Hi Everyone! Lauren here to tell you about our trip to the Amazon! We attempted to go to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador, however things don’t always go as planned. So while we were still in Ecuador, we booked a tour using Gulliver Expeditions to a lodge called Amazon Planet in Peru.
Our tour to the Amazon started from a city called Puerto Maldonado, Peru. We opted to save some money and take a night bus with a company called Cruz Del Sur from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado rather than fly. So on our last day in Cusco, we checked out of our hostel and did a lot of relaxing (which consisted of me binge watching Netflix rather than writing blog posts) before heading to the bus station in the evening. The bus was very nice, with very comfortable chairs and personal TVs for everyone. They even handed out snacks!
Our bus departed at 9 pm so we were both planning on sleeping the majority of the time, but there were a lot of little kids they were crying so loud and screeching like pterodactyls. Gerrod tried playing his Nintendo Switch and watched Ready Player One in Spanish while I listened to music. We could both still hear the loud kids even with our headphones in. They did eventually quiet down, and we got a little bit of sleep.
Puerto Maldonado → Amazon Rainforest
When we finally arrived in Puerto Maldonado at 7 am the next morning, we were picked up from the bus station by a guide from the Amazon Planet company. She gave us some interesting facts about the city on our way to the office. We then re-packed our bags and relaxed for a while. At the office, we met a girl from England that would be joining us for the next few days in the jungle.
After a few hours, we got on the boat and headed down river to our camp! The boat trip took about an hour, and I even saw a toucan in a tree from the boat! After we arrived at the lodge, we had lunch, met our guide, Listen (pronounced Lee-stun), and were shown to our jungle cabin.
Arrival at Amazon Planet
After lunch, Listen took us on the first of many nature walks. Our group was small, with just us, our guide, the girl from England, and another older couple from England. Although we didn’t see too much that is traditionally considered “exciting”, it was amazing to see how dense the forest was and to listen to all the birds. There was an abundance of ants, and I was particularly fascinated with the leaf cutter ants. They carried such huge leaves compared to their body size!
We also saw a “tree turkey”, jungle red squirrels (which are way more exotic than normal Ohio squirrels), lots of fruit, and plants in every direction. After our nature walk, we had time to relax. I guess they call it a rainforest for a reason, because it started raining pretty hard so Gerrod and I sat on our porch and listened to the rain.
Caiman Searching and Star Gazing
After our well deserved naps, we had a night excursion on the river. We got on our boat and went searching for caimans and capybaras along the river. We saw tons of caimans, but unfortunately no capybaras. Listen was particularly good at spotting caiman!
Our boat driver then took us to the middle of the river to stargaze and relax. Stargazing is one of my favorite activities, and watching them while we rocked in the boat in the middle of the river was particularly meditative.
Following our nighttime river ride, we headed back to the lodge to have dinner, and spent the rest of the night trying to not get eaten alive by bugs. Our room had bug repellent incense and a mosquito net due to the insane amount of bugs. I still managed to wake up the next morning with new bug bites!
Is that a monkey?
On the walk to the lodge for breakfast the next morning, Gerrod immediately spotted a monkey in the trees! The monkey was a reddish color, and very fast. I wanted to get a picture, but it was too far away and I didn’t think to bring my camera to breakfast.
After breakfast we had a nature spotting walk through the jungle with our guide. We were headed to a “canopy walk”. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but Listen gave us harnesses before our walk so I was prepared for some climbing.
After about 37.63 seconds of walking, Listen spotted a group of monkeys! They were a reddish color, and were right next to the trail, so I had plenty of time to take photos. Listen said they were titi monkeys, and were likely the same red monkeys we had seen at breakfast. We spent time watching them jump from tree to tree while Listen gave us tons of facts about titi monkeys. One of the monkeys had a baby on its back!
The Canopy Walk: Bugs, Birds, and Bugs
We continued our walk through the rainforest, and saw tons of bugs and plants (and bugs). The canopy walk ended up being a huge swinging bridge leading to the top of a very tall tree. The walkway seemed fairly secure and not too difficult, but I was not confident the harness would save us if we fell.
At the top of the tree, we could see for what seemed like miles over the tops of the trees! There were so many different kinds of birds including macaws and vultures. Listen had binoculars so we could see the macaws in the distance. He knew the different types of birds just from their calls, and spent time looking to spot toucans since our British group mate really wanted to see one!
There were also so many kinds of bugs including wasps. There was a bird that was nesting in the tree we were in that has a symbiotic relationship with wasps. This also meant there was a wasp nest right next to us! The wasps kept buzzing around us, so we decided to head down and continue the rest of the walk.
Rescue Center and Naps
On our way back to the lodge, we stopped by Taricaya Rescue Center, where we saw a puma, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, furry monkeys, some weird turkeys, bears, and birds.
