How do I start a fruit farm

Puerto Maldonado - All tips for your trip to the Amazon lowlands of Peru

Puerto Maldonado is the gateway to the rainforests in the Amazon lowlands of Peru - and also the starting point for jungle tours in the nearby, beautiful Tambopata National Park

From Bettina Tiedke

Reasons for a trip to Puerto Maldonado

Bettina Tiedke, author

Puerto Maldonado is located in the southeastern Amazon lowlands of Peru at the confluence of the Río Tambopata with the Río Madre de Dios, a tributary of the Amazon. The city is primarily the starting point for jungle tours to the nearby Tambopata National Park.

The Tambopata nature reserve (Reserva Nacional Tambopata) is known for a large variety of plants and animals. In addition to numerous species of birds such as macaws, toucans, aninghas, hoatzins and kingfishers, you can also see caimans, giant otters, agoutis, howler and squirrel monkeys, butterflies, snakes and spiders.

The highlights in the national park include Lago Sandoval, one of the most beautiful lakes in Peru, several clay licks (collpas) for macaws and other parrots, boat trips on the Río Madre dios, visits to fruit farms and villages of the Machiguenga, an indigenous tribe, and of course hikes through the whole, green jungle world.

Lago Sandoval

Most tourists rent one of the beautiful jungle lodges on the banks of the Río Madre des Dios and go exploring from there. The lodges are all between 30 and 60 minutes by boat from Puerto Maldonado and usually offer complete packages with full board, transfer and all tours, so you don't have to worry about anything.

Puerto Maldonado - overview

From Puerto Maldonado it is only about 50 kilometers to the Bolivian border, and it is not far to Brazil either. The Guillermo Billinghurst Bridge, which spans the Río Madre de Dios and is the longest bridge in Peru at 722 meters, as well as a market where you can buy, among other things, are among the few attractions in Puerto Maldonado. other local products like delicious chocolate pralines and Brazil nuts.

Guillermo Billinghurst Bridge in Puerto Maldonado

Puerto Maldonado was once founded in the course of rubber extraction. Today the almost 80,000 residents of the city live mainly from the trade in wood and Brazil nuts and from (eco) tourism.

Nevertheless, the rainforests around Puerto Maldonado are among the most beautiful jungle areas in Peru. Also, not as many tourists come to Puerto Maldonado as to Iquitos or Pucallpa in the north of Peru, where the jungle paths have long been trodden. Puerto Maldonado is only a half-hour flight and a six-hour drive from Cusco and is a perfect connection destination after a tour of southern Peru through the rather barren Andean regions.

Below is a full travelogue about our four-day stay in the Tambopata Nature Reserve. We lived on the Río Madre de Dios in the beautiful Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge *, about half an hour's boat ride from Puerto Maldonado.

Tambopata National Park - highlights, tours and travelogue

Arrival in Puerto Maldonado

At 1 p.m. our plane lands in Puerto Maldonado at Padre Aldamiz International Airport. The sky is bright blue, the jungle that extends to the airfield is deep green. The temperature is 33 degrees, the humidity over 60 percent. When we get off the plane, the warm, humid air snuggles around us like a cloak.

At the gate we are expected by the guides from the Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge and then get into a fortunately air-conditioned mini-van. Before we take the longboat across the Río Madre de Dios to our lodge, we stop in Puerto Maldonado at the lodge's town office.

Since we can only take the bare essentials with us to the lodge due to the limited loading capacity of the long boats, we repack some of our luggage in small travel bags in the office. We leave the rest in the office, where our things are safely locked away.

With the longboat to the Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge

Longboats on the Río Madre de Dios

Then the mini-van takes you to the jetty. Since it is the dry season, the Río Madre de Dios has little water. So we scramble over rather wobbly jetties down the bank to the long boats. Our boat is about 15 meters long and 3.50 meters wide. Since it only has a flat bottom and no keel, getting in is a balancing act.

After the skipper and guides have distributed us and our bags in such a way that the boat is no longer listed, we finally start.

