Exploring the Peruvian Jungle: Iquitos
I’m Alex, a french student doing an internship in the company Internship Peru. I recently had the opportunity to discover the Peruvian Jungle.
In many people’s minds, the famous Amazon Rainforest is always linked with Brazil. Although it is true that more than half of the Amazon is part of Brazil, there are big parts belonging to Peru (13%), Colombia (10%), Bolivia (9%), Venezuela (9%), and a few other countries. If you are in Peru and you want to live an amazing authentic adventure, I definitely recommend a visit to Iquitos.
Iquitos is the capital of the Loreto Region in the northeast of Peru, not to far from the border with Ecuador, Columbia and Brazil. Although it’s pretty far from the most common sights in the South of Peru, Iquitos manages to stay well connected to the rest of the country. Its harbour is the biggest in the region, and this allows it to be an important spot for business. Iquitos’s International Airport (Crnl. FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta) is well connected with most Peruvian cities (Lima, Pucallpa, Tarapoto) and has good international connections as well (USA, Mexico, Canada, Central America & Caribbean, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil). From Lima, you can go to Iquitos for just $80 USD round trip!
About 370,000 inhabitants live in Iquitos, but more and more foreigners and travellers have started coming here to enjoy the equatorial climate, the exotic and delicious locals delicacies, and more than anything, a visit to the jungle.
The self-called “Capital of the Peruvian Amazon” is surrounded by the Amazon, Nanay and Itaya rivers and is the starting point to discover the incredible ecosystem of the Loreto jungle.
Jungle Community Visit
If you want to visit the jungle from Iquitos, there’s a wide range of options to choose from.
The Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve is closest to Iquitos, and also the newest addition. Its fauna and flora is extremely rich and well-preserved.
The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is the biggest reserve in Peru and is considered to be the jewel of the Peruvian Jungle. Around 200 native communities or about 40,000 people live in the reserve.
There are others protected areas like the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area, the Ampiyacu Regional Conservation Area and the Matsés National Reserve.
Having a real local guide who actually grew up in this part of the Peruvian jungle is necessary to learn so many things about this incredible environment. Native people have impressive knowledge thanks to a perfect transmission between old and new generations. They need this information to live in harmony with nature.
Related: The Incredible Laguna 69 in Huaraz
The native communities need this kind of information to live in harmony with their environment as well as for their daily activities including hunting, fishing, agriculture and handicraft. For example, the family in the community I visited had 1 to 3 pieces of land in the jungle, called « chacra » (field), to cultivate different kinds of staple food, like cassava roots, rice, corn, fruits, etc.
During your stay, they will propose different activities to you according to your preferences: you can go for a nice walk into the rainforest, take a nocturnal boat tour to look at the stars, experiment new methods of fishing or manufacture crafts for decoration.
While visiting the Peruvian jungle, some tourists like to try the Ayahuasca, a traditional and spiritual medicine used by native people of the Amazonian area. This blend of local plants has the reputation of being extremely strong! Be careful if you want to try this spiritual trip as accidents are regularly reported. There are very few people who are truly specialists of this ceremony, so always check with locals when interested in this experience.
Regarding the fauna and flora, the Amazon rainforest is home to an astonishing number of different species. In the Peruvian Amazon alone, there are approximately 800 bird species, 260 amphibian species, 300 mammal species, 2500 butterfly species (15% of the world total), 700 fish species and 180 reptile species. Some of the animals you might encounter are, the pink dolphin, monkeys like the white capuchin, the titi or the red uakari, caimans, turtles, sloths, snakes like the huge anaconda and frogs of all colours and sizes.
You have to be careful picking up fruits while visiting the area, as some are edible but others can be lethal.
During my experience, I visited the El Chino community, located on the Tahuayo river. First I took a lancha, a fast boat from Iquitos to Tamshiyacu, a city of approximately 8,000 inhabitants. During the one hour and a half trip, I went up the Amazon River, where it’s very common to spot pink dolphins. This city is the starting point to visit all the communities and reserves south of Iquitos.
We then took another smaller and lighter boat (like a pirogue with a motor) for 3 hours to reach the community. The mayor of El Chino was waiting there for us upon arrival. It is a community of 50 families (around 300 people) living on the banks of the Tahuayo River. Their wooden houses are organized around the soccer field and elevated on pilotis to avoid flooding during the high tides in rainy season (from December to March).
This village is part of a bigger group of 8 communities, whose unique development model is to live in harmony with nature, using the incredible and local natural resources of the Peruvian rainforest.
During my stay in this community, in addition to enjoying some of the activities listed above, I had the opportunity to really live with the community people, play football with their kids, drink a beer at the local bar, and discuss a lot about the way of life in this magnificent part of the jungle.
This experience definitely marks a milestone in my life, because of the incredible contacts I made with the people from El Chino, and the discovery of the Amazon Rainforest where biodiversity is not just a myth.
If I can give you some advice, just go there and enjoy!
Items that must be in your backpack
- Sunscreen, as the sun is very strong over there.
- Insect repellent and lotion –> it’s not a legend: there really are a LOT of mosquitoes there!
- A long-sleeved shirt and long pants for the same reason.
- A rain poncho. When the rain comes, you will know why they call it the rainforest.