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Iquitos: Jungle expeditions

Tours - jungle hostels and natives - reserves - Pevas - the three-way frontier area - guides - jungle lodges and jungle programs around Iquitos - operators

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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from: Dilwyn Jenkins: The rough guide to Peru; Rough Guides, New York, London, Delhi; 6th edition September 2006; www.roughguides.com

Expeditions from Iquitos

Map of the Iquitos region with jungle
                            camps. Towns and villages: Iquitos, Quisto
                            Cocha, Libertad, Nauta, Clavero, Bazagan,
                            Genrao Herrera, Requena, Angamos, Mazán,
                            Indiana. Jungle camps: Cocome Lodge, Muyuna
                            Lodge, Amazon Camp, Amazon Rainforest Lodge,
                            Sinchicuy Lodge, Cumaceba Lodge, Explorama
                            Lodge, ExplorNapo Lodge, Amazon Explorama,
                            ACTS Field Station & Sucusari Reserve.
                            Reserves: Pacaya Samiria National Park,
                            Zungarocha Resort, Explorama Inn. biggerMap of the Iquitos region with jungle camps.

Towns and villages: Iquitos, Quisto Cocha, Libertad, Nauta, Clavero, Bazagan, Genrao Herrera, Requena, Angamos, Mazán, Indiana. Jungle camps: Cocome Lodge, Muyuna Lodge, Amazon Camp, Amazon Rainforest Lodge, Sinchicuy Lodge, Cumaceba Lodge, Explorama Lodge, ExplorNapo Lodge, Amazon Explorama, ACTS Field Station & Sucusari Reserve. Reserves: Pacaya Samiria National Park, Zungarocha Resort, Explorama Inn.

General connection possibilities

Boat connections:

-- from Iquitos to Pucallpa go several boats weekly, a trip of 5-7 days
-- from Iquitos to Leticia and Tabatinga (Brazil) go several boats weekly, a tripo of 9-12 hours or 3-4 days, depending on the boat
-- from Iquitos to Nauta go 1 or 2 boats daily, a trip of 8-10 hours (p.568).

Bus connections:

-- from Iquitos to Nauta  are going buses daily, a trip of 3-5 hours (p.568).

Flight connections:

-- flight from Iquitos to Lima (several daily), a flight of 2 hours
-- flight from Iquitos to Pucallpa (daily), 1 hour 30 minutes
-- flight from Iquitos to Santa Rosa (weekly), 1 hour 30 minutes
-- flight from Iquitos to Tarapoto (daily), 1 hour (p.568).

Tourist Protection Service

If your jungle trip really doesn't match what the agency led you to believe when selling you the tickets, it would help future visitors if you report this to the local tourist office and/or the 24-hour hotline of the Tourist Protection Service in Iquitos (T. 065-233409, e-mail: postmaster@indecopi.gob.pe (p.525).

Week tours or day-trips - Bora and Yaguar natives with dances and handicraft

Expeditions around Iquitos are the most developed in the Peruvian jungle, offering a wide and often surprising range of attractions. As usual, anything involving overnight stays is going to cost a fair bit, though there are also cheap day-trips. With all organized visits to Indian villages in this area, expect the inhabitants to put on a quick show, with a few traditional dances and some singing, before they try to sell you their handicraft (occasionally over-enthusiastically). Prices range from $1 to $5 for necklaces, feathered items (mostly illegal to take out of the country) bark-cloth drawings, string bags (often excellent value) and blowguns; most people buy something, since the Indians don't actually charge for the visit.

While the experience may leave you feeling somewhat ambivalent - the men, and particularly the women, only discard Western clothes for the performances - it's a preferable situation to the times when visits were imposed on communities by unscrupulous tour companies. Visitors are now these Indians' major source of income, and it seems that the Bora and Yaguar alike have found a niche they can easily exploit within the local tourist industry (p.511).

Colectivo boats - Tamshiyacu - jungle hostels - Nauta - Bazan - Requena - Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

The massive river system around Iquitos offers some of the best access to Indian villages, lodges and primary rainforest in the entire Amazon. If you want to go it alone, colectivo boats run up and down the Río Amazonas more or less daily, and although you won't get deep into the forest without a guide or the facilities offered by the lodge and tour companies, you can visit some of the larger riverine settlements on your own.

