Puerto Maldonado is a town bordering on the edge of the Amazon jungle – one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. It is relatively accessible however if you compare it to other Amazon jungle locations. From Cusco, for example, you have the choice of a ½ hour plane flight or a 10 hour bus or car journey and with the new Interoceanic Highway spanning the river via the familiar bright orange bridge, it makes it more accessible than ever. If you choose to drive, the view of the surrounding landscape is fascinating but be prepared for the thrills of the steep inclines and declines along the way.
Tourists flock to Puerto Maldonado essentially to visit the nearby national parks and reserves opting for 1-5 day jungle tours to see the macaws, parrots, caiman, pink river dolphin, monkeys, jaguars, giant otters, capybara and other fascinating birds and animals. We personally opted out of all the jungle excursions as our kids don’t do too well on day trips so spent our time exploring Puerto Maldonado instead.
Our Puerto Maldonado trip had to include a jaunt up the river Madre De Dios and Tambopata, so we chose to do a one hour boat ride to let the kids experience their own mini jungle adventure. And true to form and much to our children’s delight, the environment presented us with a caiman resting on the banks of the river and a couple of taricaya turtles sitting on a log.
Recently reopened (February 2015), and situated by the airport, is the Mariposario Tambopata Butterfly Farm (perubutterfly.com) and it is a must visit place to see. Owner Antonio is passionate about butterflies and the breeding process and has worked hard to create a display and a safe haven for many local species. When we visited the butterfly farm, it had only been open for 3 weeks, however it was clear he was working enthusiastically to release more butterflies into his collection very soon. The butterfly farm’s café offers a relaxing space to have cool refreshments and a sandwich to escape the heat of the day once your tour is complete.
And just let us reiterate it does get hot. It definitely helps if your accommodation has some kind of pool and for this; we chose Anaconda Lodge (anacondalodge.com) as our home away from home for our 4 night stay. We loved it from the start. Set inside its own little rainforest environment, the lodge comes complete with howler monkeys who will take a shine to you or your handbag immediately. And there is all manner of critters running around the ‘backyard’ for you to spot. Hosts Donald and Wadee go out of their way to make you feel welcome – and the food is definitely something to write home about; from the amazing breakfast which is included in the room price or the Thai lunch and dinner menu served in their restaurant, you can’t go wrong. And if you ask nicely, they might even show you the tarantulas which are a staple feature in their backyard.
If your accommodation doesn’t have a pool, then try to make your way to Lake Chorrillos, 16km outside of Puerto Maldonado. The lake features two pools and two waterslides for the whole family to enjoy. These water respites made the weather bearable for our young family.
Of course the Plaza de Armas is always the heart of any Peruvian city and in Puerto Maldonado it is no different. Watch the visitors and locals pass by over coffee and an ice cream, or browse the small collection of restaurants and stores situated directly around the plaza itself.
Once you arrive in Puerto Maldonado you can set your watch to jungle time and slow it down a notch a two. The weather doesn’t allow for a fast paced visit unless your intention is to burn out or overheat. So pack your sunscreen, hat and bug spray and head to the jungle for your Amazonian jungle trip of a lifetime.