6 DAY - SANDOVAL LAKE AND MACAW CLAY LICK

Program starts Mondays and Thursdays

6 Days

On this journey to the Heath River and then Lake Sandoval we encounter the best pristine rainforest and the most comfortable wilderness lodges that the Upper Amazon Basin has to offer – an unbeatable combination of remoteness, and yet reachable distance by river from an airport with scheduled passenger-jet flights.

Our two lodges lie within the Tambopata-Madidi reserve areas of Peru and Bolivia. Bolivia’s Madidi National Park totals 18,900 sq. km., while the adjacent reserves of Tambopata-Candamo and Bahuaja-Sonene across the border in Peru add up to more than 13,700 sq. km. Taken together, they form the second largest, and by far the most biologically diverse nature conservation area in all of South America.

At the Heath River Wildlife Center we witness one of nature’s most spectacular displays -- a tumultuous gathering of brightly-colored macaws and parrots at the Heath River macaw claylick. The lodge offers an array of options too numerous and varied to be taken on one visit.  We may spot wildlife along the lightly-used trails of this remote forest, and perhaps stake out one of the lodge’s mammal clay licks, in hopes of sighting an elusive Tapir, the Amazon’s largest mammal. We walk through the astonishing change of environments to be experienced on the short journey from the river to the Pampas del Heath – an excursion that also takes in a rare nesting site of the Red-bellied and Blue-and-yellow Macaws.

At Lake Sandoval we enjoy a more relaxing experience, with some light trail walking and a lot of easy boating around the forested fringes of this extraordinarily beautiful and wildlife-rich lake. Sandoval is a large body of water that is home to a family of Giant Otters, and we should spot them during our stay, along with numerous troupes of monkeys and a huge variety of colorful birds.

NOTE: Tour operates every Monday and Thursday. This tour may be booked on any other day of the week by paying a supplement starting at US$335 per person on top of the fixed tour price.On this journey to the Heath River and then Lake Sandoval we encounter the best pristine rainforest and the most comfortable wilderness lodges that the Upper Amazon Basin has to offer – an unbeatable combination of remoteness, and yet reachable distance by river from an airport with scheduled passenger-jet flights.

Our two lodges lie within the Tambopata-Madidi reserve areas of Peru and Bolivia. Bolivia’s Madidi National Park totals 18,900 sq. km., while the adjacent reserves of Tambopata-Candamo and Bahuaja-Sonene across the border in Peru add up to more than 13,700 sq. km. Taken together, they form the second largest, and by far the most biologically diverse nature conservation area in all of South America.

At the Heath River Wildlife Center we witness one of nature’s most spectacular displays -- a tumultuous gathering of brightly-colored macaws and parrots at the Heath River macaw claylick. The lodge offers an array of options too numerous and varied to be taken on one visit.  We may spot wildlife along the lightly-used trails of this remote forest, and perhaps stake out one of the lodge’s mammal clay licks, in hopes of sighting an elusive Tapir, the Amazon’s largest mammal. We walk through the astonishing change of environments to be experienced on the short journey from the river to the Pampas del Heath – an excursion that also takes in a rare nesting site of the Red-bellied and Blue-and-yellow Macaws.

At Lake Sandoval we enjoy a more relaxing experience, with some light trail walking and a lot of easy boating around the forested fringes of this extraordinarily beautiful and wildlife-rich lake. Sandoval is a large body of water that is home to a family of Giant Otters, and we should spot them during our stay, along with numerous troupes of monkeys and a huge variety of colorful birds.

NOTE: Tour operates every Monday and Thursday. This tour may be booked on any other day of the week by paying a supplement starting at US$335 per person on top of the fixed tour price.

Day 1

Puerto Maldonado - Heath River Wildlife Center

Our staff welcome you at Puerto Maldonado airport and we drive through this bustling Upper Amazon Basin city to the Tambopata River boat dock. Here we board a powerful motorized dugout canoe and set off to the nearby confluence of the mighty Madre de Dios River, where we head downstream for approximately three hours to the Peru-Bolivia border at the mouth of the remote Heath River. Even beneath the vast sky of this major Amazon tributary we glimpse the diversity of the riverine environment, with its forest-capped red-earth cliffs, alternating with low banks thick with Cecropia trees and giant grasses.

Now, after brief frontier-crossing formalities, we motor for about two more hours up narrower and wilder waters, suddenly enjoying the intimacy of mysterious forest looming close on either side. Occasional views of native villages and children splashing by the banks, are interspersed with long, quiet stretches where we may spot herons, hawks, cormorants, Orinoco Geese, and perhaps a family of Capybaras -- the world’s largest rodent, weighing up to 55kg., and looking like an enormous Guinea Pig. We reach our simple, charming and comfortable quarters at the Heath River Wildlife Center in time for dinner.

(Please note that the lodge is located on the Bolivian shore of the Heath River, so passports are required to clear Bolivian passport control.)

D

Day 2

Heath River Wildlife Center

Today we make an early start to visit the lodge’s most spectacular feature: the Heath River parrot and macaw lick. Here these colorful birds gather to eat a type of clay from the cliff-like river banks that neutralizes certain toxins in their diet. They congregate early each morning, sometimes by the hundreds, jostling and squabbling over the best eating spots on the clay lick. This noisy and unforgettable show can go on for two or three hours, and may begin with up to five species of parrot and two varieties of parakeet, followed by Chestnut-fronted Macaws and their larger, more boisterous cousins, the Red-and-green Macaws. This extraordinary wildlife display occurs at only a handful of sites in the Upper Amazon Basin, and nowhere else on the planet.

