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Tambopata River

The life-giving Rio Tambopata
Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, southern Peru
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Tambopata River

Puerto Maldonado tourism is centered around the Tambopata River and the Tambopata National Reserve. Beginning on the eastern slope of the Andean mountain range, the Tambopata River runs north east through the highly diverse Tambopata Reserve before joining the Madre de Dios River immediately to the east of Puerto Maldonado, the Tambopata rainforest town. Tambopata is now one of the main tourist hot spots in Peru. The habitats along the Tambopata River include rainforest, cloud forest, bamboo groves, oxbow lakes, palm swamps, and tropical savannah grassland.

The Tambopata River is home to exceptional Amazon life and many highly desired aquatic wildlife sightings are found here. The Tambopata River is fortunate to contain a high number of Amazon giant river otters, compared to other Amazon areas, and many other aquatic animals like anaconda, river turtles, caiman and pink river dolphins. The Tambopata River forest contains giant trees like Ceibas and Brazil Nut trees emerging through the canopy of a vast sea of Amazon vegetation. Below the canopy, you will find one of the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth. This forest is thought to have existed for between 30 and 50 million years and has contained an impressive and unbelievable diversity of animals throughout the fossil record.

The Tambopata River shares its name with the national reserve and also the province in the state of Madre de Dios where both the reserve and river are found. The name Tambopata originates from the Quecha words “tambo” meaning place of accommodation and “pata” meaning high point linked to the Andean forest located in the reserve. This forest at the Andean foothills is one of the most threatened habitats in the world.

There are many top rated tour lodges in the Tambopata River watershed that show guests fantastic wildlife in the area. These tours are often based around clay licks that occur on tributaries of the Tambopata River. The clay left by the river contains many different minerals of use to Amazon wildlife. The wildlife use these river pharmacies for medicines, which neutralise toxic compounds in fruits and seeds animals eat in the forest. You can find 6 species of large macaws, 20 different parrots, and 8 species of toucans in the reserve, and these often visit the clay for their river medicine. Tambopata National Reserve contains the largest known macaw clay lick in the Amazon Rainforest, which you can visit on one of the many different itineraries of the Tambopata Research Center tour lodge. However, you can visit the other clay licks on other top rated tours operating in the Tambopata.

  • tambopata research center, puerto maldonado

    Seven Days:

    Tambopata Research Center Puerto Maldonado, Peru

    This is the most remote Amazon tour from Puerto Maldonado & there are only a few others tours in the entire Amazon Rainforest that take you this far into the jungle. You will share the lodge with macaw researchers & will be shown the Amazon Rainforest’s largest macaw clay lick. View monkeys & other iconic Amazon wildlife on trail walks & enjoy activities like jungle mountain biking, kayaking, paddle boarding & more.

    Remote Location, Macaw Clay Lick
  • Heath River Lodge

    Five Days:

    Heath River Lodge Puerto Maldonado, Peru

    Another remote Amazon tour, this is the only lodge on the Heath River, which runs through the middle of the Tambopata / Madidi protected areas. At the Heath River Lodge, you can view a nearby macaw clay lick & stand a chance of seeing Amazon tapir at the tapir hide.

    Clay Lick, Tapir Hide

Tambopata People

The main indigenous group in the Tambopata are the Ese-Eja. The Ese-Eja are spread across a few different communities along the Tambopata River and its tributaries. Many community members receive a main source of income from ecotourism operations in the reserve. The Posada Amazonas Lodge, for example, is owned and operated by the Ese-Eja from the community of infierno. However, many other Ese-Eja work as guides, cooks, and staff in other tour operations. There are also 17 other indigenous groups living without contact from non-Amazon people in the Tambopata. These groups are in the rainforest living in the same manner they have for thousands of years.

  • posada amazonas jungle lodge, puerto maldonado

    Three Days:

    Posada Amazonas Lodge Puerto Maldonado, Peru

    This is one of the favorite Amazon tours from Puerto Maldonado and indeed from anywhere in the Amazon if you’re interested in a short visit. The Posada Amazonas is only 45 minutes from Puerto Maldonado & you can still catch sight of fantastic wildlife at the canopy tower & parrot clay lick. You can tour the lake in search of river otters, have a massage in the wellness center, & enjoy activities like canopy climbing, paddle boarding, and kayaking.

    Canopy Tower, Wellness Center

Activities that continue to threaten the Tambopata ecosystem are gold mining along the Tambopata River, logging in the Tambopata watershed, overharvesting, and agriculture. Ecotourism continues to be the main activity to buffer these threats while providing a sustainable source of income for inhabitants along the Tambopata River.



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