The Amazon, without doubt, is a real bucket list destination for any nature lover. With an ecosystem like no other, it’s one of the last true wilds in the world.
When we initially planned our visit to South America, we did so with a loose plan and a number of must-see spots in mind – Patagonia, Iguazu, Galapagos and of course the Amazon.
Did it live up to our expectations though? We spent three nights at Amazon Planet putting them through their paces to find out.
Into the Wild – Activities Galore
With a range of programmes available to guests and a well-structured timetable, there’s plenty of time to make the most of your Amazon experience whilst still unwinding in this gorgeous jungle paradise. Every morning an activity heads out whilst hammock-time is scheduled following lunch until the day cools down when a number of afternoon/evening activities come into play.
Books and board games are available throughout the day and happy hour does an excellent job of helping to form new friendships amongst fellow adventurers.
Let’s face it though – nobody’s in the Amazon with the main goal of playing cards, and good thing too – there’s plenty to do!
Upon arriving, we were introduced to Alejandro, our guide for the duration of our stay. Throughout our time at Amazon Planet, he proved himself to be approachable, friendly and incredibly knowledgeable. Alejandro had an incredible knack for recognising distant birdcall and barely noticable creepy-crawlies, bringing the jungle to life for us.
Jungle Walks, Day and Night
Throughout your stay at Amazon Planet you’ll be presented with many opportunities to head into the jungle – take them all! With unique plants and incredible wildlife, you ever know what you’ll see whilst wandering the jungle. The guides are exceptionally talented at identifying the vast variety of bird calls out in the jungle and easily spot the smallest of creatures, making every jungle walk a real chance to see new treasures.
When night falls, it’s time to grab your flashlight and go hunting for creepy crawlies! Tarantulas, scorpions, frogs, caterpillars, snakes, lizards and more – there’s no shortage of beasties to catch your attention.
Alternatively, hop aboard the Amazon Planet boat on the hunt for caimans, the shy cousin of the alligator. We were fortunate enough to spot a number of these small reptiles!
Generally, the animals we spotted in the wilds near Amazon Planet were smaller than we’d imagined – it’s not the place to find anacondas, for example, and though sloths are known to hang about in the region, they’re notoriously hard to spot. Unfortunately, piranhas aren’t generally found in the fastmoving Madre de Dios River (but they can be spotted on the Tambopata programme!), nor are the pink river dolphins, but the few animals we didn’t see were soon forgotten in the buzz of excitement as we uncovered new ones.
And best of all, even if you don’t see much (though we promise, you will), Amazon Planet has a fantastic way of guaranteeing you’ll meet a bunch of local cuties – the Taricaya Ecological Reserve.
Taricaya Ecological Reserve
The only Amazon property in Peru to have their own ecological reserve, Amazon Planet really walk the talk when it comes to conversation. Attracting biologists, vets and volunteers from the world over, they work together to ensure that local animals that are in need of some extra TLC are well looked after at Taricaya.
Not only do they release populations of native animals back into the wild, but they give those that are unable to reintroduced back into their habitats a fantastic life.
For visitors, it’s a real treat knowing that you’ll have the chance to see a variety of incredible animals, regardless of whether or not you spot them in the wild, but it’s even better knowing that some of the funds from your stay go towards running such a worthwhile operation.
Looking for an adrenaline rush (beyond tarantula spotting)?
Take to the skies, or the top of the Amazonian canopy to be exact, for a birdseye view of the surrounding rainforest – just remember to check your fear of heights at the door.
Nestled into the top of an ancient kapok tree, a 90-metre long suspension bridge stretches out to the viewing platform, 45 metres above the ground below. The views out over the surrounding area are fantastic and being amongst the canopy really gives you a sense of the scale of the jungle.
Visit the Ese-Eja Tribe
A short ride upriver from Amazon Planet, lives Enrique, his wife and sometimes, his children. Enrique and his wife span two very different generations – his father lived within the Amazon, completely immersed in a traditional, native way of life, whilst his children live during the week in the city, attending school in the hopes of joining the modern workforce as well-educated individuals.
