The Tambopata National Reserve has a preserved area of 247,690 Amazon hectares in southeast Peru. With tropical weather around 17-39 Celsius degrees and an altitude of 218 m.a.s.l. approx. It has more than 1200 plant types and around 2360 animal species, most of which are endemic. For all these characteristics, a trip to this paradise would be much more than a pleasant and impressive vacation. And for this, together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we have prepared this article. We would love to be your accomplice in this unparalleled adventure. Learn about everything you can experience in this remote corner of the world.
Everything you need to know about the Tambopata National Reserve
- Tambopata National Reserve
- Tambopata history
- Biodiversity in Tambopata
- Who lives in Tambopata?
- What to visit in Tambopata National Reserve
- The best time to visit Tambopata
- How to get to the National Reserve
- What to wear to my Jungle trip
- Other useful tips
Tambopata National Reserve
The Tambopata National Reserve has 2748 square kilometers of virgin Amazon, in Peru’s southeast. With more than 230 species of plants and 160 mammal species preserved by Peru state, unlike the Manu National Park, it receives more tourists because it is more adapted to ecotourism.
Tambopata receives its name from the main river that crosses it, a Quechua word (Tambo means to deposit and Pata means high place). This river was born in the Peruvian Altiplano (Titicaca lake border to Bolivia) and empties into the low jungle, inside the Peruvian department of Madre de Dios. Tambopata among other Nature Reserves in Peru has great biodiversity in flora and fauna. Also, it is a refuge for endangered species and other specimens of exotic wildlife. Not to mention, it’s home to indigenous communities that promote convivial tourism. It is one of the most visited areas in the Peruvian south jungle, offering a unique experience within the Amazon.
The National Reserve of Tambopata is located in the southeast region of Peru, in the province of the same name, inside the Madre de Dios Amazonian department. It has more than, 2746 square kilometers of preserved extension with an altitude of around 200 – 400 m.a.s.l. in the Peruvian lowland jungle.
Therefore, it stretches for miles around the Amazon and it is a connection between Cusco, Puno, and Manu National Park with the border with Brazil; thus, you will witness a vast and impressive landscape of wildlife, ancient trees, and rivers.
The National Reserve was created on September 4, 2000. thought a Government resolution. It was the result of the efforts of a group of conservationists and biologists who presented many investigations since 1999 about the site as proof to consider Tambopata, as a National Reserve, and not only a simple Natural Reserve, since with this old denomination, informal mining and indiscriminate logging still had a free pass for exploitation in the area.
Worth noting that before 2000, the Tambopata was considered part of a larger Reserve Zone called Tambopata-Candamo. The “Reserve Zone” denomination didn’t have enough protection from the government as a “National Reserve” zone has (according to the Peruvian government stipulation). The concern to change the denomination to “National Reserve” was based thinking on the Tambopata, which was one of the last areas of completely virgin tropical forest in the region. Besides, its lowland and foothill rain forests were the only ones connected with cloud forests at higher elevations and moist savannahs, a special characteristic in all of South American Amazon.
Also, the zone hosted a healthy population of felines, jaguars, tapirs, harpy eagles, giant otters, macaws, and other endemic animals that had disappeared in other areas of the Amazon in Peru, and South America. Not to mention the sparse human population (less human impact) that inhabited the area.
Another important concern for its creation as a “National Reserve” was the tourist demand for Manu National Park (close to it), its visitor flow was growing pass of the years representing a threat to the reserved and restricted zones in Manu. In this sense, Tambopata could serve as a vent zone and a second visit option for the high tourist flow of Manu. Also, the National Reserve could serve as a pass-zone to reach the jungles of Bolivia and to Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, distributing and minimizing the human impact in that part of the Peruvian Amazon. In this form, the creation of the Tambopata National Reserve was a great success for the Peruvian future.
Biodiversity in Tambopata
The National Reserve has one of the biggest biodiversity in all of Amazon, with more than 1200 plant types, 100 reptiles, and amphibians species (each one), 160 mammals, 179 species of fish, 630 bird species, and 1200 butterfly types. These are approximations because more and more species are discovered each year! Even, some of them are endemic.
Therefore, Tambopata is one of the well-preserved and most biodiverse areas on the earth. It contains hundreds of species of plants, mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, and birds. Different types of trees and oxbow lakes (a U-shaped lake, which creates a freestanding body of water); even monkeys, caimans, and much more. This is indisputably one of the highlights when you travel to Tambopata.
Who lives in Tambopata?
The native tribe of “Ese Eja” (that means “people”) lives for centuries in the surrounding places of the National Reserve. Of them, 200 families approx are located in Infierno town, around 20 families are in the Sonene zone, and 50 families approx in Palma Real town. They are farmers, fishermen, and hunters by tradition, but, in the last years, tourism and the harvesting of nuts in Brazil are their main sources of income. Its costumes and traditions are part of the experience that any visitor can feel during the Tambopata experience in Peru.
