Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

Photo: Rainforest Expeditions

It’s been a long trip. A 45-minute flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. A brief stop to store your unnecessary luggage. An hour drive southeast to the port in Infierno. Hell, literally. A nearly three-hour ride upstream, through the rainforest, in a long, motorized canoe. You saw your first brightly colored macaws (large parrots), a capybara (a big rodent), and alligator eyes along the way. Then almost 90 steps—more than usual, since it’s the end of the dry season—up to the lodge. You earned your pisco sour today.

Welcome to the true middle of nowhere. Technically, it’s called Refugio Amazonas. The ecolodge sits along the Madre de Dios River in a nearly 500-acre private reserve. The reserve is a buffer zone along Tambopata National Reserve, a more than 1,000-square-mile protected area in Peru’s portion of the Amazon rainforest. The borders of Bolivia and Brazil aren’t too far away.

Tambopata National Reserve was established in 1990 to protect the forests, the plants, and the animals along the Heath and Tambopata Rivers. Massive tornillo trees. Canopy pona palms. Horned rhinoceros beetles. Whistling band-tailed manakins. Hog-like, white-lipped peccaries. Barking spider monkeys. Dangerous caimans. The Ese Ejja people. Over time, nature lovers have turned their waterways into a popular canoe circuit. The lodge opened it up to those who love adventure during the day but luxury at night.

Photo: Rainforest Expeditions

Actually, luxury might be a bit of an overstatement. Comfortable? Definitely. There’s a king bed in your suite. A hammock is casually draped across the room, too. Carapulcra (a Peruvian stew made with pork and dehydrated potatoes) is served for dinner. Chic? Absolutely. Indigenous artwork along the cane walls. A view of the rainforest’s canopy from the dining room’s second-floor loft. Artisanal crafts for sale in the boutique. Indulgent? Yup. You can learn how to fly a drone over the rainforest. Plus you have an intense jungle massage—featuring matico (a flowering plant), eucalyptus, and hot stones—scheduled for tomorrow.

Okay, maybe Refugio Amazonas is luxurious. It’s certainly not for everyone, though. Along with three cane walls, your suite has a thatched roof, tropical wood floors, and an open wall. That’s right, the room is open to the elements. You can hear the howls of monkeys echoing in the distance, see huge butterflies when you sway in your hammock, and find a goliath frog—he weighs almost seven pounds—in your shower. The dining room, the bar, and the wellness center are open air, as well. You were completely immersed in the jungle once you boarded that canoe in Infierno.

So are you ready for that pisco sour? It might help you settle in for your first night in the Amazon.


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