Another of the signature moments of the trip was the excursion into rainforest of the Peruvian Amazon. We flew to Puerto Maldonado via LAN Airlines from Lima arriving in the midst of a rainstorm which delayed our arrival. We were bused to the offices of InkaNatura Travel, the local eco-tour company that would be providing guiding services for our group for the next 3 days. Due to the inaccessibility and remoteness of our lodging, we unpacked our main luggage and repacked only what we would need into smaller duffel bags. Since we arrived at the beginning of the rainy season, we also got to pick out our rubber boots that we would be needing to walk on some of the trails. We then traveled 30 minutes by motorized canoe down the Madre de Dios River passing other boats, river debris and other eco-lodges to the access point that leads to the Tambopata National Reserve and Sandoval Lake Lodge.
After registering at the Tambopata National Reserve office, we walked for 3.2 km on a rainforest trail to the water access point that leads to Lake Sandoval. The walk was easy on the flat, sometimes muddy trail and probably would have been easier if I wasn’t carrying 13kg of camera gear on my back but it was well worth bringing it in. Our duffel bags were loaded onto rickshaws and transported in by staff along with other lodge supplies. At the end of our walk, we boarded canoes and made our way through a palm-tree lined channel and finally onto Lake Sandoval and the lodge.
Lake Sandoval lodge is uniquely located on the banks of Lake Sandoval, a protected oxbow lake deep within the Tambopata National Reserve and boasts potential wildlife viewing experiences like no other and the billing held true. Early the next morning, we joined our guide, Javier, to see the palm tree licks that were frequented by a variety of macaw and parrot species. Macaws and parrots regularly consume a variety of foods including seeds, nuts, fruits, palm fruits, leaves, flowers, and stems and that some of these foods may be toxic. It is believed that the chemical composition of clay neutralizes that toxicity. In other parts of the Western Amazon, parrots visit exposed river banks and eat or ‘lick’ the clay. However, in the immediate area surrounding Lake Sandoval, there are not any exposed clay deposits so the parrots eat dying and decaying Mauritia Palm trees. It is thought that Mauritia Palm trees contain ingredients including sodium which assist parrots in a way similar to the river clay licks. The potential for witnessing parrots at a palm tree lick starts around 6:30 and lasts for only 30-60 minutes and then it is over. We were lucky to see White-bellied Parrots, Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Scarlet Macaws and Blue & Yellow Macaws. Photography was quite difficult since most of the parrots were back-lit but I am still pretty pleased with the experience.
On our way back to the lodge, we found a couple of other interesting birds including the Horned Screamer, White-winged Swallow and the Long-billed Woodcreeper.
One last bird to close out this post is the very friendly and cooperative Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher. During our downtime in between tours and meals, I was setup with my camera at a flowering bush which was frequented by 3 different types of hummingbirds. You will see those images in a future post. While I was setup, the Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher landed within 20 feet of where I was located. It promptly hunted, posed and generally acted indifferent to my presence. It was so cooperative that I was was able to get the attention of others in the group so that almost everyone was able to get great looks and photos of this very pretty little flycatcher.