What to visit in Tambopata National Reserve?
Amazon River cruises, visit lakes like Sandoval, Cocococha, and Sachavacayoc, rainforest endemic wildlife sighting. Days and nights excursions to see amphibians, reptiles, and Jungle predators. Birdwatching in clay licks, canopy walks, know the native communities among Tambopata activities will leave you amazed.
A four-day tour to the National Reserve of Tambopata is the most popular one during a trip to the Amazon rainforest. A four-day tour is enough to see the best Tambopata has to offer you.
1. Amazon river cruise
The Amazonian rivers and oxbow lakes (U-shaped lake that creates a freestanding body of water) provide an ideal habitat for many wildlife species. Some of them can be seen on river cruises such as the pink river dolphin, the giant River Otter, the yellow-headed river turtle, and the South American river turtle. Also, on its river and lakes banks, you will see macaws and parrots feeding on trees. Besides capybaras and caimans. Even, though four of the six species of caiman that exist can be found in Tambopata, only two species are commonly seen by visitors, the spectacled and the great black caiman. Quite a sight to behold!
2. Jungle day and night treks
The Jungle day walks are an interesting way to experience first-hand the home of endless species of wildlife, plants, and trees. You will see and learn about the different habitats, ecosystems, and how the rainforest works. For this reason, expect to see birds, parrots, monkeys, insects, beautiful orchids, and wonderful medicinal plants. You might also see the distinctive tracks left by jaguars, tapirs, or other nocturnal animals.
The Jungle night walks are also a fascinating and mind-blowing way to explore one of the most popular Nature Reserves around the world. In fact, night is the best time to see the wildlife that inhabits the jungle. Most of the species are only active after dark. When the sun goes down, you will be able to see bizarre insects, colonies of leaf-cutter ants, colored frogs, snakes, caimans, and even monkeys. If you have good luck, even a tapir.
3. Clay licks
The National Reserve of Tambopata occupies a world-famous place because it counts the highest concentration of brilliantly colored parrots and macaws in the world. The birds gather daily for feedings over naturally forming walls of clay found on the river’s banks. They feed on clay to counteract the toxins from the fruits they previously ingested. This scene offers an amazing wildlife view while hundreds of parrots fly around everywhere. Without a doubt, a must during your visit to the National Reserve.
4. Canopy walks
As Mowgli in the Jungle Book, much of the Amazonian jungle life occurs at the treetops. It gives you an extraordinary chance to see the hidden beauty of the Amazon. The canopy is a rope bridge located at a height of over 25 meters and extends many meters through treetops, connecting with each other. Once you walk from one treetop to another, you will witness the stunning habitat of lots of animals and different kinds of exotic birds in Tambopata, such as toucans, macaws, harpy eagles, and even monkeys. It will be a spectacle of sounds and colors. Also, you will marvel at the perfect and captivating views of the rainforest.
5. Sandoval lake
Sandoval is a beautiful lake located within the National Reserve. This extends over about 120 hectares of land. It is renowned for being home to a large amount of wildlife. Among them is a huge population of macaws, kingfishers, alligators, otters, and herons among others. This part of the reserve has become very popular and demanded by visitors (Due to its proximity to the modern jungle city called Puerto Maldonado). And because of this, you can opt for boat tours around the lake and spot the myriad of wildlife. A perfect opportunity.
6. Lagoons of Cocococha and Sachavacayoc
These enchanting bodies of water are located across the Tambopata river basin. Both lakes are the refuge and home to a wide variety of Amazon rainforest animals. The Sachavacayoc lagoon is usually the most popular site due to its different due to the realization of different campsites around it. If you are looking for a much more intimate experience with the Peruvian Amazon, these lagoons are the perfect place. Also, you will find clay licks in both lagoons; places where macaws and other Peruvian endemic animals come to eat. Also, make sure you know the Chuncho and Colorado clay licks, both located on the banks of the river.
7. Know the native communities
Another great option to enjoy within Tambopata is to get to know the different indigenous communities. Many tours have the possibility of sharing their costumes and traditions. Among them, the Esa Axis, Harakbut, and Matsigenka native tribes are the most popular. Many of these do not share true ties and connections with the outside world unless you are a tourist who wants to know about their customs with humility and awareness. But don’t worry, they learned to share and be kind to the visitor and now they always look forward to your arrival.
The best time to visit Tambopata
The Tambopata National Reserve is slightly seasonal, with its tropical temperature around 17 – 39 degrees Celsius (45ºF – 103ºF). Humid and hot weather for the most part of the year. Also, it has two well-defined seasons, the rainy season (from January to February) and the dry season (from May to October) So to travel to Tambopata will be a matter of the traveler’s preference.