Life jackets are compulsory in the wobbly long boats

We quickly leave the jetty and the Guillermo Billinghurst Bridge, also known as the Puente Intercontinental, behind us. The red suspension bridge, which was only completed in 2011, is part of the 6200-kilometer-long Transoceánica that connects the Pacific coast of Peru with the Atlantic coast of Brazil.

But we don't want to go there, just four kilometers downstream to our Lodge Corto Maltes Amazonia.

On the Río Madre de Dios, framed by loamy embankments and slowly flowing, we drive about 40 minutes to the lodge. After we have climbed the bank over the steep wooden stairs, we are expected in the main house with a fruit juice.

Jetty of the Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge on the Río Madre de Dios

Then we put our bags in the bungalow, freshen up briefly and go to the restaurant with the other newcomers for a late lunch.

Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge

Garden of the Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge

The Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge * is one of around a dozen lodges on the Río Madre de Dios near Puerto Maldonado. All lodges are located in the middle of the jungle and can only be reached by boat.

The Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge has 27 detached bungalows with covered verandas. In the bungalows you have a large bedroom, shower and toilet. There is no air conditioning, but there is a large ceiling fan that at least gives you the feeling of fresh air.

The beautiful bungalows, made of dark wood and covered with palm fronds, stand on approximately one meter high stilts in a large park-like garden.

At the entrance is the main building with a restaurant, cocktail bar, souvenir shop and a large, covered terrace.

From the terrace you have a great view of the river. In the large garden you can take a refreshing dip in the pool with a concert of cicadas and frogs in the evening or just relax with a drink on one of the deck chairs.

Corto Maltes Amazonia is a mid-range lodge. As with most other lodges in the area, the prices include accommodation and full board as well as all tours and airport transfers.

With everything that was offered to us at the Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge, we found the price-performance ratio to be absolutely appropriate. For the four days we paid a total of 870 euros with three nights for two.

Since the number of lodges near Puerto Maldonado is manageable and the rooms can be booked up quickly, it is advisable to book the accommodation at least six months in advance.

Tarantulas and toucans - our first jungle walk

Toucan. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

In the meantime, dusk has set in and we take our guide on our first discovery walk into the jungle. The jungle trail starts right behind our bungalow.

The first stop at the very beginning of the path is a large old tree that is picturesquely surrounded by a strangler fig. At a height of about three meters, a fat tarantula sits very relaxed in front of a tree cave and waits for careless visitors.

Tarantula. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

A couple of blue macaws croak loudly across the spacious grounds of the lodge. In the early morning or evening hours, wild parrots, sometimes toucans, come and stop here in one of the large trees, while howler monkeys loudly mark their territory in the distance.

On our two-hour walk we learn a lot of interesting facts about the local flora. Our guide picks a few leaves from the roadside, lets us smell them and explains what this and that plant is good for.

Some of the leaves have a strong smell of garlic and are used by the locals for the preparation of food, others, such as the "aspirin" bush, are used as pain relievers and still others are used to dye textiles.

A little further on, our guide draws our attention to a tree with fire ants. A fire ant bite can be extremely painful and cause severe itching, he explains. Local girls who cheated on would be tied to such trees as a punishment, we learn - and have a queasy feeling about it.

A little later we stand in front of a Brazil nut tree whose nuts only agoutis can crack, our guide explains. Using various tools, he demonstrates how difficult it is to break open the shell of the nuts.

While on the way back to the lodge we learn a lot about the coffee and coca bushes growing along the way and have the luck or bad luck to encounter a tarantula, the evening concert of the cicadas and frogs begins. Bats on the prowl fly overhead. The whole thing is illuminated by countless fireflies that seem to dance over the jungle path.

It's just a shame that the family, with whom we were put in a group, doesn't seem to have any sense of nature and chatters loudly, as if they hadn't seen each other for years.

Nocturnal caiman tour

Caiman in the Río Madre de Dios. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

Back at the lodge, you have to hurry again. Because immediately after dinner, the caiman tour starts. Equipped with headlamps, cameras and smartphones, we scramble down the jetty to the boat in a cloud of mosquito repellants.

