RAFT PERU: Rio Tambopata (Sept 20 – 30, 2013)


Wildlife viewing on the Tambopata River.

Trip Name: Wilderness, Wildlife and Whitewater on the Rio Tambopata
Dates: Sept 20 – 30, 2013
Rate: $2,804.00 per person

View additional trip details here – http://detourdestinations.com/wilderness-wildlife-whitewater-rio-tambopata.html

The Tambopata River snakes through the Tambopata-Candamo National Park in southeastern Peru, originating high in the Andes and ending in confluence with the Madre de Dios at Puerto Maldonado. For many travelers the Tambopata provides an avenue into Amazonia carting goods and people from Puerto Maldonado upriver into small jungle lodges nestled within walking distance of the river’s shore.  For the more adventuresome, the Tambopata River offers an unforgettable journey from the cold and windswept altiplano into the heat of South American rainforest.

My mom and I joined last year’s group departure.   I joined because I love rivers. I love the peacefulness and pace, the excitement of whitewater, and openness that comes from days without outside distractions.  No email, no phones, no mirrors or makeup – just you, your companions and the steady hum of river moving by . . . Total immersion in your environment.

Surprisingly, out of our diverse group of 8 (we had folks from the US, Switzerland, Peru and the UK), only 3 people had ever rafted before.  Word of mouth, persistent daughters and even a whim decision from a UK radio advertisement brought us together.  Each of us drawn by the idea of getting out of our comfort zones and fully experiencing this magical place.

Our group celebrating our fantastic journey and welcome back into "civilization"
Our group celebrating our fantastic journey and welcome back into “civilization”

Our group convened in Juliaca.  My mom and I arrived a day early and used this as an opportunity to check out the floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca, which are worth a visit.  You’re right there!   From Juliaca we spent a solid day driving. The well-kept roads of the tawny high plains gave way to rugged and steep mountain switchbacks eventually dropping us down to the tiny town of Sandia.   Judging by the local’s long stares we were off Peru’s gringo trail.   Another half day of driving and, finally, the river!

Local kids playing near our put in.
Local kids playing near our put in.

We spent 8 days total on the river, easing from the outskirts of civilization into complete wilderness.  The river is a great place to spot some of the jungle’s larger animals. We saw tons of tapirs, capybara, wild pigs, and the lucky few even spotted a jaguar!  We played in long stretches of warm, calm waters, had some exciting Class III & IV rapids and even ventured into the jungle hiking up small tributaries.

Hike to waterfall.
Hike to waterfall.

The trip ends with a stay at the Tambopata Research Center, a simple but beautiful lodge located next to one of the largest macaw clay licks in the world.  An overnight here is a perfect end to the trip and feels like luxury after nights of camping.  They have cold beer!   Along with a bed and a shower.

We went on a nature hike through the forest.  I will always remember this walk.  Fifty or so monkeys sung overhead, raining leaves down onto us.  At the same time, we were warned to be attentive and still as a herd of wild pigs grunted past our feet.  And, with the help of our guide, we caught glimpses into all the life moving around us. . .   A tarantula under a leaf, birds hidden in the branches above and fascinating, intricate flora.

A motorized canoe ride down river to Puerto Maldonado eased us back into civilization and onwards to our separate lives.  The Tambopata has stayed with me in a way that no other trip has. This was an expedition that brought together great people and took us deep into wild, beautiful country.  An adventure of a lifetime!