- During the wet or rainy season, which starts in November and goes on into April (January and February are the rainiest months), you will get a great chance to find and see specific wildlife of this season. The temperature will be cooler, but there will be a huge number of mosquitoes, so take precautions in this case. Also, due to flooding, most of the jungle trail will be affected by mud, in consequence, your exploring activities as well. However, the advantage to travel to Tambopata during this season is that you will easily see amphibians or reptiles like caimans, giant otters, and pink dolphins inter alia. Also, for the high water level caused by rains, lagoons, and lakes will form throughout the forest.
- In the case of the dry season, which goes from May to October, you will have better trail conditions to explore the area on foot. The pros of traveling to Tambopata in this season are that you can see many macaws and parrots on the clay licks because they are nesting. Therefore, they will be more active. As you can see, this is a great opportunity to see colorful birds, chicks, and nests!
How to get to the National Reserve
There are generally three steps to get to Tambopata National Reserve. First, by plane, second by bus, and third by boat. Regardless of the form, you will always depart from Lima or Cusco. Of course, Puerto Maldonado city is an obligatory pass-point during any of these ways. Therefore, It is necessary to get to this jungle city first to reach Tambopata.
1. By plane
If you are looking to get to the reserve from Lima or Cusco, first, you will have to take a plane. There are daily nonstop flights from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, this service takes approximately 1h 40 min. In addition, there are also direct flights from Cusco that take approximately 55 min. From Puerto Maldonado, you can start your journey to the main luxury hostels in the same city, spending a night there.
2. By bus
If you are taking any Amazon tours from Cusco, you have another option to get to Puerto Maldonado, the Bus. This trip lasts 06 hours approx. and the buses have daily routes to the jungle city from the Andean city. This is the best way if you want to enjoy breathtaking landscapes and panoramic views of the Amazon on the way. There are almost two bus frequencies from Lima, and the bus trip lasts more than 24 horas, making a scale in Cusco.
Regardless of the route taken to reach Puerto Maldonado. Once you will there, the travel agencies pick you up from the airport or bus terminal to their offices to receive a briefing for your Amazon tours. Next, you will be taken to the main port of the city to take the travel agencies’ boats heading to one of the Amazon lodges distributed along the Tambopata basin.
3. By boat
Once in port, you will have to take the boats to go to different travel agency lodges located throughout the Tambopata river banks. Don’t worry, there are several comfortable motorized canoes that will leave you in your lodging of choice. Most Tambopata lodges are located a few hours by boat from the port of the city. Boat schedules are designed to be available upon arrival on different flights. There are several security measures that guarantee your protection, also boat trips are great, and one of the favorite activities of many travelers.
What to wear to my jungle trip
Usually, the most common clothes and things to carry with you, during your jungle trip can be the following.
- Small daypack
- Light t-shirts
- Slippers or sandals for walking around the lodges
- Camera gear
- Broad-brimmed chapeau
- Tight-weave, light-colored, long cotton pants
- Flashlight (headlamp) with batteries
- Rain suit or wrap
- Small-denotation bills (Dollars or Soles)
- Mud walking boots
- Trekking boots
- Thin stockings
Other useful tips
To enjoy traveling to Tambopata, it is necessary to take a few things into account.
- It is highly recommended to obtain good travel insurance coverage before starting the different tours of the Amazon. The risk of becoming infected with a tropical disease is higher than in other parts of the world, like Malaria, an endemic disease of the Amazon.
- Being vaccinated against yellow fever is important. Your local doctor can take care of that. Inform him about your Amazon trip and when will be realized it.
- Keep in mind that to enter the Tambopata National Reserve, it is necessary and mandatory (by Peruvian government law) to go with an official and qualified tourism agency.
- You can also visit it if you are on a tour in Tambopata offered by the different lodges or in a group led by a professional guide.
- Another great recommendation is to get your ticket at the Puerto Maldonado National Protected Area Service, of course, if you travel alone. This is open from Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and then reopens from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. On Saturdays, you will find it open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. But as we said before, visiting Tambopata with an official and authorized travel agency is necessary. In this way, they take care of buying your tickets and you focus on the most important thing, enjoy.
- You must also bring your passport with you at all moments.
“THE MOST DANGEROUS WORLDVIEW IS THE WORLDVIEW OF THOSE WHO HAVE NOT VIEWED THE WORLD”
As you can see, this majestic reserve within the Amazon is a fascinating place to explore. You will find an endless variety of birds to contemplate and photograph. And inside the Tambopata National Reserve, you can enjoy a magical moment with exotic species. We hope together with the Machu Travel Peru team to have been helpful. If you want to know more about our tours through Amazon, you can consult with our team of advisers. Rest assured that our goal is to help you fulfill the trip of your dreams. We will be looking forward to your visit to Peru!