Again, all people are distributed in such a way that the boat is balanced and does not list. We are allowed to get up to take photos, but under no circumstances change sides in the boat so as not to end up as caiman fodder in the river, the guides warn us.

It's 10 p.m. and really pitch black out here. Because of the starry sky, you can just make out the shore and the dark silhouettes of the giants of the jungle, but nothing else.

So we go downstream for a while. In between, the two guides light up the river and the banks with their powerful handheld spotlights for the reflective eyes of the caimans.

There! Finally two red dots light up in the water and even more on the bank. Great excitement on board. The instructions from our guides are quickly forgotten. Regardless of the incline of the boat, everyone tries to take the perfect photo, whether sitting, standing or running.

Night encounter with a caiman on the Río Madre de Dios. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

Fortunately, however, we can no longer capsize, as we are now so close to the bank that the edge of the hull of the boat has dug through the list into the loamy subsoil. So we relax again and enjoy the beautiful animals that - thank the goddess! - with a length of hardly more than 1.5 meters, are not that big, but with their many pointed teeth in their mouths look like real crocodiles.

We take a lot of photos and then drive back to the lodge satisfied, but also tired. In the bar we meet a few other guests and end the evening with a pisco sour.

Giant Otter and Hoatzine - boat tour on Lago Sandoval

Lago Sandoval

Lago Sandoval is a silted-up arm of the Río Madre de Dios and is located about ten kilometers east of Puerto Maldonado. The lake, about three kilometers long, one kilometer wide and up to three meters deep, can only be reached by boat via the Río Madre de Dios and then a three-kilometer walk.

At Lago Sandoval, with a little luck, you can see giant otters, black caimans and water turtles, as well as the arapaima - one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, hoatzins and piranhas - with a length of up to two meters.

And that's exactly what we're hoping for when we set off this morning at 5.15 a.m. from our lodge for Lago Sandoval. At the main house we are divided into two groups of six people. Then we go back down the wooden stairs to the river, where we get into a long boat with our guides.

After everyone has been distributed on board in such a way that we will most likely not capsize, we drive downriver towards Lago Sandoval. After a good ten minutes we reach the landing stage on the river bank. From here it's about three kilometers on foot through the jungle to the lake.

Most of the path leads over a boardwalk so that you don't sink into the mud even when it rains. An agouti is on the move in the undergrowth. Butterflies, including a large, blue morpho butterfly, ingest minerals from a puddle next to the jetty. Somewhere in the jungle the howler monkeys announce themselves loudly, and countless birds greet the new day with their singing.

The jungle path is still in the dark, because the giant trees do not let the sun that has just risen through yet. Now we can hear a couple of macaws waking up on their sleeping tree and loudly joining the morning concert in the jungle. They should be here somewhere. A few meters away from the path we finally see the macaws on a tall tree. Great!

Macaws on a tree top. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

After three kilometers the path ends at a shelter with a small kiosk. There are several wooden boats lying next to them in the shallow water of the jungle harbor. Our two groups split into two of them and paddle through the narrow canal towards the lake.

Ride by rowing boat to Lago Sandoval

After a bend, past the underwater jungle, we pass the entrance to the lake, on which morning mist still wafts. The tops of the giants of the jungle rise above the fog. The water of the lake is as smooth as glass. We are the first on the Lago Sandoval and enjoy the peace, which is only interrupted by the singing of the birds.

Rowing boat tour at dawn on Lago Sandoval.

Keep an eye out for birds and giant otters

Herons and cormorants sit on the trees like statues. Some bats sleep on the trunk of a palm tree, like a chain, which we can only discover with the help of our guide.

A turtle sunbathes on a tree trunk lying in the water. Macaws crawl loudly in circles. A fish buzzard is on the lookout for careless scales, and a hoatzin hops about awkwardly on a low-hanging branch.

