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Less than twenty-four hours after arriving in Peru, I was being whisked fifty miles down the mighty Rio Amazonas by speedboat. My mission? To survive a Three Day Amazon Adventure at Heliconia Lodge, courtesy of Viator. Despite the tarantula holding, piranha fishing, and caiman spotting that was on the itinerary, I had a feeling that somehow I’d complete the mission. And spoiler alert: one of you will soon win a $100 Viator gift card that you could put towards a similar adventure.

My group was diverse in age and nationality — we were made up of a Peruvian family with a young boy, a pair of older Peruvian men, a pair of young Mexican men, a South African/Australian hybrid, and myself. Our bilingual guide was Freddy, who had grown up in the community that shares riverbanks with Heliconia Lodge.

Peru Jungle Tour with Viator

Peru Jungle Tour with Viator

Peru Jungle Tour with Viator

Our first stop was a “native riverside community.” I was kind of meh about this excursion as these kinds of things are typically super touristy excuses to get you to buy overpriced handi-craps. However, Freddy was very upfront about explaining the stop to us. He relayed that these were people of the Bora Bora tribe, who once resided deep in the jungle near the border with Colombia. They were flushed out by tribal wars, and landed in the nearby San Andres village. They came each day to the small replica village we were in, in order to do cultural performances and sell handicrafts – this was how they made their living.

Hey, at least he was upfront. I enjoyed taking photos of the traditional dress and videos of the native dances, and I ended up buying two pairs of earrings made from snake bones for a mere 10 soles ($3.60). I tried to think of the place not as a tourist trap but as a living history and culture museum, similar to places with reenactments back home, and to my surprise I quite enjoyed it.

Bora Bora Tribe in Iquitos Peru

Bora Bora Tribe in Iquitos Peru

Bora Bora Tribe in Iquitos Peru

Bora Bora Tribe in Iquitos Peru

Jungle Trip to Peruvian Amazon

An hour and a half boat ride up the Amazon later, we arrived at the charming Heliconia Lodge. The digs were pretty plush considering our location — there was no wifi, but there was a swimming pool and a resident parrot named Pedro! The entire lodge was raised on stilts to account for high waters in rainy season, and natural materials like thatch roofs created a seamless blend with the surroundings. The highlight of each room was a small screened porch, complete with hammock.

As a Picky Eater in Recovery I was mildly concerned about being dependent on the lodge for food while being so isolated from any alternatives. I need not have feared — avocados, tasty chicken, local root vegetables and fresh exotic juices were all on the menu.

Jungle Trip to Peruvian Amazon

Lodge at Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

Room at Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

Lodge at Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

Pretty much all Amazon tours are all-inclusive deals that include lodging, meals, and excursions. I find that being on someone else’s schedule can be exhausting, and so I was relieved to find we’d have tons of downtime on this tour. I used mine to write, stay on top of editing photos, enjoy the pool, and read in my hammock.

After all the travel prep stress and headaches of the last few weeks, it felt glorious to slow down.

Pool at Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

Pool at Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

Heliconia Lodge, Iquitos Peru

In the afternoon we donned rubber boots and — despite the heat — long sleeve shirts and pants and set off on a jungle walk through the surrounding Yanamono Reserve. We weren’t on the lookout for jaguars or tapirs or any other big mammals – those are simply not seen here, so close to Amazon communities. Rather, we were looking at foreign plants and exotic insects, and enjoying being in the midst of the rainforest.

Any photography hobbyist will tell you how challenging a subject any forest is. Yet the overwhelming variety of colors, textures, and patterns tempted me to try anyway and I was constantly jogging along in my rubber boots to catch up with the group after stopping to set up a shot.

Peruvian Rainforest

Jungle Walk through the Peruvian Amazon

Peruvian Rainforest

Peruvian Rainforest

Peruvian Rainforest

It wasn’t all flora though — we did luck out and see some fauna as well, mainly in the form of colorful frogs. At one point, Freddy tried to show us a tarantula but to my relief was not able to catch it in time. He took the opportunity to tell the horrified group that in a place called Thailandia, people actually fry tarantulas and scorpions and eat them.

I was glad to hear that the Peruvians and I were on the same side of the bug eating debate.

Red Frog in Peruvian Amazon

Red Frog in Peruvian Amazon

Jungle Walk through the Peruvian AmazonCan you see the tiny frog on Freddy’s back?

