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Explorer’s Journal: Into the jungle with Julia

Have you ever wondered what a three-day stay in a Peruvian jungle eco-lodge is like? Destination Expert Julia Steck, our resident foodie, shared snippets from her Explorer’s Journal on a recent visit to the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica in Puerto Maldonado.

Hola from the Amazon jungle!

I’m Julia, a Destination Expert at SA Expeditions. I’ve been living in Peru for the past seven years, and I recently visited Puerto Maldonado, the capital city of the Madre de Dios jungle region in southeast Peru. Follow along as I explore this region, a gateway to the southern Amazon jungle, with a three-night stay at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica ecolodge.

The Reserva Amazonica has 35 private wooden cabanas set on a 17,000 hectare (42,000 acres) private ecological reserve. The cabanas vary in category and size, though my favorites are the three Suites, which are perfect for families and even have a private plunge pool – dreamy!

Day 1: A warm welcome

Getting to the lodge is relatively easy: we took a short 90-minute flight from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, where we met our guide at the airport for a 20-minute drive to the river jetty, followed by a relaxing 45-minute motorized boat ride to the lodge through a gentle jungle rainstorm.

3SA Expeditions Julia Steck Arrival to Puerto Maldonado

Boarding the motorized boat to the lodge (left) and yours truly modeling the lodge-provided umbrellas during a rainstorm. (Photos: Julia Steck)

Upon arrival to the lodge we were greeted with umbrellas, warm hand towels, and hot chocolate as we debriefed with our guide and got fitted for rubber boots (the lodge provides complimentary use of boots for all guests). After a delicious lunch, we set off from the lodge on foot for an introduction to the region’s intricate trail system and biodiversity. Before dinner we were back on the boats for a twilight river excursion where we saw our first of many jungle creatures: the caiman, a relative to the alligator.

4SA Expeditions Julia Steck Caiman Collage

A caiman as captured by my smartphone at night (left), and by a professional camera in daylight (right). (Photos: Julia Steck, Christian Declercq).

Day 2: The rich jungle canopy

Today was an early wake-up, with breakfast at 5:30 am and a 6:00 am departure toward the Tambopata National Reserve. After about an hour walk through the jungle, we boarded dugout canoes and glided through mangroves until we reached Lake Sandoval. This oxbow lake is home to many species of birds, and we saw red-bellied macaws flying overhead! The peacefulness of the lake left its impression as we returned to the lodge even more relaxed than when we arrived.

5SA Expeditions Julia Steck Oxbow Lake Excursion

The lodge’s fleet, ever at the ready (left). Serene morning waters at the Oxbow lake (right). (Photos: Julia Steck)

Our afternoon excursion was certainly a highlight of the trip, and it’s one of the excursions almost every visitor to the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica gets to experience. When we arrived at the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway, we looked up at tower standing over 125 ft. tall and began our ascent. The walkway is a network of seven hanging suspension bridges that offer a bit of adrenaline as well as privileged views of the jungle canopy. We arrived at the last tower just in time for the sunset to cast a golden hue over the treetops.

6SA Expeditions Julia Steck Inkaterra Canopy Walkway

The three stages of the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway experience: the tower climb, the suspension bridges, and the spectacular canopy sunset. (Photos: Julia Steck)

Day 3: Grubbing in the Amazon

As a food enthusiast, I was super impressed with the culinary offerings at the lodge. Breakfast is a bountiful buffet and both lunch and dinner are three-course menus of Amazon-inspired dishes. The daily rotating menus noted which dishes were vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. We couldn’t get enough of the homemade cheesy yucca bread! With plenty of free time between activities, we were grateful to take advantage of tea-time with fresh herbs from their garden along followed by a happy hour.

7SA Expeditions Julia Steck Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Cuisine

Daily menus featured local plates brimming with Amazonian flavors. (Photos: Julia Steck)

Our next excursion was in-line with the food theme: we departed in the morning to visit the Gamitana Farm and Creek. At the farm, we discovered a plethora of exotic fruits picked right from the trees that our guide skillfully peeled for us to taste. Some of our favorites were cacao, copazu, and carambola. We even tried chapo, a warm roasted plantain drink. We happily returned to our comfortable cabana for an afternoon siesta.

8SA Expeditions Julia Steck Gamitana Cacao

Cacao in varying degrees of ripeness. (Photo: Julia Steck)

Day 4: Rest and recuperation

On our final morning in the Amazon, we awoke to a symphony of bird songs. We learned that over 540 bird species have been inventoried in the grounds of the lodge. Luckily, we had the morning free to sleep in and enjoy the wonderful sounds of nature in our open-air (screened-in) cabana. We even saw a number of furry capybaras running around the gardens! Even though there were plenty of excursions each day, we also found ourselves with the perfect amount of free time. For anyone visiting the Amazon, I suggest bringing a good book or journal, and recommend signing up for a treatment at Inkaterra’s riverfront Ena Spa. One thing I especially appreciated about the Reserva Amazonica was their environmentally friendly practices, such as limited hours of electricity and ecologically friendly toiletries. Our final boat ride was carried out in exactly the opposite weather from when we arrived: a warm, sunny, and clear day to send us off to Cusco.

Thanks for following along! If you’re ready to add a stop in Puerto Maldonado on your next Machu Picchu & Amazon expedition, contact a Destination Expert to start planning . We can also arrange luxury jungle cruises in the Peruvian Amazon or add a jungle lodge visit to your next Galapagos expedition.

About the author: Julia is a New Jersey native who has been living in Peru since 2015. She’s happiest when spending time outdoors and enjoying good food.

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