I know that my previous posts have been a bit short, so you have been warned that this will be significantly longer!
The Amazon Rainforest is something that we debated about during our trip to Peru. It wasn't a debate of whether we should do it or not but how long we should go for and which location. Since we were going to be in Cuzco since we were doing the Machu Picchu hike, we ended up starting from Cuzco (Quito was an option but we would have to fly there). From there, there are a variety of options in length which was from 3-days to several weeks long. We ended up deciding to do a 7-day tour and our tour provider was Pantiacolla. When we did this in 2014, it cost us $1,290 USD and this covered 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 snacks, and 6 dinners, all transportation and accommodations were included as well as a private guide throughout the entire tour.
Let me tell you, going through the Amazon is not what I expected. Oftentimes I find that we get lured into going somewhere due to feedback from other people and photos that other people have taken. In this case, if you look at Pantiacolla's pictures, you would imagine that you would see tons of wildlife ranging from monkeys, birds and going up to crocodiles and jaguars. However, in reality, you realize that you will be guaranteed to see lots of birds, anything else is likely a bonus. I'll explain more about what we see later.
During this trip, it was Allison, Sharon and myself. Sharon opted for the 3-day tour and Allison and I did the 7-day tour. Based on what we saw when Sharon had the left the group to go back to Cuzco, I can say that it was probably disappointing. Based on the 7-day tour, I feel that we had a good experience of what the Manu Amazon Rainforest had to offer. While we did not get to see everything that we had hoped for, there is no doubt that it was worth the experience.
Our itinerary was as follows:
Day 1 - leave from Cuzco and stay at a lodge in the Cloudforest area of the Manu Rainforest.
Day 2 - visit an animal sanctuary and take a boat ride (5 hours) to go further into the Rainforest. At this point, Sharon was separated from the group since she had to go back to Cuzco.
Day 3 - boat ride (probably 10 hours) to go further into the Rainforest
Day 4 - morning hike, and otter spotting, stayed at the same location as Day 3
Day 5 - boat ride (probably 10 hours) to go further into the Rainforest
Day 6 - macaw clay lick and observation tower, stayed at the same location as Day 5
Day 7 - return to Cuzco, 2.5 hour boat ride, 1 hour taxi ride, 15 minute boat ride, and 8 hour bus ride
Based on the description, you can see that you will be on a boat for a long time and I don't think having a long tour really changes how long they are. My understanding is that Pantiacolla owns some lodges and has some shared ones that they use and they are far apart. So even if you do a long tour, it just means that you will have more days where you stay at a lodge versus moving every other day.
During the last day of the tour, you end up at the macaw clay lick and this was unbelievable in my mind. I am almost willing to say that this was worth the tour itself. The sounds and sights were just unbelievable. It might have to do with how much or little wildlife we had seen by then, but it was just an utter joy to watch as hundreds of macaws would come to this clay lick to eat.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Amazon Rainforest, the ups far outweigh the downs for me in my mind. The long travel times I think are essential for keeping the Amazon Rainforest as pristine as possible. Basically outside of the beginning, there are no roads, all paths are just worn travels that are well used, the docks for keeping our boat there is really just a stick that is on the boat that the driver drives down into the mud of the base and hope it doesn't float away. It may sound a bit rugged for some, but I feel that it would lose it's magic if you paved over parts of it and made an airport or such so that tourists can easily access it. Visit it if possible while things are still as they are.
Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!