Trip Report: Amazon Rainforest of Peru

June 03, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Amazon_rainforest_Peru_2023_4Amazon_rainforest_Peru_2023_4A stock photo of a tributary river running through the Amazon rainforest in northern Peru. The Amazon Rainforest always seemed like such a distant place to me. I studied it like many students in elementary school. And in the years since attending school, there have been many more insights into the challenges the Amazon Rainforest faces with climate change and deforestation. 

Don't get me wrong, it is a very distant place. It took nearly three days to arrive at the river boat where our group would spend our first seven days of the tour but one of those days was thanks to a flight delay by the airline causing me to miss a connecting flight to Lima, Peru. 

Amazon_River_boat_Peru_2023_1Amazon_River_boat_Peru_2023_1An Amazon River boat used for tours in Peru.

When I was asked by Kevin and Lee of Wildside Nature Tours if I would be interested in leading a tour in Peru, I jumped at the chance. It would be my first trip to South America and an unbelievable opportunity to see firsthand the beauty of this mysterious place as well as help the tour participants improve their photography skills to take home photos from a trip of a lifetime. 

In hindsight, after witnessing the unbelievable diversity in the forest and along the rivers, the challenges to get there and the warmth of the humid air were worth every minute. To put it in perspective, here are some numbers:
- 1,100 species of palm trees in the Amazon
- our group saw 320 species during our ten-day trip; Rocky Mountain National Park has only recorded 280 species in the whole park...ever
- the Amazon River has 1,100 tributaries
- the Amazon River is 4,300 miles long

Large-billed_tern_Peru_2023_5Large-billed_tern_Peru_2023_5A large-billed tern (Phaetusa simplex) flies against a green background along the Amazon River in Peru.

I often wind up capturing about 1,000 images a day when I travel to a new destination. To put in perspective how fascinating Peru was for me, I came home with more than 19,000 frames for a ten-day trip. I have edited 73. I will be editing these images for a long time but it will bring back all of the great memories made during the trip.

On the first day, our local guides took our group on a hike through the White Coral Sand Forest. Here we saw tarantulas, heard our first monkeys of the trip and watched an assassin bug eating some prey. 

Tarantula_Peru_2023_2Tarantula_Peru_2023_2Wildside Photo Tours guide Lee Hoy holds out a pink-toe tarantula on a large leaf in the Amazon rainforest of Peru.

By the afternoon, we had arrived at our river boat and were out on our first tributary excursion. The first three-toed sloth of the trip was seen, an animal I don't think I realized how much I would see on this trip. 

Three-toed_sloth_Peru_2023_1Three-toed_sloth_Peru_2023_1A three-toed sloth hangs in a tree in the jungle of Peru.

Day two involved a skiff excursion on the Yarapa River, a tributary of the Amazon River after spending the night at the confluence of the Amazon River from Peru and Ecuador. We also took a short hike in Prado Village where we saw our first of a few anacondas, a pygmy marmoset, a wattled jacana, sun bittern and a greater potoo. Another excellent day.

Anaconda_Peru_2023_1Anaconda_Peru_2023_1An anaconda slithers through the forest floor of the Amazon rainforest in Peru.

Onto day three and we were in a new spot along the Amazon River and explored the Nauta Canyon tributary where we saw at least 60 different species, including a dark-breasted spine tail, red-banded pigeon, a squirrel cuckoo, blue and gold macaws, a yellow-spotted turtle, a green iguana and saddle-back tamarin monkeys. This image is of a white-eared jacamar, a small bird hiding in the cover of the leaves. Not the easiest to photograph but he gave us a pretty good few minutes. 

White-eared_Jacamar_Peru_2023_1White-eared_Jacamar_Peru_2023_1A white-eared Jacamar (Galbalcyrhynchus leucotis) sits on a branch against a forest of green in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.

Day four took our group of 17 plus four guides in two skiffs (after moving to a new spot along the Amazon River again) out to Cuenca del rio yanayacu. Again, another day seeing dozens of bird species, a few pink and grey dolphins, more leaf cutter ants, another three-toed sloth, and even saw some jaguar tracks. These photos show a bluish fronted jacamar and a male plain-breasted piculet, one of the pair working on their nest while we ate a late breakfast in our skiff (a nice treat brought to us by the river boat crew). Later that night we also went out on a night boat ride along a tributary. 

Bluish_fronted_jacamar_Peru_2023_1Bluish_fronted_jacamar_Peru_2023_1A bluish fronted jacamar perched on a branch in the jungle of Peru.

