valley.
If you can’t decide between a family vacation to the Incan splendor of Machu Picchu or the abundant glories of the Amazon rainforest, you don’t have to. Come along on a trip to Peru for kids and get the best of both worlds. Check out our ultimate family travel guide to Peru. Then, join us on an 11-Day Peru Family Adventure, an immersive, authentic way to experience the Land of the Incas with children.
At Our Whole Village, we create transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft for curious families just like yours.