Navigating Tambopata Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon

Vanesa Zegada | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The navigation through the rivers of the Amazon makes it reachable to natural environments that are very hard to access otherwise. It gets even more interesting during the rainy season (December to April) when also portions of the mainland get flooded, to the point of becoming navigable – in small boats. Let’s take an imaginary boat together to navigate Tambopata National Reserve, in the southern Peruvian Amazon!

© iStock/melastmohican

Our first point of interest in Tambopata National Reserve is Sandoval Lake, and I will give you two good reasons not to miss this place! But first, let’s find out how to arrive there. Navigating through Madre de Dios River, after some kilometers, you will come to a walking trail. The walk through it does not feel long once you start to admire the surrounding nature. You might find some wildlife if you keep your eyes wide open. At the end of the trail, little boats await to navigate through a flooded area, towards Sandoval Lake, and through it.

© ZoomalMapa/Vanesa Zegada

The first reason to visit Sandoval Lake is that you will be navigating a lake that once was part of a river. Mighty winding rivers in the Amazon have meanders that sometimes separate from the main channel due to erosion, forming a lake. Of course, this takes a long period of time. That was the case with Sandoval Lake, which once was part of Madre de Dios River, and still conserves a “u” shape, reminding that it used to be a meander.

The second and most important reason to visit this lake is that it has developed a unique wild habitat. It is home to two predators: black caimans and giant otters. While black caimans remain still and quiet, giant otters are loud and very social, generally staying in large groups. But if you take your eyes off the water to look up to the trees, you will find small monkeys playing around and exotic birds taking a rest. Finally, underwater, the size and vegetation of the lake make it the home of fishes that can get as heavy as 100 kilograms!

© iStock/OSTILL

Finally, after observing all those wild animals in their natural habitat, you can eat a juane – a typical dish from the Peruvian jungle served in bijao leaves – on the opposite shore of the lake.

© ZoomalMapa/Vanesa Zegada

Whether you are a fan of sunsets or not, you should take the time to admire this one. The sunsets witnessed from the Amazon rivers are among the best ones to be seen. The feeling of being far from any civilization added to a combination of colors, smells and sounds, make those sunsets very special.

© iStock/VV-pics

Hey, the navigation adventure is not over! Grab some flashlights because the caymans search starts at night. Since caiman’s eyes glow in the dark, searching for those bright dots is a popular night activity in the jungle. An interesting fact is that, although you need a flashlight to distinguish them fully, they can clearly observe you, with their excellent night vision. Still, if you do not bother them, they are harmless, even if you get close.

© iStock/alexeys

Amazon rivers run like veins, accelerating the pulse of the rainforestRivers are life. Some even form big lakes on their way that become the home to thousands of plants and animals. And you can see that and much more while navigating Tambopata National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon!

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