When I had the opportunity to incorporate a trip to the Amazon into my Peru trip on the Peruvian Poncho tour I thought: ‘Why the hell not? It’s a once in a lifetime experience and not everyone can say they’ve been to the world’s largest and most famous rainforest!’ Looking back on my three day excursion it was unforgettable in many ways. We flew into the tropical frontier town of Puerto Maldonado in Peru and then took a long boat journey, along the river into the Amazon rainforest, where our adventure began.
Our rainforest eco lodge was incredible! It is made entirely from wood and blends wonderfully with the surrounding forest. There is no electricity, so kerosene lamps are used at night and raised walkways connect the rooms to the main lodge which has a large dining area, bar and communal areas to relax and listen to talks.
What I hadn’t expected was that our bedrooms were actually open to the rainforest (they only had 3 sides of walls) so it was essentially like sleeping outdoors. I felt like I was in a Ray Mears documentary! The sounds of the jungle are incredible, particularly at night and at dawn when there is a cacophony of bird song, insects humming and the call of black caiman on their nocturnal hunts. Admittedly it was a little disconcerting on the first night as I cowered under my mosquito net wondering what might enter the room, but aside from some bugs (not a fan of those) and a frog peeping out of the plug hole of our sink, we were left alone. No jaguar, anaconda or caiman attacks, phew!
Staying in the jungle is a truly unique experience, exhilarating, awe-inspiring and very intense. I found our 3 day excursion was the ideal amount of time. We took jungle walks and saw several tarantulas – eek! We went on an evening boat trip in search of Black Caiman, whose eyes gleam menacingly in the dark and climbed up a tower to look down upon the jungle canopy and see the wonderful array of birdlife including toucans! There was also time for relaxation, swinging lazily in hammocks, eating ice cream and soaking up our incredible surroundings.
My most hair-raising and memorable jungle experience was when our group took a small boat across the river to explore the jungle on the other side. There were about 8 of us in the canoe which tipped precariously every time any of us moved and sat very low in the water. I thought the water was actually going to come over the sides at times! The sky turned black, as a storm approached and there were frequent rumbles of thunders and flashes of lightning. Being in a boat, during a storm, with piranhas snapping at the surface as they ate food thrown in by our guide, made me a little tense to say the least! Knowing that large black caiman and anacondas also resided in the river didn’t help to ease my mind! I can honestly say that I’ve never been so glad to reach dry land, I felt like I was in an episode of ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ just without the D list celebrity status!
My top tips for surviving the jungle are:
Lightweight, loose cotton clothing is your best bet. The humidity is intense and the mosquitoes and flies are on overdrive so I found it best to wear long sleeves and trousers, particularly in the evenings, to protect myself from close contact with the pesky little critters. A hat/cap is also handy to keep the flies off your head. Everything you wear will be filthy within minutes from the mosquito repellent, dust and sweat, so unlike my good self who in my infinite wisdom decided to pack a nice white shirt and t-shirt which have never come clean since, avoid light coloured clothing which will inevitably end up brown! A strong mosquito repellent is absolutely essential, I recommend you pack a mixture of spray and liquid or wipes. Make sure you also have a rain mac (funnily enough it does often rain in the rain forest), a pair of walking shoes or boots and a decent head torch. Finally and most essentially, pack your sense of adventure because you’ll need it!