Turtle on a log in Lago Sandoval. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

Macaws over Lake Sandoval. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

Hoatzin on the lakefront. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

Unfortunately, we don't see black caimans, but after another half an hour we see a few dark, moving shadows in the water at the eastern end of the lake. I quickly change the lens of my camera and actually see through the telephoto lens that there is a family of otters out there.

So we slowly but steadily row close to them and actually come within ten meters of the giant otters. They hunt in the group and feed the fish they have caught quite unmoved by our presence, take a look at us every now and then, dive briefly in order to claw the next fish with their front paws and then greedily devour it.

Giant otter in Lago Sandoval. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

Our second group in the other boat also became aware of the otters. We clear the field so as not to disturb the animals unduly and to give the others the opportunity to take a look at the otters as well.

There are now significantly more boats on the lake. A good time to retire to a rest area on the shore with our packed lunches.

Rest on the shores of Lago Sandoval. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

The sun has risen now and it gets hot and humid quickly. As the animals gradually withdraw into the shady thicket of the jungle and there is not much to see anymore, we row back to the jungle harbor after about two and a half hours and treat ourselves to an ice-cold cola at the kiosk.

So strengthened, we make our way back to the Río Madre de Dios, encounter a horde of squirrel monkeys on the way and then take the longboat upstream back to the lodge.

Rescuing a cow from the mud

On the partly steep banks of the Río Madre de Dios we see again and again cows, donkeys and horses that come down from the settlements to the river to drink and cool off.

So we don't think anything of it at the beginning when we see a couple of cows on the embankment again. The bank is pretty steep here and sometimes it looks like the cows are about to fall and break their bones.

Not a meter from the bank is a cow up to its neck in the water. There are other cows around her and they seem somewhat restless. A large dog barks excitedly. Since this seems strange to us, we make our guides aware of the cow.

It quickly turns out that the cow is stuck in a mud hole on the bank and cannot free itself from it on its own. So we turn the boat and drive towards the shore. Our two guides and two men from the tour group go ashore to see if and how one could possibly help the cow.

First they tie a rope around her neck and try to pull her out of the mud hole. But that doesn't work. Now the owner and his wife come down the embankment. The owner also has a rope and a shovel with him. With a shovel and hands, the men dig a canal to make it easier for the cow to get out. Then they pull together on the rope. Vain.

Stuck in the mud: Desperate cow on the loamy bank of the Rio Madre de Dios

One of our fellow travelers now goes to the cow in the mud hole and tries to raise the animal. That won't work either.

The whole thing has now taken almost half an hour. Both the rescuers and the cow are now visibly exhausted. When we have almost given up hope, however, they jointly manage to pull the animal, which initially slips off the muddy edge again and again, out of the hole.

The cow will stand on shaky legs for a while and we fear the worst. But then she climbs the embankment and goes further up to her conspecifics.

Our guides as well as the two men from our group look quite adventurous, smeared with mud as they are. But her eyes shine. They did a great job. Applause from us! The rest of the drive back to our lodge goes without any further incidents.

Return to the lodge in a longboat

Excitement about a boa constrictor

After a swim in the pool and lunch, a long siesta follows until the cicadas concert wakes us up at dusk. Then we get ready for dinner.

Meanwhile, there is great excitement at a tree near the restaurant. A young boa constrictor is snaking over a branch. At just under one and a half meters in length, however, it is still larger than any snake in our country.

Visiting the Machiguenga

You can't get away with the Machiguenga without face painting. Photo: Bettina Tiedke

The next day, after breakfast, we go on a voyage of discovery again by boat. Down the river we stop at a Machiguenga village. The Machiguenga are indigenous people from the Arawak tribe and have been living in the jungle areas of Peru for centuries. They live mainly from hunting, fishing, growing fruit and vegetables, and more recently also from tourism.

Today there are only around 20,000 Machiguenga left in the Peruvian primeval forests, who settle in small villages along the rivers. The Machiguenga only stay in one place for six to seven years and then move on either upstream or downstream.