One of the first major settlements on the banks of the Amazon is the small river town of Tamshiyacu, en route to Nauta upstream; a couple of hostels including the Hospedaje Mercedes, just beyond the plaza, and the Hospedaje Dianita a little beyond, accompanied by a few bars and stores, make it a useful stopping point, if you need one. A long day's ride (130km) further upstream from Iquitos lies Nauta, at the mouth o the Río Marañon. South from Nauta, Bagazan is another couple of hours (40km) further up the Río Ucayalí, after which it's another 50km to Requena, at the mouth of the Río Tapiche. A new road from Iquitos to Nauta has considerably shortened the journey and has begun to open up tourism to the west of Nauta on the ríos Marañón and Tigre and into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which is only a short boat ride from Nauta, though the best sectors of the reserve are arguably easier to get to from Lagunas. The upper Río Tigre is also excellent for its access to wildlife, but it's at least three days away by boat (p.521).

Buses from Iquitos to Nauta are going daily, a trip of 3-5 hours, boats go 1 or 2 daily, a trip of 8-10 hours (p.568).

Expedition to the Lagunas - and from Lagunas to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

There are excellent organized tours to take from LAGUNAS, close to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and some three days upstream from Nauta ($10-25 depending on whether you take hammock space or a shared cabin). The first day takes you to the "start" of the Río Amazonas, where the Ucayalí and the Marañon rivers merge; the second day carries you along the Marañón towards Lagunas, where you arrive on the third day. It's also some twelve hours downstream from Yurimaguas and accessible from there by colectivo boat ($5).

There are a couple of hostels in Lagunas: the Hostal Montalban, on the Plaza de Armas, is basic and small but suffices, as does the slightly cheaper Hostal La Sombra at Jirón Vasquez 1121.

Lagunas is the main starting point for trips into the huge Pacaya Samiria National Reserve ($30 fee for 5 day entry pass from INRENA), comprising around two million hectares of virgin rainforest (about 1.5 percent of the total landmass of Peru) leading up to the confluence  between the Marañón and the Huallaga rivers, two of the largest Amazon headwaters and possessing between them the largest protected area of seasonally flooded jungle in the Peruvian Amazon. The reserve is a swampland during the rainy season (Dec-March), when the streams and rivers all rise, comparable to the Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone in southeastern Peru or the Pantanal swamps of southwestern Brazil in its astonishing density of visible wildlife. It's possible to arrange guides here (about $10 a day per person, less if you're in (p.522)

a group) to explore the reserve.

The Cocoma natives in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

This region is home to the Cocoma tribe whose main settlement is Tipishca, where the native community are now directly involved in eco-tourism. They can be hired as guides and will provide rustic accommodation, but can only be contacted by asking on arrival. There's a public ferryboat or lancha you can catch that travels up to Pacaya Samiria, but it's advisable not to give yourself too tight a schedule for the outing as a whole as public transport services can be fairly unreliable.

You should of course be well prepared with mosquito nets, hammocks, insect repellent and all the necessary food and medicines. Officially you should obtain permission from the reserve office to get into the reserve, but not everyone does. If you get caught by park authorities without proper permission you will be sent away and risk a fine or even deportation. The reserve office also provides maps and information on the region, when available. Visitors should be aware that around 90,000 people, mostly indigenous communities, still live in the reserve's forest.

They are the local residents and their territory as well as customs should be respected. They are also a source for detailed information on the sustainable management of river turtles, since, in recent years some of the communities have been collaborating on ecological conservation projects.

From Lagunas, it's possible to explore the Tibilo area, which is richly populated with birds and monkeys. In the dry season, the lower Pacaya River area is excellent for birdwatching, around the temporary ponds and lakesides, where you can expect to find macaws, toucans, tiger herons, several varieties of kingfishers, among numerous other tropical species. This is one of the best jungle regions in South America, not least because of its massive extent and the seasonal flooding which significantly increases the wildlife safari options.

Pevas (Pebas): native fishing and crafts - Francisco Grippa - flood forest with varied wildlife and flowers - Bora, Witoto and Ocaina natives

Downstream from Iquitos lies PEVAS, some 190km to the east and reached in a day by colectivo riverboat or in a few hours by speedboat. The oldest town in the Peruvian Amazon, it's an attractive, largely palm-thatched town and still a frontier place. The economy here is based primarily on fishing (visit the market where produce is brought in by boat every day), and dugout canoes are the main form of transport, propelled by characteristically ovoid-bladed and beautifully carved paddles, which are often sold as souvenirs, sometimes painted with designs.