Plain-breasted_piculet_Peru_2023_1Plain-breasted_piculet_Peru_2023_1A male plain-breasted piculet (Picumnus castelnau) sits on a branch in the Peurvian rainforest.

Day five, our last full day along the Amazon River, was again full of various jungle species of birds, like plumbeous kite, yellow-headed vulture, russet-backed oropendolas, and greater ahni, plus a great porcupine and an olive whip snake trying to steal eggs out of a bird nest. In the afternoon, the group enjoyed a lunch with a local village of 122 people, eating many local dishes. 

Ani_Peru_2023_1Ani_Peru_2023_1A great ani (Crotophaga major) takes off in flight, a surprisingly hard photo to capture for this common bird, in the jungle of Peru.

The next day was our last from the river boat but we still went out in the morning before departing for Iquitos and onto Lima. It was again another diverse day with ringed kingfishers, drab water tyrant, chestnut-bellied seed eater, a red-capped cardinal and a boat full of different fish, including a piranha, harvested by a pair of local brothers. Oh yeah, and another three-toed sloth, making that at least one a day for our group. 

Red-capped_cardinal_Peru_2023_1Red-capped_cardinal_Peru_2023_1A red-capped cardinal (Paroaria gularis) holds onto a reed after taking a bath in the Amazon River of Peru.

On our way back to Iquitos, the main city for the Amazon region even though it has no roads into this city of one million people, we stopped at a manatee rescue center where we again added more new birds to our list for the week. The highlight was a baby thick-billed euphonia being fed by its parents and watching manatees being fed by volunteers. 

Thick-billed_euphonia_Peru_2023_1Thick-billed_euphonia_Peru_2023_1A baby thick-billed euphonia stands on a railing waiting for mom and dad to feed it at the Manatee Rescue Center in Iquitos, Peru.

Once back in Lima, we still had two days of exploring. The first was on a boat ride along the Pacific Ocean from the town of Pucusana to look for blue-footed boobies, Peruvian pelicans, Peruvian boobies, Inca terns, and many other shore birds. The second location was at Pantanos de Beacha where we had the opportunity to photograph shore birds like Franklin's gulls, neotropic cormorants, sandwich terns, elegant terns, spotted sandpipers and little blue herons.

Peruvian_booby_Peru_2023_1Peruvian_booby_Peru_2023_1A Peruvian booby (Sula variegata) swims through the bubbles of the surf near the coastal resort of Pucusana, Peru.

Inca_tern_Peru_2023_1Inca_tern_Peru_2023_1An Inca tern (Larosterna inca) stands on the rocky coast of the Pacific Ocean near the coastal resort town of Pucusana, Peru.

Little_blue_heron_Peru_2023_1Little_blue_heron_Peru_2023_1A little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) takes off from a the surf on a cloudy day along the Pacific Ocean at Pantanos de Beacha near Lima, Peru. One of the most common questions I have received about the trip is about the bugs and the heat/humidity. Yes, there were definitely bugs. The heat wasn't too bad when we were out on the water but could be a bit stagnant when we were on our short hikes.

Because of the bugs, it is best to wear long sleeves and long pants, something most people don't like when it is hot. I found several options that worked very well that weren't very hot, had good sunscreen in the fabric and were infused with Picaridin to keep the bugs at bay. The fabric could also be sprayed with bug spray. Most days I did wear my Chaco sandals without any issue as long as I had lotion on to prevent bug bites. 

I also found a wide-brimmed hat worked best to keep the sun off my face. 

Bug spray with Deet can eat away at plastic on the camera. It also isn't a very good product for your health. I avoid it at all costs. What I used was Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent Lotion on my feet and hands. For my clothes, I sprayed Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent Pump Spray. It worked well on clothing and doesn't have a strong smell. As long as I remembered to put on the two products, and reapply as needed, such as if I washed my hands, it did the trick. 

I also took a 24-hour Allegra pill each morning. That seemed to help prevent any itching before it even started if I did get a bug bite or two.

