DAY 3-8: Exploring the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve
Spend this week exploring the Pacaya- Samiria National Reserve, a pristine swath of jungle—stretching more than five million acres, and harboring some of the Amazon’s most fascinating flora and fauna. Bordered by the Marañón and the Ucayali, these two powerful rivers converge to create the famed Amazon, which floods annually with nutrient-rich waters and is known locally as the Mirrored Forest for the reflections created by its glassy water.
Set out into this remarkable wilderness on daily excursions by skiff, kayak, and, when the water level permits, hikes on dry land. Skim past giant lily pads afloat on black-water lakes, and venture deep into the rain forest on narrow tributaries. Spot sloths and monkeys, including variably colored saddleback tamarins, noisy howlers, and shaggy-tailed monk saki monkeys. Watch for an astounding variety of birds, from tanagers and hummingbirds to parrots and endangered scarlet macaws. In the river, look for massive paiche fish, the Amazon’s largest; rare pink dolphins; and the infamous piranhas.
Enjoy an opportunity to swim in a lake in the reserve’s interior. Seek out victoria amazonica, a giant water lily that grows in small lagoons. Go on a bird-watching hike, listening for the vocal oropendola and then looking for its telltale yellow tail. Watch the sun set and listen to a cacophonous symphony of nocturnal animals calling out across the treetops. Then slip through the forest in a skiff as night falls, using a spotlight to find caimans, frogs, fishing bats and other creatures of the night.
Pay a visit to one of the communities on the reserve’s edge and get to know the ribereños, those who live on the riverbanks, and their age-old traditions. Enjoy watching them make jewelry and other local handicrafts. Learn how local subsistence farmers cultivate wild plants and trees to earn income. Hear about how the locals find edible fruits and indigenous plants with medicinal properties hidden in the jungle. (B,L,D DAILY)