The Witoto and Bora Indians, largely concentrated around Pevas, actually arrived here in the 1930s after being relocated from the Colombian Amazon. They are now virtually in everyday contact with the riverine society of Pevas, producing quality artefacts for sale to passers-by and yet retaining much of their traditional knowledge of songs, dances and legends, plus significant ethno-pharmacological practice in rainforest medicine. The nearby Bora village of Puca Urquillo is a good example, a large settlement based around a Baptist church and school, whose founders moved here from the Colombian side of the Río Putumayo during the hardships of the rubber era rather than be enslaved.

Artist Francisco Grippa also lives in Pevas, though his work is actually exhibited in Iquitos at the Amazon Art Gallery, while the surrounding flood forest is home to hundreds of caimans and significant birdlife, including several types of parrots, eagles and kingfishers. The area is good for bird and butterfly watching, and November, in particular, is a great time to study orchids and bromeliads in bloom; it's also noted for its fishing - piranha being (p.523)

one of the easiest kinds to catch. A number of local Indian groups can be visited, including the Bora, the Witoto and the less-visited Ocainas. Costs are from $60 per person per day, with extra for speedboat transport from Iquitos.

For a good place to stay, try the Casa de la Loma (write to Green Tracks, PO Box 555, Iquitos; T./Fax 065-221184, www.greentracks.com, run by an American nurse, also contactable in the US (write to 10 Town Plaza 231, Suite 231, Durango, CO 81301; T. 1-800/9-Monkey, Fax 970-247-8378.

Set on a small hill close to Pevas, the lodge was set up by two nurses from Oregon who operate a free clinic here for the two thousand or so local inhabitants. They have five large bedrooms with shared bathrooms, and there's electricity, a refrigerator and a kitchen. Visits can be customized to suit individual requirements and interests (p. 525).

The three-way frontier

Map of the three-way frontier region
                          Santa Rosa (Perú, Peruvian Customs and
                          Immigration hut), Leticia (Colombia, with
                          boats for Iquitos), with Tabatinga (Brazil),
                          and with Benjamin Constante (Brazil, boats for
                          Manaus), with the the island Islandia (Perú)
                          in the mouth of Río Yauarí to the Río
                          Amazonas. biggerMap of the three-way frontier region

with Santa Rosa (Perú, Peruvian Customs and Immigration hut), Leticia (Colombia, with boats for Iquitos), with Tabatinga (Brazil), and with Benjamin Constante (Brazil, boats for Manaus), with the the island Islandia (Perú) in the mouth of Río Yauarí to the Río Amazonas.

Coming to Perú from Brazil on a "lancha" boat - Leticia, Tabatinga, and Santa Rosa

Boats from Iquitos to Leticia and Tabatinga go several weekly, a trip of 9-12 hours [fast boat] or 3-4 days [normal boat] (p.568).

Leaving or entering Peru via the Río Amazonas inevitably means crossing the three-way frontier, nearly 300km from Iquitos. The cheapest and most common route is by river from Iquitos, some twelve hours in a lancha rapida, a big speed boat with two outboard motors, or three to four days downriver in a standard lancha riverboat which will usually have two or three decks, the middle one being for swinging your own hammock.

Some services go all the way to Leticia (Colombia) or Tabatinga (Brazil), but many stop at one of the two small Peruvian frontier settlements of Santa Rosa or Islandia; at Chimbote, a few hours before you get to Santa Rosa and on the right as you head towards the frontier, is a small police post, the main customs checkpoint (guarda costa) for river traffic.

Tikuna natives - exit or entry stamp from Perú at Santa Rosa - accommodation in Santa Rosa

The region is interesting in its own right as the home of the Tikuna Indians, once numerous but today down to a population of around 10,000. It's possible to arrange visits to some native communities from Leticia, and you can buy some of their excellent craftwork - mainly string bags and hammocks - from stores in that town.

Santa Rosa is your last chance to complete formalities with migraciones if you haven't already done so at the Iquitos office - essentially obtaining an exit stamp from Perú, if you're leaving, or getting an entry stamp and tourist card if arriving, which can take up to an hour. On larger boats, you often don't have to disembark here, as the Migraciones official may board the vessel and do the paperwork there and then.

