The Amazon River rises from two imposing sources: the Ucayali and the Marañón rivers. Together they comprise much of what is called the Upper Amazon Basin; it is the most bio-diverse region in the world. The Marañón itself is a swift, wide river filled with swirling currents, mysterious eddies, and floating trees. The west bank of the Marañón is a land of rolling hills and high (terra firma) forest. Unlike the surrounding area, this paradise is never subject to the roiling seasonal floods that leave much of the Amazon region submerged for several months each year. The plant diversity of these forests is simply stunning, and they teem with a wildlife array that staggers the mind: nearly 600 bird species; 130 mammals; over 200 reptiles and amphibians; 300 fishes; almost as many trees as the entire North American region; over 30 kinds of orchids; along with butterflies and other invertebrates in dazzling abundance.
Along the east bank, spanning the vast swamps and flood forests all the way to the Ucayali, lies the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, Peru’s largest Protected Natural Area (2,080,00 hectares), which is about twice the size of Yellowstone National Park in the United States. It is home to Black Caimans (the largest crocodilian in the Amazon), Pink Dolphins, Amazon Manatees, Brazilian Tapirs (largest mammal on the continent), Capybaras (world’s largest rodent), 12 species of monkeys, and the gargantuan Arapaima, one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world. Here too, are the celebrated Giant Water Lilies, large enough to support a small child. With more wildlife than Manu National Park, the Pacaya-Samiria is sheer heaven for those who want to see flora and fauna, immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of the jungle, or simply to be in the last great wilderness left on earth.
Our base of operations is a lodge on the Marañón and we are perfectly situated to take maximum advantage of both the high forests and the Pacaya-Samiria. A ten-minute walk west takes us to a trail system in high forest and it is here that we will concentrate our efforts. There will be plenty of time to hike by day and by night, searching for elusive, bizarre, and beautiful insects and small vertebrates, or admiring the plant diversity. Are you interested in birds? We will see and hear birds with no North American counterparts: Tinamous, Guans, Curassows, Potoos, Motmots, Barbets, Toucans, Woodcreepers, Antbirds, Cotingas, Manakins, Euphonias, and many others. If you prefer mammals, this forest contains Saki, Owl, Woolley, Spider, Squirrel, Capuchin, and Howler Monkeys, Pygmy Marmosets (world’s smallest primate), Amazon and Pygmy Squirrels, Tayras, Grisons, Peccaries, Agoutis, Pacas, Acoucheys, and dozens of Bat species. You will see every shade of green imaginable, and the forest contains bromeliads, lianas, cycads, Aristolochias, Anthuriums, ferns, Lycopods, and an unparalleled tree diversity. Experiencing high forest is like a walk through a botanical garden.
During night hikes one can see or hear Tropical Screech Owls, Spectacled Owls, Common and Great Potoos, Nocturnal Curassows, Giant Bamboo Rats, Owl Monkeys, frogs of every stripe, and some of the most bizarrely fascinating and colorful insects found anywhere on earth. This forest is home to the Giant Amazon Snail, the largest terrestrial gastropod in the world. They are as large as dinner plates and seeing one cruise about on the forest floor at night is an amazing thing. Our flashlights frequently illuminate sleeping birds, and sometimes we see sloths on the ground. All in all, nighttime in the forest is an entirely different experience from day hikes.
Trips into the western Pacaya-Samiria Reserve offer still other opportunities. Horned screamers, Hoatzins, Sungrebes, Jacanas, Jacamars, Puffbirds, Caciques, Oropendolas, Caracaras, Ibis, Umbrellabirds, Macaws, Amazon Parrots, and lots of herons, egrets, hawks, terns, swifts, martins, and vultures complement the forest bird species. From our boats we can easily spot sloths, iguanas, Amazon River Turtles, Pink and Gray Dolphins, and perhaps a Manatee or a Giant River Otter. The same areas by night bring caimans, Treeboas, Potoos and Nightjars, and the weird Boat-billed Heron. All of the biggies–Jaguars, Pumas, Harpy Eagles, King Vultures, Tapirs, and more–are here as well, and a sighting can thrill like nothing else in this world.
Simply relaxing at our lodge also has its rewards. Flocks of Paradise, Masked Crimson, Blue-Gray, Palm, and Silver-beaked Tanagers, Bananaquits, Kiskadees, Kingbirds, Anis, and parakeets of several species can be seen from the comfort of the lodge..
Your Amazon Trails & Rivers adventure is lead by a GreenTracks tropical biologist or other expert selected by GreenTracks. To increase your overall enjoyment, enhance your educational opportunities and help you experience the rainforest on your own terms, GreenTracks carefully select only highly qualified outdoors-people to lead your expedition. Tour leaders are all experienced tropical travelers and knowledgeable naturalists or zoologists/biologists. Besides being experts at revealing the secrets of the rainforest and rivers you're exploring, our guides are friendly and fun to be with! They are sensitive to your individual needs, being there to answer your questions as much or as little as you wish, and will help you make your jungle adventure the best it can be.