Who said the Amazon needs to be a Survivor-like endurance challenge? I was the most worried about my time in the Amazon and it turned out to be the easiest and most care-free (although some people may disagree thanks to a nonchalant tour guide pointing out “the world’s deadliest scorpion” on a tree, inches from the unsuspecting travelers, and shrouded in the blackest of night imaginable… where he probably had friends.) The experience is expensive but not once you consider all the amenities that come with the all-inclusive such as transportation, food, and tours.
I wish I had a photo of the airport, especially when we were leaving, but we were too frazzled to dig out the camera. Think of a small garage in the middle of a large square of concrete (I was so happy there was concrete) in the middle of a jungle. There are palm trees and a broken down IndianaJoneseqsue plane to greet you once you land. The concrete garage has a single baggage turn and luggage arrives quickly since you’re the only flight there. The bathroom is basic and bringing your own toilet paper is suggested. Here you will blissfully find a few sheets waiting but remember to toss it in the bin, things aren’t flushed down toilets in most of Peru. Once you’ve found your baggage walk towards the light. There are only two large doors for the building, one leading to the “tarmac” and the other towards the waiting faces of tuk tuk drivers. The heat is instantly unbearable, largely because you’re already exhausted and used to the icey winds from the Andes. The thermometer fails to impress in the jungle but the humidity more than makes up for it and the thick air feels sweltering. This is when you’ll be happy to see your name on a placard. No nameless driver and shaky tuk tuk for you. Instead a name-tagged guide will grab your bags and lead you to a covered caravan where other equally sweater travelers are already tucked inside sipping the complementary iced (bottled) water. When every is settled you’ll begin the short drive to the Butterfly House. This is an artfully orchestrated check-in point that gives the resort time to make sure the boat is at the pier. Enjoy your scented cold compress and a nearly frozen fruit juice while you wander the butterfly sanctuary. Here you’ll find a number of native insects sucking on orange wedges and escaping the heat just like you. The stop here is quick and then you’re loaded back onto the caravan for the drive to the pier. This is your opportunity to see the town of Puerto Maldonado and you’ll understand why it is best to stay at a resort. There are a few hostels and their adjoining restaurants but they are far from your adventure destinations such as Lake Sandoval.
The boat ride is a long one and will take you along the Madre de Dios, an oxbow lake, that drives past flocks of macaws, muddy steeps, and fig trees. The resort will take care of your luggage which has already been tagged with your cabana number. After you arrive there is a briefing to discuss the adventures you’ll have – this is pretty set in stone based on the season but can be altered if you’re not up for the 5 hour hike to Lake Sandoval.
Enter your cabana which can only be shown. !!!!amazing!!!!
After relaxing in your hammock or netted bed or (if you’re in one of their two suites by chance) your private pool go back to the dimly lit lodge for a welcome Pisco Sour and a snack (ours was a potato pancake for the first night and it was amazing!). Then it is already time for your first tour! This is the Twilight River Cruise which happens way after twilight, hey it is all about advertizing right?, and they will try to take you on the first clear night of your trip. This was also my favorite just because the stars were amazing! On this cruise you’ll look for white caiman which look like baby albino crocodiles. Look up and you can also see the milky way and the southern cross! (Which everyone else was completely unimpressed by all being from the southern hemisphere.)
Then have a three course meal which will greet you every noon and night. My favorite combo was the chicken fingers, panini, and chocolate torte for dinner. Sleep practically in the jungle (remember the walls here are screens) and awaken to a 5am wake-up knock. This is a rough one I’m not gonna lie. The first morning consists of a 6:00am departure (after your buffet breakfast of to-order omelets, fresh juices, breads, and cheese) and a very long hike in the Tambopata Reserve. The hike may hold monkeys but will definitely have mud and it will culminate with a boat ride in Lake Sandoval where the giant black caiman live.
Have another three course lunch and nap and then go on the canopy walk. There is also a night walk which features the tarantulas that live on the resort property. If you have a late flight you can squeeze in another hike the next morning or you can just relax and enjoy the scenery.