There are several cafés and few hostels, but the small La Brisa del Amazonas is also a restaurant whose owner is a useful contact for local information, including contacts for local guides.Ferryboats connect the town with Tabatinga and Leticia. Islandia is in the middle of the river, on the Peruvian side of the border, and has no hotels; from here you have to take the ferry to Tabatinga or Leticia across the river to enter Brazil or Colombia; most boats prefer to use Tabatinga (p.529)

especially in low-water season - it's a long, muddy hike from the quay to the surfaced streets of Leticia, whereas at Tabatinga's two ports, the road goes right to the water's edge.

Flights to the three borders

The only other way of crossing these three borders is by flying - a much less interesting approach, but not necessarily a more expensive one (though there's an airport departure tax of $2). flights from Iquitos to Santa Rosa are operated by TANS, and both Varig and Rico fly to Manaus via Tabatinga at least three times a week. TANS tickets can be bought from Señor Teddy, who operates out of one of the restaurants in this tiny town - just ask anywhere for him. From Leticia, Avianca fly to a few major Colombian cities, including Bogotá, several times a week (p.530).

Leticia in Colombia

Having grown rich on tourism and contraband (mostly cocaine), Leticia has more than a touch of the Wild West about it, but is still relatively safe. There's no physical border at the port or between Leticia [Colombia] and Tabatinga [Brazil], though disembarking passengers sometimes have to go through a customs check, so carry your passport at all times. If you want to go on into Colombia, the cheapest way is to take a canoe to Puerto Asis, , where you can latch on to the bus transport system, but to do this, or to stay overnight, you'll need to get a Colombian tourist card from the consulate at Iquitos, or at Manaus if coming from Brazil. Alternatively, head straight for the DAS office (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, C 9, 9-62, T. 098-5927189 or 5924878; open 24hr) just a few blocks from the port.

If you do stay, be warned that it's a lively town, with cumbia and salsa music blasting out all over the place, and establishments remaining open until the wee hours of the morning. The best of the basic hotels are Residencial Monserrate and Residencial Leticia, but much nicer are the Colonial, which has (p.530)

air-conditioning and private baths, located near the port square at Carrera 10 (T. 098-0057919, and the swish Anaconda at Carrera 11 (T. 098-5927891 or 5927119), which has a pool and an attractive maloca-style bar.The cheapest place to eat, and with the greatest variety of food, is at the riverside market, though the Bucaneer and La Taguara cafés, both at Carrera 10, are much better.

Tabatinga in Brazil

Smaller than Leticia, Tabatinga is hardly the most exciting place in South America, and many people stuck here waiting for a boat or plane to Manaus or Iquitos prefer to hop over the border to Leticia for the duration of their stay, even if they don't plan on going any further into Colombia. There are two docks here: at the smaller of the two, where lesser boats and canoes come and go with local produce and passengers, you'll encounter customs checks; Port Bras, the larger dock, is where you find the big recreo boats heading for Manaus.

Brazilian entry and exit formalities are processed at the Policia Federal office (T. 092-4122180; 10am-8pm, though 24hr for emergencies); if you're entering Brazil you'll usually be asked to show an exit ticket or prove that you have $500.

There are a few places to stay. Try the Hotel Paje, Rue Pedro Teixeira (T. 092-4122558), or the much nicer and friendlier Hotel Te Contei, Avenida de Amizade 1813 (T. 092-4122377 or 4132566), which is entered via the rickety spiral stairway over a pizzeria of the same name. There are a handful of other restaurants dotted about, mainly by the smaller dock.

Boats from Tabatinga and Benjamin Constante to Manaus - and from Tabatinga to Perú

Continuing on downstream into Brazil on boats to Manaus, a four-to seven-day journey that is often very crowded, costs $40 to $80 depending on their size, condition and whether or not you require a cabin. They leave from both Tabatinga and Benjamin Constante, on the other side of the Amazon, usually starting from the former in the early afternoons (frequently on Wednesdays, but also less regularly on most other days of the week) and calling at the latter an hour or so later. If there are no boats in Tabatinga, however, it may be worth taking a speedboat ferry ($7; a 30min trip) to Benjamin Constante to see if there are any departing just from there.

If you've arrived from Iquitos on a boat that's continuing all the way to Manaus, it's important to let the captain know whether or not you need to go into Tabatinga to quickly sort your visa business (use a taxi) and then meet the boat at Benjamin Constante. Bear in mind that it's virtually impossible to get from Islandia to the federal police in Tabatinga and then back to Benjamin Constante in less than an hour and a half.

Blue Moon Tour Agency, Rua General Sampaio 740 (T. 092-4122227) in Tabatinga, specializes in cheap flights and boat trips from there to Perú (p.531).