We’ve attended a number of ‘community visits’ like this one now and, to be honest, some have been incredibly worthwhile and some have, quite simply, felt uncomfortable or inauthentic. It’s fair to say that although we give these experiences a fair go, we are somewhat skeptical when approaching them – you just never know what you’re going to get and we certainly don’t like intruding where we’re not genuinely welcome.
That couldn’t have been further from the truth in this case though!
Enrique and his wife, despite the language barrier, did an amazing job of sharing their culture and customs with us, all with the biggest, most welcoming smiles. Of course, we couldn’t communicate directly (as they spoke Quechuan) but a good giggle is universal as it turns out.
Over the course of the morning, we learnt how to make a bow and arrow (and eventually got better at shooting them), watched them start a fire using traditional methods, and learnt about their local foods, medicines and clothing – all of which comes directly from the rainforest.
Best of all, we left feeling connected to the local people, which is what an experience like this should be all about.
With the sun slowly disappearing over the horizon, where better to be in the Amazon than drifting gently downriver in the current?
The team at Amazon Planet organise for inflatable kayaks and boats to be taken upstream where guests jump in and spend put in some serious relaxation time.
Hunger Pangs – Food at Amazon Planet
Though you’ll be square in the middle of the jungle, the food at Amazon Planet is anything but rustic. Banana pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast, fresh fish (caught locally) and delicious yuca fries for lunch and delicious steamed chicken and rice parcels for dinner. Every meal is fresh, locally sourced, hearty and served in multiple courses.
As we near the end of our time in Peru, we can comfortably say it was amongst the best cuisine we’ve had during our time in the country!
It’s hard to go hungry out there but should you, additional snacks are available. That’s not to mention the soft drinks and selection of beers and cocktails, all available at very reasonable prices.
A Place to Rest Your Head – Accommodation
With a busy day of jungle adventures behind you, a comfortable place to unwind is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Each bungalow at Amazon Planet is set back, away from the main dining quarters, along wooden boardwalks (perfect on those rainy Amazonian days). The rooms are relatively basic but include high-quality mattresses, private bathrooms and a space to relax – ours had both a sofa and a little balcony with views out to the river.
Every day our room was cleaned and our water bottled topped up – a service that far exceeded our expectations in the middle of the jungle!
Transport: Getting to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco
Getting to Amazon Planet from Cusco is a relatively straightforward process and with the option of both buses and flights, there’s something to suit all budgets.
If you’re looking to save some money and have plenty of time on your hands, there is now a direct bus route servicing the region. Years ago it would have taken days to reach your final destination but now the journey runs a relatively comfortable 10 hours.
The route between Cusco and Puerto Maldonado is operated by Civa and Cruz Del Sur – both of which can be booked online through BusBud. We rode with Excluciva (PEN50/USD15.40/NZD22/65 each) on the way there and Superciva (PEN40/USD12.35/NZD18.15 each) on the way back. On both occasions, we booked the 1st floor (which is their salon cama offering – similar to business class on a flight) but found the Excluciva service to be far superior. If you have the option to book on Excluciva, we’d definitely recommend spending the few extra dollars.
If you’d prefer to get to the Amazon via a more direct route then flying becomes your most efficient option. A number of airlines offer fares to the Amazon, including StarPeru, Avianca, and LATAM, but we suggest you check SkyScanner to ensure you get the best price available.
Regardless of how you choose to arrive in Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Planet will organise someone to meet you at your point of arrival and for your transport to their offices on the outskirts of town.
Amazon Planet – Your Home in the Peruvian Amazon
Our stay in the Amazon was all about getting back to nature; to lay in bed with the sound of the evening jungle rains beating down, to explore the undergrowth, hunting out unique animals and simply soaking in the sights and sounds of one of the most incredible ecosystems in the world.
Amazon Planet offers all of the personal, homely touches that you’d hope for in the jungle but would never really expect.
Sure, the lodge isn’t the pinnacle of luxury, but it does exactly what it sets out to do – provide an amazing experience with caring, knowledgeable staff and many of the comforts of home.
The Amazon was on our South American bucket list, and for good reason, it’s retaining its spot there as a real once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Only, is it once-in-a-lifetime if you’d go back in a heartbeat?
Thank you to Amazon Planet for hosting our stay for the purpose of this review. As always, all thoughts are our own. We joined them for the 3 night ‘native’ programme which we highly recommend.