For clothing, I have a head-to-toe lineup. 
- Hat: Mukeyo Womens Summer Sun Hat: it has a hole in the back for ponytails!! Brilliant!
- Shirt: Simm's Womens Bugstopper SolarFlex Hoodie with InsectShield: it is a fishing shirt with a fit for women and super lightweight — great for packing and out in the field in the heat and humidity


- Neckwear: Buff Coolnet UV+ and InsectShield Neckwear: there are tons of colors available but look for this version with the UV and InsectShield protection. It works great for a headband or on the neck; soak it in water for extra cooling
- Pants: Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Pants: I have numerous pairs of these pants — from the cropped version for hot summer days in Colorado to the lightweight full-length pants to the fleece-lined version for my trips to Churchill, Alaska and high elevations of Colorado in winter. For Peru, long pants are a must to prevent bugs on the legs, protection from the sun and should be in a lighter color like khaki, tan, gray or green. Bugs are attracted to dark colors like navy and black. 


- Shoes: I brought two pairs of shoes with me: my Chaco sandals and my Lowa Renegade hiking boots. I love both and wear out a pair every year or two. The sandals come in a wide variety of colors (including customized designs), have a very grippy sole for light hiking and a high arch support, something I have found helps prevent arch and heal issues with as much as I am on my feet. The boots are a similar situation with lots of colors and a good arch support. I have worn these boots for at least 15 years and find I can buy the same size every time without trying them on and they fit like a dream with no issues with blisters. A lightweight pair of something to walk around the river boat could be useful too, like if you want to use the Jacuzzi or wear to dinner. Slippers or Crocs would work well for this, although traditional Crocs might take up more space in luggage so I go with their sandal version. 
- Rain gear: Although I didn't actually use my rain pants, I did have them with me. I regretted not bringing them with me on a couple of days. My rain jacket, however, always did go in my backpack on the skiff outings. And I did use it several times.

Speaking of rain gear, make sure to bring rain gear for your camera as well. I use RainCoats from LensCoat.

I definitely brought more camera gear than I needed.
- Camera: bring two bodies. I had the Nikon Z9 and the Nikon D850 with me. Although the D850 came in handy for landscapes and to hold a backup lens, I would have loved to have two Z9s or the new Nikon Z8 with me instead. Other than a handful of documentary images of the rainforest, river and boat, I didn't use the D850 nearly as much as the Z9, taking 12,500 images of the nearly 14,000 with the Z9. On the D850 I kept my Nikon 80-400mm lens. I also had a Nikon 24-70mm lens but didn't use it. 
- Tripod: I never took mine out of the suitcase so I wouldn't recommend bringing one. It will be helpful, however, to be comfortable hand-holding your lens. Practice before the trip or bring a monopod for use on the skiffs. 
- Camera bag: Although I had my ThinkTank Accelerator backpack on this trip, it was the tipping point for making a long trip with a backpack. Within days of returning from Peru, I ordered a similar version of the bag but as a rolling bag. The ThinkTank Airport Security is now my bag of choice for long trips. It holds my 500mm (it can hold a 600mm) and my back was thanking me all through the airport on my more recent trip. 
- Lenses: I used my Nikon 500mm the most, with a Nikon 1.4 teleconverter on occasion. With the Z9, an adapter is needed for use with DSLR lenses.  
- Cards and batteries: bring lots of both. There are plenty of outlets for charging on the river boat but always best to have extras in a remote location. I fill my cards, download them onto an external hard drive each evening and then back the files up when I return home before erasing my cards. At 14,000 images, that is a lot of cards. Also, make sure to use the fastest you can find your camera.
- Miscellaneous: I used to use a clear makeup bag for my headphones, chargers and card readers but the zipper recently broke. Not bad for a $5 makeup bag from Target that I bought in 2007. To replace it, I recently bought a tech pouch from ThinkTank and some new twist ties they sell called Red Whips. Very handy for just keeping it all organized.

Remember to bring your chargers for the camera and the laptop as well as any dongles you need to connect iPads, laptops, phones, etc.  

With camera gear, I advise keeping it in the loading and unloading area of the boat in a backpack/camera bag. Taking it in and out of the air conditioning in the rooms on the river boat may build up condensation, and it can be hard to find the right resources to take care of that in the Amazon jungle. 

Saddle-backed_marmoset_Peru_2023_1Saddle-backed_marmoset_Peru_2023_1A saddle-backed marmoset (Leontocebus fuscus) on a feeding platform at the Manatee Rescue Center in Iquitos, Peru.

I hope to see you on WildSide Nature Tours next trip to Peru in 2024. It really is a trip of a lifetime that will give you a firsthand glimpse into the diversity and lifestyles in this distant region of the world.

Thank you for reading the entire post. To help support my ability to provide this information for free, I include links to some of my affiliate partners where I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you when you purchase through my site. Thank you again for your support.

 


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