We took the half hour flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado and were met at the airport by EcoAmazonia staff. Their office was a 10 minute drive away in their colorful bus. We had 1 hour free time to visit Puerto Maldonado which isn't exactly the most interesting of towns. We got on the bus again for the short drive to the port where we boarded EcoAmazonia's boat. The trip down the Madre de Dios River (translated as Mother of God) to the lodge took one and a half hours. The river is fairly wide but we kept to the banks, spotting several caimen (like small alligators) along the way. We also passed several other jungle lodges and small plantations.
The lodge itself is located only 35 kilometers downstream from Puerto Maldonado but you felt as if you were well away from civilization. On arrival at the lodge we were greeted with an alcoholic cocktail which was made of a local fruit juice mixed with pisco. After being allocated our bungalow we had one hour's rest before lunch. The bungalows were for 2 persons made from local timber with thatched roofs. I estimated that there were about 50 bungalows in total. Apart from the bungalows there was a large building comprising the dining room, bar and kitchen and a small classroom. (no souvenir shops here).
Connecting the bungalows to the principle dining room and bar were several covered walkways. In my opinion the lodge had been tastefully constructed and it felt as if you were in the middle of the jungle. Many birds such as parrots, macaws and toucans could be seen flying freely around the lodge.
The food at the lodge was excellent. All the meals were included in the price of the tour. The first lunch was called 'Juanitos', a dish served with rice, meat and vegetables cooked in a banana leaf. In the following days we had a buffet lunch and sampled some of the local fish. Soups and a sweet were served with all meals and tea or coffee was included. Beers and soft drinks were extra although not that expensive. One thing that we didn't expect was that there was no electricity! (only a small generator providing light for the kitchen). At night the lodge was lit up by small oil lamps and a kerosene lamp was put in each bungalow. Remember to charge your video camera batteries before arriving at the lodge.
The bungalows themselves were very basic but clean. Each bungalow is completely enclosed in mosquito netting. The bedroom was enclosed again in additional netting. The bedroom had 2 single beds. If you are visiting the lodge on your own and want a room to yourself then you will have to pay an additional supplement. If you are not fussy then you will share with another visitor (of the same sex). As you enter the bungalow there is a reception area with two hammocks, ideal to relax in although the trip itinerary seemed to keep you very busy most of the time. Each bungalow has a private bathroom with flush toilets and shower. There was no hot water only naturally tepid which is just what you need to refresh yourself after a trek in the jungle. Apparently the water is pumped directly from the river and then filtered and treated before entering the bungalow. However I wouldn't recommend drinking it and I used bottled mineral water to clean my teeth (which could be bought in the restaurant).
The afternoon excursion on the first day was a short boat trip across the Madre de Dios river to a natural island known as Monkey Island. The island is owned and protected by EcoAmazonia. You may also spot more caimen from the boat. It's not hard to work out why the island is known as Monkey Island since it is home to a number of families of monkey. In one location on the island there is a feeding spot where the guides put out food to attract the monkeys to come down and eat. At close range you will be able to see the various types of monkey. Apart from monkeys the guide will also show you and tell you about the many different type of trees and medicinal plants that can be found in the jungle.
The second day began with a very early start. Up at 5:30, breakfast at 6:00 to begin a trek in the jungle at 6:30. There were 9 of us in our group with Victor as our guide. We followed a small trail through the jungle with the final destination being the Cocha Perdida or lost lake. The trek to the lake was about 8 km. Take plenty of insect repellent. Along the trail Victor stopped to point out the different types of birds, as well as the huge variety of plants and trees. Victor also lured several tarantulas out from their holes in the ground. The scenery during the trek was very varied incorporating dense jungle as well as marsh areas which were crossed on wooden walkways. There were pirañas and caimen in the marshes so don't fall in!
One of the highlights of the trek for me was seeing an incredibly huge tree several metres in diameter. I wish I'd brought a wide angle lens for my camera because it was almost impossible to fit it all in. The tree (which I forget the name) was immense and about 450 years old.
Quite close to the lake was an observation platform and a huge observation tower with steps taking you up to one of the tallest trees in the jungle. The view from the top was incredible with the chance to see some of the canopy wildlife. This is definitely not persons afraid of heights! and the construction looked a little unsafe in places but that was all part of the fun. The Cocha Perdida is a small lake hidden away in the jungle. You can take a tour of the lake in a small dugout canoe. If you have a quiet group like we had you will be able to enjoy the tranquility of the lake, surrounded by the sounds of insects and birdsongs. The lake has a very prehistoric feel to it as large palms grow out of the water. The lake is home to a family of Giant River Otters and the infamous Anaconda although we didn't see them. We did, however, see plenty of birds in the nearby trees and fish jumping in the lake, as well as huge butterflies and dragonflies. We also saw many turtles warming themselves on logs in the lake.
We took a different path back to the Lodge, returning to the river where we were met by the boat and then returning to the lodge for lunch. In the afternoon we took a boat across the river to visit a local family and their plantation. Among the fruits that were being grown were bananas, pineapples, cocoa (used for chocolate), chirimoya (or custard fruit), and lemons.
The third and final day (we were only on a 3 day trip) was another early start. We got up at 4:30, had breakfast at 5:00 and were on our way back to Puerto Maldonado at 5:30. It took 2 hours to return but we made it back to the airport with plenty of time for our 8:50 flight back to Cusco.
Amazonas - Peru