The Machiguenga family that we visit on the Río Madre de Dios consists of 15 members and is completely geared towards tourism. Two young women, who were just walking around in jeans and T-shirts, quickly put on traditional sackcloths when we arrive. Likewise the boy, who is fully occupied with hiding the silver chain that he wears around his neck under his robe. An old man and his wife, apparently the heads of the family, are dressed in the same way and also wear a feather on their head.

After a friendly greeting, the old man asks us into a shelter. After we have sat in a circle with the family, he takes the floor and tells us in the language of the Machiguenga about the life and traditions of his people. Thanks to our guide, who translates everything into English, we can follow.

For example, we learn that the Machiguenga girls, when they menstruate, have to live alone in a reed tent for a whole year to learn everyday tasks like cooking and sewing.

Then the old man takes a brush from his quiver and uses it to paint our faces with red strokes in Machiguenga style. Now that we look like real machiguenga, we can also try our hand at traditional machiguenga musical instruments. The instruments are a kind of tiny violin and a flute. The flute, the head of the family tells us, has the function of a "telephone" in the primeval forests, with which one can call shamans from distant villages.

Machiguenga with a violin-like musical instrument

But that was obviously once. Because while the old man is talking, a cell phone rings in the pockets of his robe. From the conversation that he is now having in perfect English, we can see that new guests from another lodge are already announced.

We quickly learn how to shoot with a bow and arrow and how to wind yarn on a roll. Then we say goodbye to the friendly Machiguenga a little disillusioned - and clear the field for the next tourist group.

Visit to a fruit farm (Chacra)

Pineapple tree on a fruit farm on the Río Madre de Dios

Now it's about an hour and a half upriver in the longboat to a fruit farm, a so-called chacra. After we have moored at the jetty, we first scramble up a steep wooden staircase up the bank to the viewpoint of the Chacra. In the shade of huge, old mango trees, we enjoy the view of the Río Madre de Dios and the deep green vegetation above the loamy river bank.

Since our lodge cooperates with the Chacra, we don't have to register anywhere and explore the farm on our own with our guide. On our way we first pass numerous orange and lemon trees, which give off their bewitching scent in the now blazing sun. A sun-warm, fully ripe orange tastes very different from the one you buy in a store. Delicious!

A little further there are trees with strangely long, rather inconspicuous, gray-brown pods that look like overly long breadfruits. As our guide explains, these are ice cream beans (lat. Inga feuilleei) commonly known as pacay or ice beans. Aha, we think. But what does an ice cream bean like that taste like? We ask ourselves.

The question is answered when our guide picks some fruits and breaks them open. Inside there are dark brown beans, which are wrapped in a soft, white fluff. The white is the actual pulp, reminiscent of ice cream. It melts on your tongue and tastes like a delicious, fruity-tart ice cream.

A little further on we pass pineapple trees, which, as we learn, take two years to be harvested. The already ripe fruit that we try is also sun-warm and incredibly aromatic.

We have now reached the carambola trees. Unfortunately, since the star fruits are not yet fully ripe, we cannot taste them. A little further, as a solitaire between fig trees and palm trees, there is a large Brazil nut tree. This is very special because a whole colony of weaver birds nests in it and their nests, which are almost half a meter long, hang down from the branches. There is a lot of activity in the Brazil nut tree. While some birds are just returning home from foraging, the others are already buzzing out again.

At the very end we see cocoa trees. The large fruits hang directly on the trunk. The white pulp has a similar consistency to that of the ice cream beans and is just as tasty. Of course, we can't taste the hard beans embedded in it, from which the cocoa is made.

Cocoa bean

Opened cocoa bean

What we didn't know until then is that common chocolate usually never contains cocoa oil, but other vegetable fats. The reason for this is that the cocoa oil is extracted from the beans before processing into chocolate and, among other things. is used for the manufacture of cosmetic products.

In Peru, however, chocolate is still made with cocoa oil in many places. Such 100 percent chocolate is not cheap, but it tastes far more intensely like cocoa. At least we come to this conclusion when we treat ourselves to a taste of the eco-chacra at the end of our tour.

