Africa has its Big Five and now Peru’s visionary leader in sustainable tourism, Rainforest Expeditions http://www.perunature.com/, helps guests locate and view the Peruvian Amazon’s Big Five wildlife species while on excursions along the Tambopata River, as far away from civilization as one can get. These include the Harpy Eagle, Black Caiman, Tapir, Giant River Otter and Jaguar.
Visiting naturalist Alan Lee writes: “Watching a pair of Harpy Eagles (Harpia harpyja) cause chaos in a troop of Brown-capuchin monkeys, coati, and Red-throated Caracara, as they soared with broad barred wings over the tree tops and then perched close by, made me realize that these eagles really are one of the kings of the jungle.”
Reptiles are one of the most well represented vertebrate groups in the Amazon. The Black Caiman makes a fitting representative for the group as it too is endangered due to hunting for the skin trade towards the end of the last century. These giant cousins of the alligators can grow up to 6m in length. Although mostly nocturnal, they are occasionally seen cruising just below the surface of some of the lakes in the region, and a better reason than piranha to not go swimming!
The Tapir (Tapirus terrestris), an herbivore distantly related to horses, is the heaviest of the endemic South American mammals, weighing about 250kg. Shy. retiring and mostly nocturnal, the tapir is difficult to see. Tapir have been recorded regularly on the camera traps at mammal clay licks at odd hours of the night and a dedicated observer with a few nights to spare, a thermos or two of strong Tambopata coffee and lots of patience, may well be awarded with one of the most curious of the rainforest mammals.
The largest of the 13 otter species in the world, endangered due to hunting for the fur trade as well as disturbance to and loss of suitable habitat, the Giant River Otter, up to 1.8m in length and weighing over 30kg, is the top predator of the lakes in the Tambopata making it one of the Big Five species to be seen.
Lee explains that the Jaguar (Panthera onca) is a jungle icon that’s much larger and more powerful than any of the other five species of cat found in the region, and the third largest species of cat in the world after the tiger and lion. Males have been recorded over 150kg. Sightings are rare but when they do occur it is usually on cloudy days or after cold spells when the jaguars come to the beaches to sun themselves, or to stalk Capybaras and river turtles.
A 7-day/6-night stay at Tambopata Research Center for viewing some (or possibly all) of the Big Five is $1,080 per person double occupancy for an all-inclusive experience. See: http://www.perunature.com/tambopata-research-center-amazon-tour-7d-6n-popular.html
Tambopata Research Center, an eco-lodge in the Peruvian Amazon about as far away from civilization as one can get in this part of the world. The center focuses on one of the top wildlife spectacles of the world, the largest known clay lick in the Amazon and frequented by hundreds of parrots, parakeets and macaws, just 500 yards from an 18-room eco-lodge.
There is a four-night minimum to visit here because of travel time.http://www.perunature.com/tambopata-research-center.html
Rainforest Expeditions’ string of three jungle lodges is accessed from Puerto Maldonado airport arriving from Lima or Cusco on daily commercial flights lasting 45 or 90 minutes respectively. A bus transports guests to the Infierno River Port to board motorized wooden canoes for a 45-minute trip to the first lodge, Posada Amazonas. Refugio Amazonas, the second lodge, is a 3.5-hour boat trip after departing the bus. The third and most remote is Tambopata Research Center, requiring a 4-hour additional upriver boat ride from Refugio Amazonas. Each lodge is only a few minutes on foot from the river bank. See: http://www.perunature.com/tambopata-jungle-lodges-puerto-maldonado.html
In each of the three distinct locations, guests are accommodated in clean and comfortable, minimally appointed, three-sided rooms built of clay, wood and palm fronds. The signature statement is to leave one wall open to the jungle so guests can hear, see and smell the rainforest.
Image courtesy Widness & Wiggins PR