Lodges, cruises and guides in the deep jungle without roads - guides and payments

If you're planning on an expedition beyond the limited network of roads around Iquitos, you'll have to take an organized trip with a lodge operator, a river cruise or hire a freelance guide. The larger local entrepreneurs have quite a grip on the market, and even the few guides who remain more or less independent are hard to bargain with since so much of their work comes through the larger agents. That said, they mostly have well worked-out itineraries, though you should always deal with an established office - check out which companies are registered at the tourist office in Iquitos - and insist on a written contract and receipt. Be aware that there's no shortage of con artists among the many touts around town, some of whom brandish quality brochures which belong to companies they are not actually affiliated with. Under no circumstances should you hand them any money.

A general rule of thumb is that any expedition of fewer than five days is unlikely to offer more wildlife than a few birds, some monkeys, and maybe a crocodile if you're lucky; any serious attempt to visit virgin forest and see wildlife in its natural habitat requires a week or more. That said, if Iquitos is your main contact with the Amazon and you're unlikely to return here, you can rent a boat for an overnight trip from upwards of $40-50 per person.

A group in low season may well be able to negotiate a three-day trip for as little as $25-30 per person per day, though there will be little guarantee of quality at this price. One or two of the smaller camps sometimes offer deals from as little as $25, but make sure they provide all the facilities you require.

There's an almost infinite amount of jungle to be rewardingly explored in any direction from Iquitos. One of the less-visited but nevertheless interesting areas - at least in terms of being relatively accessible yet still quite untouched and wild - lies east between Iquitos and the Brazilian border. It's difficult to access this region without the help of a local guide and/or tour company. The public boats plying this stretch of the Río Amazonas rarely stop and certainly don't give any time for passengers to explore. If you do want to stop off and spend some time here, Pevas is a good base for making river trips more or less independently at least without going through an Iquitos tour company, though it's always a good idea to make use for local guides (p.525).

Freelance guides

There are some good independent contacts who can help you find the right trip. The Iquitos tourist office has a list of registered freelance guides and is usually helpful in providing up-to-date contacts for them. Some of the longer established local rainforest guides and independent operators are listed below, but this list is by no means exhaustive.

Alex Weill Renfigo
T. 065-940739, www.jungletrips.4d2.net
Runs a company called Ecological Jungle Trips, whose tours are tailored to the client's needs and can last from short three- or four-day trips to longer seven- to ten-day adventures. Price varies according to whether you use the speedboat or local river bus, but is usually between $30-70 a day.

Carlos Grandez
who speaks some English, runs excellent trips, usually over 200km upriver from Iquitos using colectivo riverboats to keep costs down (from $25-35 per person per day).

Hamilton Souther and Moises Torres Monte Luis
[Jirón] Ramon Castilla 1012, T. 065-223678, e-mail: bluemorphotours@hotmail.com, or in US via: 237 Plateau Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, T. 831/425-7437
Newer on the scene, offering adventurous trips upriver and deep into the rainforest, sometimes as far as the Río Galvez, a tributary of the Río Aucayacu (accesses from the riverside town of Genaro Herrera). Their company, called Blue Morpho, offers mid-price-range ($15-80) adventure rather than luxury and really demand a minimum of five or six days' commitment; they can sometimes organize ayahuasca shamanic ceremonies.

Jimmy Ford
Affiliated with the Great Amazon Safari and Trading Company
Jimmy offers equally adventurous safaris, but tends to cover a different territory, downriver towards the border with Brazil - a good option for those wanting to explore lesser touristed areas of the jungle.

Silvia Grandez (Carlos Grandez' daughter)
contactable through the Hostal La Libertad (Jirón Arica 361, Iquitos, T./Fax 065-235763, or: esilvia_grandez@origimail.com.ar), also offers good expeditions from around $30-40 per person depending on the size of the group, lasting (p.528)

up to 25 days. Silvia doesn't speak English, but some of her assistant guides do. They sometimes operate from a base camp at Veagali (250km from Iquitos) and around the bountiful wildlife area of Lago Curahuate.

Walter Wacho Soplin
contactable via the Hobo Hideout Hostel, [Jirón] Putumayo 437, Iquitos, T. 065-234099, e-mail: hoatzinperu@lycos. com, or: wacho@lycos.com
is a freelance guide who frequently works for some of the larger lodges but has his own small lodge too, near Panguana village, about one to two hours from Iquitos. He speaks English fairly well and is a knowledgeable and capable jungle guide.

