Peru has lots of jungle (selva) along with its coast and mountains. If you have never been in the jungle, it is worth making a short trip to Iquitos. There are often very good flight deals from Lima to Iquitos, so if you find one, do not miss the opportunity! I started my adventure in the Peruvian jungle by visiting Iquitos – the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest and also the fifth-largest city of Peru (population of 422,055).
Interestingly, Iquitos is the largest city in the world which cannot be reached by road or train – you can only get there by boat or plane.
Our travel decisions in Iquitos
After arriving at Iquitos, we had to decide what to do. We were not prepared for this trip, because we decided to visit Peruvian selva at the last minute. We only had 6 days to discover the jungle and some of that time was spent searching for what to do and where to go. Finally, because we did not know too much about this region and because we did not want to lose more time, we decided to purchase a 3-day/2-night tour to the National Reserve of Pacaya Samiria.
Upon doing this, we made a small mistake. During the trip we realized that we could have made the trip by ourselves, spending a lot less money. We paid $200 per person for the tour, however by making the trip on your own, you would only spend around half that price! It all depends how good you are at bargaining with locals and how many people go with you. The most significant cost is that of petrol for the boat, so with more people, you spend less per person.
So for all of you who are not afraid of organizing everything on your own and who want to save quite a lot of money, do not buy a trip to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Instead, go directly to Nauta Town and hire a boat with a driver, who will take you everywhere you want for much less money than. Every company organizes the same trails, so all boat drivers know perfectly where to take tourists. And if you ask the locals, they will tell you which villages to stop at to find a local tour guide. This kind of tour guide is always the best option, as no one knows the jungle better than its residents.
Some words about the 3-day/2-night trip to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
Overall, our trip to Pacaya Reserve was perfect. We had a very nice tour guide, whose name was Marden. Moreover, as we were only 2 people, it was like having our own private tour!
On the way, we saw a lot of similar tours, full of people on boats who paid the same amount of money as we did. In those moments we felt very lucky. It was nice to have the boat all to ourselves with so much space. Additionally, we could do everything we wanted, as the guide was very flexible. When you go to the jungle, the boats you will travel with are not that big, and you spend quite a lot of time on them. So it is really a luxury to have extra space on board.
Day-by-day in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
The first day of our adventure started at 6:00 AM. We took a private bus from Iquitos to Nauta town, which took 2 hours.
In Nauta we had breakfast, Our tour guide organized our food for the following meals and our boat, which departed at around 10:30 AM on the River Maranon (Rio Marañón).
After around 3 hours, we arrived at the checkpoint of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, where we registered our entry, bought tickets and continued our trip into the reserve. On the way, we passed some small villages and finally arrived at the village where we stayed for the night. It was very charming.
15 minute away from the lodge, we found a small shop, which we visited several times to purchase essentials; including batteries and to charge our phones and cameras. The electricity in the only lasted for a few hours per day, however, this was still more than I had expected. In our particular lodge, there was no electricity, but I really enjoyed this as I could feel more connected with the jungle :-).
After lunch, we went by boat to see some other places and we made an excursion to observe the gray and pink dolphins. We also took a bath in the river. I was afraid of piranhas but finally decided to jump into the river, and it was a wonderful experience. The sun was setting, the water was warm and I had dolphins around me. It was very surreal.
During the second day, we went further into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. We observed monkeys and birds and returned after 2 hours.
It was the first time in my life that I saw piranhas and so many of them. I even caught some!
We also did some nice trekking into the forest to see important plants and birds – truly an incredible experience. I found a lot of very important plants such as cat´s claw (uncaria tomentosa, popular in Spanish as uña de gato or as Indian name vilcacora) or chuchuhuasi.
During the evening we did another small trek. I saw incredibly huge spiders – and despite me not being a big fan of them, it was interesting to see them in their natural habitat.
After what was quite a long day, we finally went to sleep in our small tents – unfortunately with a lot of special guests: insects, a lot of insects. The mosquito repellent and mosquito nets did not help. The insects really wanted to visit us and did not care that they were not welcome. I love guests, but these were exceptions.
The third day was the most interesting. We returned to the village where we slept in the first night. We did another great trip with the tour guide who was from that village.
We bought some fresh fishes from a local, which we later ate for dinner.
We also tasted coco! I bought a lot of this fruit during our trip. The coco juice was so fresh and delicious that I did not want any other beverages.
To sum up: my first experience in the jungle was very positive. I did not expect to enjoy the jungle as much as I did.
Below you will find a short video from our 3-day adventure 🙂