After we got back to the lodge, we had lunch and time to relax. Relaxation time consisted of hanging out in some hammocks. There was a slight breeze that lulled us into a nap.
The jungle is a lil’ scary at night
At night, we headed out into the jungle for a night walk. It was a little creepy walking through the forest at night because it was so dark, but our trusty guide Listen was guiding us so I felt a little better. We saw so many different bugs, including tons of spiders!
Spiders eyes glow at night when you shine light on them, and I showed Gerrod a cool trick I know to amplify this effect. If you hold the light close to you eyes, you can see this effect more readily, and in the jungle this means you can see the 800 spiders that are everywhere. As Gerrod summarized it, “well that is terrifying”. The 800 spiders everywhere included tons of tarantulas.
Listen seemed to know where all of the tarantulas’ “lairs” were, and while taking pictures of one of them we all got attacked by some ants! I was spared from any ant bites, but Gerrod and our British companion got some painful bites. There was even a bug that glowed in the dark, which we conveniently got to see by turning off all of the flashlights... in the jungle... at night...after seeing tarantulas everywhere.
An early start for Lago Sandoval
We woke up very early on our third day for an excursion to Lago Sandoval. According to Listen, the lake was much better in the morning, but it is very hard to believe that at 5 am. After having some quick tea and coffee (and no breakfast) we hopped on the boat and headed up river. Listen gave us both large bags of snacks and sandwiches that we could eat later.
After about an hour on the boat, we put on some rubber boots they provided us and hopped on shore. Listen said rubber boots would be essential because it was very muddy, but I somehow grabbed two different sized boots so the comfort level was questionable. The walk to the lake was about 3 km through mud, so I am very glad I had the boots on. We even got to see some blue macaws in the trees!
Once we got close to the lake, we came upon a bunch canoes that were floating in a flooded marsh surrounded by trees. Listen grabbed one of the canoes, and we traversed through the dense marsh which eventually opened up into a very large lake surrounded by trees.
Lago Sandoval is the nesting ground for endangered giant river otters, and Listen was on a mission to find them. He paddled us out into the center of the lake “to get a better view to spot them”. It was very hot and sunny the whole time...and every time he saw some movement in the water he would quickly paddle us there to see if it was the otters.
Quit Monkeying around
One of our failed attempts to spot the otters was successful in another way. We had just paddled across the entire lake, and stumbled upon a large troop of squirrel monkeys. They were so small and cute, and were so close to us. There were easily 100 monkeys, and I could tell this was something you didn’t get to see every day because even our guide was excited and was taking pictures.
I took tons of photos, and we sat and watched them for a long time. Other canoe-ers on the lake came to us and we all watched the monkeys together. There were also another species of monkey called the Capuchin monkey hanging out with the squirrel monkeys.
While the monkeys were foraging, they accidentally knocked a snake out of the tree. Listen said the snake was not a supposed to be a water snake, and it tried to get on to our boat for safety!
Giant River Otters in Lago Sandoval
After watching the monkeys, Listen started his giant river otter mission again. He finally spotted them across the lake, and we very quickly paddled towards the otters. We got really close to the otters and they were GIANT and made really funny noises.
There were about 6 otters hunting together, and Listen told us about their foraging habits and how they are very sensitive to stressful situations, so there are areas on the lake that are forbidden to traverse. Since they are endangered, you are not supposed to get very close to them as to not stress them out. This was difficult to do anyways as they swam incredibly fast.
Give me a break
After watching them for a while, we paddled to a nearby dock to have a snack and relaxation break. We got off the canoe and walked to a nearby hotel. There was a cute kitty chilling there that I pet, and we ate our snacks. Some of the crumbs broke off while we were eating our crackers, and some ants discovered them and were carrying them to their home. We watched the ants for like 15 minutes, and then chilled in some hammocks again.
After taking about an hour break there, we headed back out on the lake to make the long journey back to our lodge. While making our way back to the river boat, we saw some weird ancient bird with a funny face and hair do, some fancy cranes, and some sleepy howler monkeys.
Listen told us a fun fact about howler monkeys: they stick their finger in their butt to get poo on it, and then stick it out and wait for bugs to be attracted to the poo. Then they eat the bugs. Nature is so neat!
Rafting and goodbye
After getting back to the lodge, relaxing, and having lunch, we had our last jungle activity: rafting. We were taken up river in the boat, and then hopped in some blow up rafts with the goal of making it back to the lodge. We didn’t see very much, but it was very relaxing.
After our rafting activity, we packed up our stuff in preparation for our departure the next morning and then hung out at the bar. We talked with the bartender quite a bit until dinner time.
The Amazon Forest is full of life, and I loved learning about the amazing diversity. The diversity includes 8000 bugs that want to eat you, but I think it is worth it. Gerrod may have a different opinion. Until next time!
Lauren (and Gerrod)