Another eventful day is slowly coming to an end. Back at the lodge, we have a good time by the pool with an ice-cold beer, enjoy our dinner and then sip one or two Pisco Sour with the other guests in the bar.

Visit to a clay lick (Collpa)

Clay lick with macaws. Photo: Marek-Stefunko / 123RF

Not far from our lodge, at the bend of a small stream in the middle of the jungle, there is a clay lick (Collpa). When the weather is nice, many macaws and other parrots come here between 6 and 7 a.m. to take in the vital minerals contained in the clay.

So on our last morning at the Corto Maltes Amazonia Lodge we had to get up again in the middle of the night. Already at 5.30 a.m. we make our way to Collpa and reach it after a half-hour walk in the jungle.

In order not to disturb the birds, you can only observe the approximately three meter high clay wall from a shelter covered with camouflage nets from a distance of about 50 to 70 meters. But there are no macaws yet. So we take a seat in the shelter on a bench and hope that they will come too. There is no guarantee that this will be the case.

Suddenly, however, great cinema. The macaws fly in from all directions and screeching loudly with their beaks at the mineral lick, nibbling and pecking tiny pieces of clay from the wall. The spectacle lasts about half an hour.

Just as quickly and suddenly as the macaws came, they are gone again. A colorful swarm is the last to rise and caws loudly over the giant trees of the jungle.

We too are on our way - back to the lodge and to our breakfast. Then it's time to pack bags and say goodbye to the jungle.

Return and visit the market in Puerto Maldonado

Fruit and vegetable stand in the market in Puerto Maldonado

With the longboat it goes half an hour upstream back to Puerto Maldonado. Before we collect our luggage from the town office, we take our guides for a stroll through the market. In the covered halls you can buy pretty much everything that locals and tourists might need: souvenirs, clothing, household items, electronics, fruit, vegetables, spices, Brazil nuts, dried fruits and chocolate, which you can also try at one or the other stand can.

After we have covered ourselves with Brazil nuts and a bag of delicious chocolate and coconut pralines, we continue to the town office of our lodge. There we pack our luggage from the small bags back into our suitcases, then take the mini-van to the airport and board the plane to Lima. Adiós Amazon!

Map of Peru and Puerto Maldonado

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Travel tips for Puerto Maldonado and Tambopata

Best time to visit Puerto Maldonado

The best time to travel to Puerto Maldonado and the Tambopata National Park are the months of June to September with less rainfall. During this time, the average daytime temperatures are around 31 degrees Celsius. The humidity is 80 percent in June and around 63 percent in September.

Puerto Maldonado is humid, hot and humid all year round. The actual rainy season lasts from October to April.

Tropical rain in the Tambopata nature reserve

How To Get To Puerto Maldonado?

From Lima and Cusco there are several daily flights to Puerto Maldonado with Latam and Star Perú. The flight from Cusco takes a good 30 minutes and from Lima just under an hour and a half. It takes about ten hours by bus from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. The route is operated, among other things. from Cruz del Sur, one of the largest bus companies in Peru.

Packing list for Puerto Maldonado

In Puerto Maldonado you only need light clothing. Long-sleeved, breathable shirts or blouses are primarily recommended to protect against mosquitoes. If you rub exposed skin with enough mosquito repellent, you can usually get by with tops and T-shirts. Short pants are useful in the heat, but are less suitable for hikes through the jungle. Therefore, you should have at least one or two long trousers in your luggage.

Above all, good shoes are important. You are best served with trekking shoes. When it rains heavily, you can also rent or buy rubber boots from most lodges.

You should also bring a raincoat, sunscreen for your head, a headlamp and plenty of mosquito repellent with you to Puerto Maldonado.

Since most lodges generate their electricity with generators and therefore there is usually no continuous power supply, a power bank is recommended to charge your smartphone or tablet.

You can find more tips in my packing list and holiday checklist.

You might also be interested in these pages about Peru!

Also check out my Peru video on YouTube!