Richard Fowler
T. 065-677645, e-mail: aukoo@hotmail.com, or via Chinchilejo Expeditions at [Jirón] Napo 272, T. 065-674559 or 937325. Richard, an American based in Iquitos, is a naturalist guide who offers customized survival and wilderness trips.

Lodges in the jungle around Iquitos

Guided tours require some kind of camp set-up or tourist lodge facilities. There are two main types of jungle experiences available from Iquitos - what Peruvian tour operators describe as "conventional" (focusing on lodge stays) and what they describe as "adventure trips" (going deeper into the jungle). Prices given are per person (p.526).

Amazon Camp on Momón river in Yaguar and Bora region - around $100 per night
contact through Amazon Tours and Cruises (p.526), [Jirón] Requena 336, Iquitos, T. 065-231611, Fax 231265, www.amazontours.com;

A pleasant conventional lodge on the Río Momón between the Yaguar and Bora Indian villages. This place can be visited in a daytrip, though it's more fun and a better deal if you stay longer. Around $100 per night.

Amazon Explorama CEIBA TOPS: luxury lodge for $100-400 per day
contact Explorama, Avenida La Marina 340, Iquitos, T. 065-253301, Fax 252533, e-mail: amazon@explorama.com, www.explorama.com; or: Box 445, Iquitos; toll-free in the US t. 1-800/707-5275

Explorama are the top operator in the region, with over 35 years' experience and over 500 beds across their various lodges and locations; they aren't cheap, but do offer great quality. Explorama also now have their own very well-equipped river ferryboat - the Amazon Queen. Some 40km from Iquitos, this is the most luxurious lodge in the Peruvian Amazon, with a fantastic jungle swimming pool with a water slide, proper bar and dining areas, surrounded by 40 hectares of primary forest and 160 hectares of chacra and secondary growth. Accommodation is in smart conventional bungalows with air-conditioning and flushing toilets, or in simpler bungalow-huts. Phone and Internet ($3 for 10 minutes) connection available. Very popular in high season, so be sure to book well in advance. Can be visited in conjunction with other Explorama lodges; $100-400 per day, depending on size of group, length of trip and the number of lodges visited.

Amazon Explorama CTS Field Station (Amazon Conservatory for Tropical Studies): medical plant trail - path on stilts: $100-400 per day

contact Explorama, Avenida La Marina 340, Iquitos, T. 065-253301, Fax 252533, e-mail: amazon@explorama.com, www.explorama.com; or: Box 445, Iquitos; toll-free in the US t. 1-800/707-5275

An hour's walk from the company's ExplorNapo Lodge (see below), this particular establishment owns some 750 hectares of primary forest and was designed for research though it's available for short visits and is quite comfortable, with separate rooms and shared dining and bathroom facilities. There's a medicinal plant trail with a written information booklet corresponding to the numbered (marked / tagged) plant species on the path, but the really special feature is the well-maintained canopy walkway [path on stilts in the roof of the trees] (the Amazon's longest), whose top-most platform is 35m high. Can be visited in conjunction with other Explorama lodges; $100-400 per day, depending on size of group, length of trip and the number of lodges visited.

Amazon Explorama Lodge: dolphin swimming in the Amazon: Bora natives, native music, dolphin swimming in Amazonas, night walks, Yaguar natives: $100-400 per day
contact Explorama, Avenida La Marina 340, Iquitos, T. 065-253301, Fax 252533, e-mail: amazon@explorama.com, www.explorama.com; or: Box 445, Iquitos; toll-free in the US t. 1-800/707-5275

In a 195-hectare reserve and 90km from Iquitos, this was Explorama's first lodge. Well equipped, it retains its rustic charm and acts as base camp for long-range programs. Bora Indian talking drums (manguare) announce meal times in the dining room and guides often play Peruvian music in the bar during the evenings. Bedrooms have no locks and are simple but attractive, with individual mosquito nets; toilets are latrine-style but well maintained, and showers are cold. A few animals - including a tapir, an otter and several macaws - come and go around the place, and you can swim with dolphins in the Amazon, plus there are night walks and visits to the nearby Yaguar Indians. Can be visited in conjunction with other Explorama lodges; $100-400 per day, depending on size of group, length of trip and the number of lodges visited.

