I don’t think it’s much of a secret that one of the highlights of my time in Peru (perhaps even the highlightest of all the highlights?) was my very first stop — the rainforest. I fell in love with the crumbling city of Iquitos, marveled at the magic awaiting me at a jungle lodge, and finally lapped up the luxury of a five-star river cruise.
So when Rainforest Expeditions invited us to explore Peru’s other rainforest outpost of Puerto Maldonado, I was online booking a flight so fast my credit card almost caught on fire. Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado are jungle rivals, somewhat — both competing to be the destination for traveler’s jungle trips. While Iquitos is known more as a location to absorb the culture and lifestyle of the people of the Amazon, Puerto Maldonado is known more for its wildlife spotting. I couldn’t wait to compare and contrast the two — and to return to the rainforest.
Neither, it seems, could Anders, who displayed a few symptoms of child-like giddy excitement on our journey. And what a journey it was! Rainforest Expeditions runs three lodges in the Puerto Maldonado area — Posada Amazonas, Refugio Amazonas, and Tambopata Research Center, or TRC. Our final destination was TRC, which has been named the most remote jungle lodge in all of South America. It’s more than seven hours from Puerto Maldonado by boat!
Due to the long travel time to Tambopata Research Center, guests break up the journey with a night at one of the other lodges, which are about three and four hours from Puerto Maldonado, respectively. This post will show you the two lodges that were part of our trip, while future ones will focus on wildlife and adventure activities.
The boat rides were part of the experience, with lunch served via a jungle leaf, stops at government control checkpoints, and frequent wildlife sightings. Already I could see the difference between this river and the Amazon — the Amazon is an active aquatic highway with constant boat traffic and plentiful huts and villages perched on the riverbanks. Here, civilization is a distant concept — it’s just flora and fauna.
My bum was just starting to go numb when we docked up at what seemed to be an abandoned set of stairs to nowhere. Water levels were low, so we trekked for ten minutes through the jungle before reaching a clearing. When I laid eyes on Refugio Amazonas I think my jaw actually dropped, comic-book style. I couldn’t believe this immense fantasy lodge actually existed so deep in the jungle. It looks like something Disney would build in Animal Kingdom, right down to the agoutis — small jungle mammals — scrambling around under the decks.
We had a long stretch of travel behind us — a flight from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, a bus ride to the river, and a boat ride to the lodge had taken up the whole day. I can’t think of a better place to rest and recover than this room, with open walls to the jungle.
The next morning, I explored the rest of the lodge, from the open-air spa treatment rooms to the communal dining room to the lecture areas where guests learn about various rainforest issues.
I laughed when our guide told us that once, he had guests who arrived and turned right back around, completely paralyzed by the open-concept of the lodge and unable to sleep with the jungle as their fourth wall. To us, this was unthinkable luxury! Refugio Amazonas is proof that you can experience the rainforest without giving up creature comforts, from hot water private showers to spa treatments to wifi. Yes, they even had wifi for certain areas of the day — though don’t plan to rely on it for anything more than sending a quick email or checking social media.
Though I was sad to tear myself away from Refugio Amazonas after just one short night, I consoled myself that we’d be back for one more before leaving. And I was pretty psyched about our next stop: Tambopata Research Center. Another three hour boat ride later, we arrived. From the moment we stepped off the boat I could tell it was different here. While primary rainforest surrounds both lodges, the jungle that TRC is built in is the tallest I have ever walked through. I’ve never felt so small.
The lodge maintained several of Refugio Amazonas’ design elements, while obviously at a more rustic level. Bedrooms and bathrooms had curtains rather than doors, and bathrooms were communal in order to conserve resources. And yet still, showers were hot and powerful, electricity was turned on three times per day, and along with it came wifi!
I treated myself to a very reasonably priced massage at TRC (about 100 soles or $35USD for 45 minutes) and it was the best I’ve had in South America.
My favorite area of the lodge was the hammock garden. Between excursions and activities you could find me here, swinging away while looking for macaws in the nearby trees. We stayed at Tambopata Research Center for three nights, and I fell in love with waking up to the piercing calls of howler monkeys, who were so loud I felt they would jump through our window at any moment.
Of course I can’t write a post about where we stayed without mentioning what we ate, right? I had been pretty spoiled with the food on my tours throughout Peru thus far — the menu on The Aria was created by one of Peru’s most renown chefs, and I would literally hike the Inca Trail again simply to eat Llama Path’s food. So my expectations were pretty high.
Rainforest Expeditions has a set weekly menu that changes every day of the week. While things started off kind of meh the meals seemed to improve throughout the week and by the last night I was asking for seconds. One area where Rainforest Expeditions could improve would be preparing for guests with dietary restrictions. One member of our crew was gluten-free and his substitutions were pretty mediocre.
I can’t emphasize enough that the best part of my stay with Rainforest Expeditions was living among the wildlife. We joked that we didn’t even have to leave the lodges — just lounging in hammocks or leaning over our balconies we spotted wild boars, shy agoutis, and screeching macaws. Laying in bed at night, the sounds of the jungle were hauntingly beautiful. I felt humbled by the size and intensity of the rainforest among us. It was bursting with life.
But these photos are but a small preview of the wildlife I’m going to show you later this week. Here’s a little preview of what’s next… What We Saw and What We Did!
Have you ever been to the rainforest? Where? Could you imagine that such remote lodges could be so stylish?
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Many thanks to Rainforest Expeditions for their generous hospitality. I was a guest of the company in order to promote them on this site and through my freelancing outlets. As always, you receive my thorough and honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.
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