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Puerto Maldonado, Peru - Sandoval Lake Nature Tour & Tambopata Butterflies

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Map location: Puerto Maldonado, Peru
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Peru travel blog by Mark Berman - April 2019   » View Photoset (65 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for over 12yrs!
Puerto Maldonado like Iquitos is a great destination in Peru for exploring and enjoying the Amazon. Puerto Maldonado is somewhat remote (unless you fly) being in the south-eastern part of Peru, 478kms by road east of Cusco and 604kms by road north of Puno. In fact, overland it is much quicker and easier to come here from Cobija in Bolivia (250kms by road) which is what I did. Over the border from Cobija in Brasileia in Brazil is where you can take a co-op taxi to Puerto Maldonado via Assis and Iñapari (5hrs).

Tours in Puerto Maldonado

I'll cut to the chase! The city of Puerto Maldonado I don't find terribly inspiring with block after block of concrete and buildings. Take a moto-taxi for $2 Soles to the Plaza de Armas (main square) near the river. Between the plaza and the river are where many of the tour offices are located. There is a lot of wildlife and beautiful nature nearby once you get out onto the Mother of God River (Rio Madre de Dios), the Tambopata River and into the Tambopata Reserve. If you do not want to stay in the city you can stay in a lodge alongside the river or an eco-lodge beside Lake Sandoval. Options for tours include the Sandoval Lake Nature Tour - a day trip, a 1 night trip to the Chuncho or Blanquillo Macaw Clay Lick. More tours include the Tapir Clay Lick, a visit to Monkey Island (Isla de Monos), visiting a Native Family and an Adventure Tour with activities such as river kayak, biking, piranha fishing, zip line and canopy walkways. The whole area is an opportunity for bird watching, to see turtles, capybaras and alligators, enjoy forest walks, see giant trees and look for exotic plants, butterflies and flowers.

Sandoval Lake Nature Tour

I chose the Sandoval Lake Nature Tour, a 1 day adventure with walking and boat excusions on the river and in the lake. I was hoping to see some wildlife and exotic nature in the form of plants and flowers. $100 Soles ($30USD) is how much I paid for this trip, it's good value when you have a tour with a group. A couple of weeks later in Trinidad in Bolivia I paid $700 Bolivianos ($100USD) for a tour because I was the only person. For the tour of Sandoval Lake we started at the port area in Puerto Maldonado where a long wooden engine powered boat took us along the river while picking up a few people who were staying at the jungle lodges. About 40mins later we disembarked at the entrance of the Tambopata National Reserve. We walked for about 90mins through the forest, sometimes on a wooden boardwalk, sometimes in the mud. I stuck to the back of the crowd so I wouldn't be rushed while I looked for exotic plants and flowers to photograph. Some of the things I saw during this walk were the incredible walking tree - a tree with many small trunks. It walks by losing a trunk on one side and by growing a new one on the other side, so it walks very slowly over a period of years. Also we saw a dead male tarantula that had been killed and eaten by its female partner after mating, sad but true. Other things seen included exotic flowers and plants and trees with very sharp spikes. Most people walk straight past many of these things, you have to keep your eyes open and take your time. The little things are often more interesting than the bigger obvious things. We then arrived at Sandoval Lake where long wooden canoes awaited, not with motors, just paddles. We traveled out through a series of small waterways very slowly and very quietly towards Sandoval Lake, tall trees all around. We spotted a pair of large birds on a wooden log submerged in the water. Coming out into the large open area of the lake, we luckily spotted some giant otters in the distance. We were very fortunate because our guide said that he hadn't seen them for a while. Slowly we paddled towards them following at least 3 until we reached the other side of the lake. All but 1 otter slipped away, but luckily 1 came out and sat on a fallen tree on the lakes edge where we all had a clear view of him! From here we paddled back across to the other side of the lake where we disembarked for lunch. Lunch is included in the price of the tour and we had all been given a hot chicken and rice meal to carry with us before we left Puerto Maldonado. It was very tasty and the large ants quickly came and carried away the pieces of rice that fell from my fork onto the ground - walking leaves, now walking rice. The area where we stopped (Eco House Koshiri) has a great observation point and gardens where you can find exotic plants also. Sometimes large groups of butterflies gather on the ground to drink beside the lake. After nearly an hour for our lunch break we paddled off to really start looking for wildlife. Amazingly we saw a lot in a very short space of time! Herons and other small and large birds, macaws, playful monkeys, thousands of tadpoles, a large brown monkey, the peculiar Hoatzin bird and a lone capybara on the lakes edge. It is and was a fantastic day and we arrived back at the port in Puerto Maldonado after 6pm. Don't forget to bring insect repellent and sunblock! For photography of the wildlife, bring a zoom lens of 250mm or more!

Tambopata Butterfly Farm

This region of Peru has over 4000 species of butterflies so I visited the Tambopata Butterfly Farm to see a few of them! Take a moto from the center of town for around $5 Soles, the butterfly farm is located near the airport. The farm has a reasonable variety of butterflies to see as well as exotic plants and flowers. Butterflies are hard to photograph without a zoom lens, they don't like it if you get too close, so again, a 250mm lens or more is pretty good.

Iñapari / Assis Border Crossing To Brazil

From Puerto Maldonado I backtracked northward to the border crossing at Iñapari / Assis to get east to Brasileia (5hrs), slept the night, then traveled 3hrs to Rio Branco (Brazil).


View all photos in the Puerto Maldonado Photoset

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My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Puerto Maldonado, Peru:

Hospedaje Oasis Inn, Puerto Maldonado, Peru - Large Photo
Hospedaje Oasis Inn, Puerto Maldonado, Peru (April 2019 - 2 nights) - Located about 10 blocks from the main plaza near the transport vans that bring and take you to and from the city. A pretty good room on the 1st floor for $50 soles ($15USD). TV, wifi, private bathroom and double bed. The window opened out to the street towards the market area. Just catch a moto to the center for $2 soles. Several Chinese restaurants along the road, better than the food I ate at the market, bad caldo soup.

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Puerto Maldonado, Peru - Sandoval Lake Nature Tour & Tambopata Butterflies. Puerto Maldonado offers a great experience in the Amazon. Explore the flora and wildlife at Tambopata National Reserve, the rivers and Sandoval Lake. See butterflies at Tambopata Butterfly Farm!