Amazon Rainforest Lodge: native villages, fishing, walks, birdwatching, ayahuasca, healers, excurcions - $30-60 per day

[Jirón] Putumayo 159, Iquitos, T. 065-233100 or 241628, Fax 242231, e-mail: schneide@amauta.rcp.net.pe, www.amazon_lodge.com; Inn Lima: T. 01-4455620, Fax 4472651.

Up the Río Momón (1-3hr, depending on water levels), the heart of this large lodge, run by an English resident, is a thatched native-style maloca dining room and bar. Accommodation is in bungalows with bathrooms and private toilets, with hammock spaces out front for relaxing, but the pool is not always functioning. There are conventional trips to local Indian villages that include fishing, jungle walks, birdwatching, plus ayahuasca sessions ($20) with local healers, one of whom has built a temple space at the back of the lodge. This isn't the best lodge for swish [noble] accommodation or for wildlife (though monkeys do often pass through), but you can walk to the Río Napo (8hr), or go further up the Momón to one of the two main headwaters, the Juano and Agua Planea creeks (both 3hr), the former noted for its marmosets. From $30 to $60 a day, the more expensive options including airport transfers, river travel, guides and food.

Cumaceba Lodge: native Yaguar village, bird- and dolphin-watching - reserve, water-skiing and ayahuasca - $120 for three days

[Jirón] Putumayo 184, T./Fax 065-232229 or 610656, e-mail: info@cumaceba.com

A highly recommended budget option on the Río Yanayacu, some 40km downriver from Iquitos (45min by speedboat), with accommodation in private rustic bungalows with individual bathrooms. They have the usual communal dining area and hammock lounge, while lighting is by kerosene lamps. They take visitors to (p.526)

the local Yaguar village and on jungle walks; bird- and dolphin-watching also form part of their programs. Optional extras include trips to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, water-skiing (June-Nov) and ayahuasca sessions. They also run an explorer camp downriver. Around $120 for three days.

ExplorNapo Lodge: ExplorNapo Reserve - canopy walkway on stilts not far - jungle camp - $100-400 per day

contact Explorama, Avenida La Marina 340, Iquitos, T. 065-253301, Fax 252533, e-mail: amazon@explorama.com, www.explorama.com; or: Box 445, Iquitos; toll-free in the US t. 1-800/707-5275

Over ninety miles from Iquitos, on the Río Sucusari (Orejon Indian for "way in and out"). The palm-roofed buildings, hammock areas and dining room/bar are linked by thatch-covered walkways. The lodge controls 3000 hectares of surrounding forest, the ExplorNapo Reserve, and during full moons you can sometimes hear tropical screech owls and the common potoos. From here there's easy access (less than an hour's walk) to the canopy walkway [path on stilts in the roof of the trees] (see Amazon Explorama CTS Field Station, above); and further into the forest there is a jungle camp - ExplorTambos - where visitors can experience a night out in the middle of the forest away from any lodge, lights or people.

Two hours' walk from ExplorNapo Lodge deep into primary forest, this is in many ways the ultimate jungle experience; a small collection of open-sided tambo-style huts, offering a night close to the earth, the elements and, of course, the animals.

Can be visited in conjunction with other Explorama lodges; $100-400 per day, depending on size of group, length of trip, the level of quality and number of lodges visited.

Heliconia Amazon River Lodge: basic jungle program - $100 per day
[Jirón] Prospero 574, or: [Jirón] Ricardo Palma 242, Iquitos, T. 065-235132 or 231959, or contact via the Hotel Victoria Regia; or [Jirón] Las Camelias 491, Oficina 503, San Isidro, Lima, T. 01-4219195, Fax 4424338.

A pleasant lodge, 80km downriver from Iquitos, with accommodation in twin rooms with private bathrooms. They offer a basic three-day program at around $100 per day.

Muyuna: Yanayacu river - reserva Pacaya Samiria - animal excursions - $80 per day
[Jirón] Putumayo 163, T. 065-242858 (Lima 01-445-9441), e-mail: amazonas@muyuna.com, www.muyuna.com

Based 120km upriver from Iquitos, up a tributary called Yanayacu, this lodge is fairly close to the Reserva Nacional de Pacaya Samiria. Attractive and very pleasant cabin accommodation, with private mosquito-proof rooms, en suite bathrooms and white-tiled showers; they offer jungle walking, river safari trips in canoes and other traditional excursions like piranha fishing, searching out Vittoria regia (renamed Vittoria amazonica) plants and alligator spotting.