Jungle Walk through the Peruvian Amazon

One of the guys in our group had no pockets or backpack to store his water bottle in, and was awkwardly carrying it with his hands. Freddy hacked a vine off the tree with a machete and quickly fashioned a holster out of it. The resourcefulness of local people would continue to amaze me.

Peruvian Amazon Jungle Tour with Viator

Peruvian Amazon Jungle Tour with Viator

Peruvian Amazon Jungle Tour with Viator

Right before dinner, we set off on one more excursion – an evening boat ride. I was hoping for crocs, but the most exciting thing we saw were a few fireflies and some iguanas curled up for the night in the trees. The far more interesting thing was the conversation I had with Freddy. “That’s my uncles house,” he said, pointing to a thatch roof hut high on the river bank above us. It was about the size of my room at Heliconia, though he told me around ten people lived there. He grew up without electricity – there still is none in this village – and so everyone went to bed around 7pm, when the sun went down, and rose at 4am. His perfect English was courtesy of a teacher from Chicago who moved to the Amazon and lived in his community for 13 years.

I wasn’t quite ready to move in for more than a decade, but as I drifted off to sleep that night,  listening to the cacophonous sounds of the jungle, I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be.

Stay Tuned for Part II!

Note: I am a freelancer for Viator and participated in this tour in order to write a review for their site. I was compensated for my time and they did not request a favorable review on either their site or my own.

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40 Comments...
  • Annie of TravelShus
    October 16 2013

    beautiful. so lush…
    Annie of TravelShus recently posted..Mayan Bliss at the Maroma Hotel

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Thanks Annie! And believe it or not, this was the “low water” season… the rains were only just beginning.

  • Stephanie
    October 16 2013

    Beautiful photos! I love the little frogs! I’ll definitely look into this Amazon cruise when I finally make it to Peru. I’m looking forward to part II.
    Stephanie recently posted..The Proposal – Inismór, Aran Islands

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Actually, this wasn’t a cruise… it was considered a lodge tour! There are some cruises available along the Amazon (in fact, I just got back from one and will be reviewing it coming up soon!)

      • stephanie
        October 18 2013

        Thanks for the clarification. 🙂 I’ll look forward to your review!

  • Shaz
    October 16 2013

    This sounds right up my alley! It’s nice to unplug sometimes and enjoy what nature has to offer 🙂 The tiny frogs are also pretty cute.
    Shaz recently posted..Trekking the Thai Jungle in Pursuit of an Elephant

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      As someone with an online business I really need to be in a place where wifi is not even an option to be able to unplug. This was perfect for doing just that.

  • Kat
    October 16 2013

    I think the Peruvians are probably just quite picky about what insects they eat! When I was there a few years ago my guide fed us “lemon ants” – being vegetarian I declined, but apparently they are quite nice!

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Ha… I’d rather eat an ant than a spider, I think, so I’m still on their side! 😉

  • Molly Yonderblog
    October 16 2013

    This trip looks amazing and those frogs are adorable! Looking forward to the next instalment!

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Thanks Molly! Coming up Monday 🙂

  • Shaun
    October 16 2013

    Pretty excellent trek so far! Great photos! Was really not expecting diggs that nice deep in the jungle.

    p.s. Did you ever see Predator? lol 😛
    Shaun recently posted..Traveling Back In Time – Edinburgh Castle

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Nope, haven’t seen it! If it’s a scary movie… that’s not really my style 🙂

  • tyrhone
    October 16 2013

    Hey I’m a South African/Australian hybrid, although I am pretty sure I wasn’t there…

    The tour sounds great and you managed to get some great jungle shots. I am yet in the 100 000 odd photos I have taken to get a good jungle shot. Kudos.

    I really like the way you put the tribal show into perspective, it’ll make me think twice about putting my nose up to those sort of things in the future.
    tyrhone recently posted..Trees in funny places, the photo series begins…

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Nope…. I didn’t see any blonde Australian girls with him, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t you 🙂 And yes, I know Peru is going to have a lot of those “tourist show” type things so I kind of came up with that mentality as a way to try to enjoy it rather than injure myself rolling my eyes back in my head.

  • Katie McDonald
    October 16 2013

    Yo, Alex, I think I’m going to like your South American adventure. This is a great start.

