To cap off the most amazing family vacation ever we went to the Peruvian Amazon with Sergei’s parents. After hiking Machu Picchu and hanging out in Cusco, we were ready to get down to a lower elevation.
We flew into Puerto Maldonado in the Madre de Dios region. When our plan landed we had to wait on the tarmac for another 20 minutes because it was raining too hard to disembark… it was official, we made it to the rainforest.
We started our journey by leaving the city of Puerto Maldonado as we hopped on a boat and traveled 3 hours up the Tambopata river to make it to the Sachavacayoc Lodge where we would be staying for two nights. It is a huge lodge and during the school year many students are housed here to do research. It is located just outside the Tambopata Nature Reserve.
On our boat ride to the lodge we were able to spot our first capybaras and aguti. We had never heard of aguti and certainly never seen a capybara in its natural environment so this was pretty exciting for us. Once we were settled into the lodge our guide took us out for a night walk to try and spot some night creatures. As we walked, the trail would glisten and sparkle. We quickly learned that the shine was the reflection of spider eyes when our headlamps would hit them. They were absolutely everywhere, but they were small, unlike the tarantulas we were about to see.
The tarantulas live underground, typically by the roots of trees in a small hole. Surprisingly, they cohabitate with frogs. The frogs eat ants that attack tarantula eggs, and the tarantulas provide protection from predators. Our guide expertly coaxed out a baby tarantula and a very large female tarantula. We were able to touch it and were astonished by how soft its legs were.
During our night walk we were also able to see many different insects, a bull frog, and a night monkey. The jungle was so loud with the noises of cicadas and other insects as well as birds. At one point our guide had us all turn off our headlamps and it was so dark we could not see our hands in front of our faces. It made us realize how intense the jungle can be.
The next day we met at 3:30 am to boat to the clay lick inside Tambopata Nature Reserve. Birds and other animals go to the clay lick to eat clay to aid in digestion. We were able to spot many different macaws, parrots, and parakeets. We stayed for a couple hours just watching these incredible birds.
In the afternoon we went for another walk through the jungle and ended at the tranquil Condenado lake. We hopped in a canoe and paddled around the swampy lake. We also tried our hand at piranha fishing, but only Sergei Sr. was successful. While we were out on the lake a storm started rolling in with loud booms of thunder and a slow drizzle starting.
On our way back to the lodge we got drenched in an absolute downpour. Our clothes were soaked all the way through but the rain was so warm and it was such a nice break from the oppressive heat that we did not mind. We even got to see some frogs on our way back!
The next morning we took a boat downstream for a few hours, passing by Puerto Maldonado before continuing to Lake Sandoval where we would stay the night. Once docking on the shore we had a 2 mile walk to the lake where we would take a canoe across the lake to our lodge. At this point there was a small vendor stand and we were so hot that we opted for a beer. Unfortunately the beers were not cold, as it was so hot and humid outside but it still tasted pretty good to us.
Once we hopped in the canoe we paddled through a marshy swamp filled with baby caimans before we reached the lake. Once out on the lake we were able to see a bunch of red howler monkeys and squirrel monkeys before heading into the lodge.
In the evening we went out for another canoe ride to check out the wildlife.
We were able to see river otters, caimans, monkeys, herons, and many other types of birds. In the evening all of the bugs are out which brought out the bats. We had never before been surrounded by so many bats, it was incredible! While we were paddling around there was a thunder storm in the distance so we also were able to watch the lightning which was beautiful.
Because the otters are so fun to watch we decided to get up at 5 am to try and catch them playing around in the morning. To our delight we were treated to about 8 otters playing around and fishing. We seemed to have caught them during their breakfast fishing session. You could hear the loud cracking as they devoured whole fish and we even saw one catch and eat a freshwater sting ray!
After a morning on the water it was time to head back to town to catch a flight back to Cusco. At that point we were very ready to get back to a cooler environment. Throughout our time in the jungle it was exceedingly hot with nearly 100% humidity and there were no fans or A/C at any location. When we arrived back in Cusco it was cold and pouring down rain… we were fine with that.