The Río Yanayacu is also pretty good for wildlife (see the photos in their groundfloor office) with lots of lakes, and most of the locals make their living from fishing rather than agriculture, as the soil here is relatively poor. They use their own dedicated guides, many of whom have a university background. Their jungle tours and lodge work hard to distinguish themselves from competitors as protectors of wild animals' right to remain free rather than be kept in zoos or cages. Their role is to provide a service to enable people to see the animals, with respect, in the forest. This stance ensures their reputation as one of the greenest eco-tour companies in the region. They're reliable and all their tours are sold directly by them to their clients; the standard charge is around $80 a day.

Refugio Altiplano: Tamshiyacu river - ayahuasca ceremonies
[Jirón] Raymondi 171, T. 065-222001, e-mail: refugioaltiplano@lycos.com, www.refugioaltiplano.org

A jungle lodge noted mainly for its ayahuasca ceremonies, this relatively new operator, run by a Scot, takes its groups to a lodge on the Río Tamshiyacu some 50km upriver from Iquitos.

Zungarococha: Nanay river - basic jungle program - $60-70 per day
[Jirón] Ricardo Palma 242, Iquitos, T. 065-231959

The kind of comfortable rooms and bar associated with good middle-range conventional lodges, but only 14km from Iquitos on the Río Nanay. This place offers jungle treks, nightwalks and the usual canoe exploration. From $60 to $70 a day (p. 527).

Shamans and ayahuasca sessions: female shaman Norma Panduro Navarro - $300 per month

Ayahuasca sessions or psychedelic tourism, have become a booming business in Iquitos. A new facility has opened near the city operated by an NGO - the Centro Medico ONG Shapinguito (Iquitos-Nauta road Km 45.5, T. 065-231566, with an Iquitos office at [Jirón] Tacna 327); open to all interested parties, this clinic offers healing and working with ayahuasca usually in association with the female shaman Norma Panduro Navarro. Costs start at as little as $300 a month, including room and board as well as ayahuasca ceremonies.

A well-known local ayahuasca guide, Francisco Montes (Sachamama, 18km from Iquitos on the road to Nauta) offers very traditional ceremonies with all the comforts of a lodge.

Another popular shaman is Augustin Rivas, a famous sculptor who has dedicated over thirty years to working with ayahuasca; his sessions are run through Yushintayta Lodge, contactable via the Hostal La Pascana, Pevas 133, T. 065-231418; the lodge is located on the Río Tamshiyacu.

In addition, many if not most of the jungle lodges around Iquitos regularly organize ayahuasca sessions for their clients. Similarly, many of the independent guides will organize sessions with shamans at their jungle camps. This sacred business is not regulated at all right now and, given the extremely sensitive states of mind achieved by ingesting ayahuasca (which can be much more powerful than LSD), it's important not only to feel comfortable with the scene and setting, but also with the person leading it. There are more teacher plants than only ayahuasca (p.528).

Riverboat and cruise operators

Amazon Explorama - Amazon Queen Ferry boat
Avenida La Marina 340, Iquitos, T. 065-252530 or 252526 or 253301, Fax 252533, www.explorama.com; or: Box 445; Iquitos; toll-free in the US T. 1-800/707-5275

A superbly converted ferryboat now operating with up to 180 passengers and nine crew members. Mainly connecting Iquitos with Exporama's busiest lodge, CEIBA TOPS, and sometimes traveling down the Amazon and up the Río Napo. With its 365-horsepower engine it makes CEIBA TOPS in about 90min. It has a large, comfortable lounge, card deck and carpeted bar on the second deck.

Amazon Tours and Cruises

[Jirón] Requena 336, Iquitos, T. 065-231611, Fax 231265, www.amazontours.com; in the US 8700 W Flaglet St S/190, Miami, FL 33174, Fax 305/227-1880.

Five luxury boats, running up the Río Amazonas to Requena, Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and down to Pevas, Leticia and Manaus, not quite as smart as those operated by Junglex, but cheaper and still of a high standard. The company is planning to speed up access to the (p.527)

rainforest with flights to places such as Requena and Leticia.

Avenida Quinones 1980, Iquitos, T. 065-261583; in the US: T. 205/428-1700, Fax 428-1714, e-mail: intlexp@aol.com.net

Five luxury boats of varying sizes, possibly the fanciest on the Amazon. A variety of expensive trips go to areas such as Requena, up the Río Ucayalí and on to the Río Tapiche, and even up into the wider reaches of the Río Yanayacu to visit Lago Umaral, a great area for wildlife. They also go to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (p. 528).
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