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Thank you Katie! So happy to know you are reading along!

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    October 16 2013

    Wow, what swanky jungle accommodations!! I cringe when I think of the hostels I stayed in Peru… $3/night with bloodstains, bedbugs, and all kinds of nasty. I would have taken yours any day!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Month 14 Roundup

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Ha, I have done those types of places all over Southeast Asia. Happy to report that (at least I hope) I’ll be staying in a mix of nice hotels and a few splurges along the way for Peru!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    October 16 2013

    I LOOOOOOOOVE this post. I am such a jungle fan, so this is right up my alley. Those little frogs are so cute. You can tell your guide that not just people in Thailandia eat fried tarantulas, but also people in Cambodiana. 🙂
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Me vs. the leeches – Mountain biking in the Chi Phat jungle

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Lucky for you then Tammy I have tons more jungle posts coming up! I was lucky to spend 11 days here now, with six more jungle days coming up before the trip is over!

  • Angie Away
    October 16 2013

    I’m loving your Peruvian adventures! Keep the stories coming!
    Angie Away recently posted..Diving Dahab | Underwater Photo Essay

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Thank you so much Miss Angie! Really appreciate that chica x

  • Jade
    October 16 2013

    The frog jumping picture is great!
    This wonderful post took me straight back to the time I spent in the jungle in 2010. It was a similar trip and so incredible, I’m so happy for you to be experiencing it!
    I’m eagerly awaiting part 2!
    Jade recently posted..Insta-challenge Weekly: Jade vs. Oli

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Thanks Jade! Yeah, that was a nice happy little accident! Loved me those little froggies…

  • ZZOE @ZigZag On Earth
    October 17 2013

    I tend to gravitate more towards deserts but this post really makes me want to join you in the jungle!
    What a shame he did not catch the tarantula!
    Looking forward to part 2

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Don’t worry… there’s one coming up in Part II 🙂

  • Ian Mackenzie
    October 17 2013

    Great post and photos as usual! Completely with you on the tarantula handling/munching issue – although my arachnophobia is something I feel I’ll need to overcome by the time I head for Asia next year!
    Ian Mackenzie recently posted..About this blog

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      I used to be paralyzed with fear of spiders (might have something to do with the hospitalization I suffered due to a spider bite as a child!) but it has gotten better over time. The tarantulas I was actually okay with… wolf spiders on the other hand…. ugh.

  • becky hutner
    October 17 2013

    fantastic first post on peru, alex! thanks for filling us in — i have to say i’ve never followed the travels of someone i’ve never met quite as closely as i do yours! xo
    becky hutner recently posted..8 Podcasts That Make My Life Amazing

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Thank you so much Becky, I feel honored! I really love sharing my travels… after five days offline, I was most excited to log on and read all the lovely comments awaiting moderation x

  • Molly
    October 18 2013

    Your photos are amazing, I love the frogs. I’ve been to Peru but only in the Cusco/ Andes region, I think I definitely need to get back.
    Molly recently posted..Why I’ll probably never get over my fear of flying.

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      I’m heading there in a week! I am looking forward to it, though everyone here in the jungle keeps warning me of the intense cold, which I’m not thrilled about.

  • Caty
    October 18 2013

    Did I ever mention that frogs creep me out?I start screaming and running like other girls do when they spot a spider…my ex in Sri Lanka had one living under his bed I think his whole village heard my scream when I dropped something and looked under the bed!but otherwise great post 🙂

    • Alex
      October 18 2013

      Ha, that’s a funny fear to have! To each their own though… but you may want to stay out of the Peruvian rainforest 🙂

  • Sasha
    October 21 2013

    Handi-craps! Hilarious!
    Lovely post Alex

    • Alex
      October 23 2013

      So glad someone acknowledged what I felt was that extremely hilarious joke, Sasha! Thank you 😉

  • Sky
    October 23 2013

    I’ve always wanted to do a trip like this but I must admit that I’m absolutely terrified of many creatures in the jungle so I’m not sure if I’d ever be able to actually do it.
    Sky recently posted..A Real Dose of Honesty

    • Alex
      October 25 2013

      Luckily the guides were very respectful when people said their limits. I didn’t want to touch a tarantula and no one pressured me or made a joke of it. I was grateful for that!

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