Our floating hide platform provides comfort and complete concealment, so that we can eat a full breakfast here during pauses in the bankside spectacle.

On our return we can land partway downriver and walk back along a section of the lodge’s extensive network of forest trails. We encounter numerous gigantic Brazil-nut, kapok and fig trees, along with the scary strangler fig, whose life is strangely as sinister as its name suggests. Our guide will point out and explain the medicinal and commercial uses of dozens of plants and trees, while we keep our eyes and ears open for birds, or one of the eight species of monkeys found in this region. We might come upon a small herd of White-lipped or Collared peccary – two kinds of wild pig that are quite common in this area. For purposes of territorial marking they deploy a “stink gland” so potent that they are often smelled long before they are seen.

After lunch we typically hike along a major trail to a point where the forest abruptly gives way to the spacious plains of the Pampas del Heath, part of Bolivia’s Madidi National Park. This unique environment -- the result of very poor soils, plus an extreme seasonal cycle of dryness and flooding -- is the largest remaining undisturbed tropical savannah in the Amazon, and is home to rare endemic birds and mammals, such as the Swallow-tailed Hummingbird and the highly endangered Maned Wolf. Shortly beyond the edge of the forest we can climb a raised platform that allows us a grand view of this vast expanse of grassland and shrub, studded with palm trees.

We can continue another hour or so to a swampy area thick with Mauritia flexuosa palm trees, whose oil-rich palm nuts and hollowed-out dead palms provide vitally important food and shelter for nesting pairs of Red-bellied and increasingly rare Blue-and-yellow macaws. We aim to arrive toward dusk, when the macaws are returning from their day’s foraging to congregate in this very special breeding site.

We return to the lodge by night, using our flashlights, and perhaps pausing here and there in total darkness, to listen to the ever-changing orchestra of animals, frogs and insects, and to experience the magic of the night-time rainforest. We may come upon such bizarre nocturnal creatures as camouflaged frogs disguised as dead leaves, toads the size of rabbits, hairy tarantulas peering out of their dirt holes, night monkeys lurking among the tree  branches, and a teemingly unpredictable array of other nightlife.

After dinner some guests may choose to visit one of our mammal lick hides, in hopes of seeing a Lowland Tapir, the rainforest’s largest mammal. Hardy adventurers can choose to camp here with their guide, in order to experience a full night in the heart of the rainforest and increase their chances of a major wildlife sighting.

B
L
D

Day 3

Heath River Wildlife Center

Our second full day at the lodge allows us to choose from a wide range of activities available in this exceptionally diverse tropical environment. Many people choose to make a second visit to the macaw clay lick. Later we can take a canoe tour around Cocha Moa, an oxbow lake that lies a short way downstream from the lodge.

The reeds, fallen trees and forested shoreline of this lake teem with birds and other wildlife. Red Howler Monkeys may peer at us through the branches of the giant trees above us, while herons lie in wait among the fallen trees, cormorant-like Anhingas watch from the forest branches, and an Osprey may circle overhead. Flocks of brilliant Red-capped Cardinals gather on dead branches, and a colorful, primitive bird, the Hoatzin, hops its ungainly way along the swampy water’s edge.

After dinner we can board our canoe once more, for an evening of spotting for caiman, the Amazonian cousin of the alligator. This region is home to the endangered black caiman, and we nearly always pick out a few with our powerful spotlight as we patrol the river.

B
L
D

Day 4

Heath River Wildlife Center to Sandoval Lake Lodge

We leave at dawn for the return trip downstream. This is peak hour for wildlife so we keep a sharp eye on the riverbanks, often spotting families of Capybara, and perhaps being rewarded with a rare jaguar sighting, or a tapir swimming across the current. We reach the Madre de Dios River, re-enter Peru, and set off upstream for the boat landing near Lake Sandoval Lake Lodge.

We walk the 3km. trail to the narrow boat channel through the flooded palm forest that leads to the open waters of peaceful Lake Sandoval, stopping as we go to spot birds and butterflies. As our crew paddle us across to the lodge (motors are prohibited here), we may see the lake’s surface boken by a massive Paiche – an Amazon fish that can reach 100kg. Or perhaps we will hear the strange and haunting calls, and see the heads bobbing above the lake’s surface, that will signal our first acquaintance with Pteronura brasiliensis, the Amazonian Giant Otter.

After lunch at the lodge and a brief rest to avoid the early afternoon heat, we once again set off by boat or catamaran to explore the entire west end of the lake. Here, in the flooded palm forest we drift to the sounds of hundreds of Red-Bellied and Blue-and-yellow Macaws as they return to the palm forest for the night. Our viewpoint from the canoe often allows closer and more extended encounters with birds and mammals than on a typical forest trail hike, and we may witness intimate feeding and mating behavior. On Lake Sandoval monkeys, in particular, have almost lost their fear of humans.

We return to the lodge around nightfall for dinner.  After dinner we take to the boats once more, in search of black caimans, which today are extremely rare in the Amazon, but still common in this protected lake. They grow up to 4m in length, and compete with the Giant Otters for their share of the fishing. On clear nights we take our boat further out into the lake to get an unimpeded view of the vast southern sky, with its unfamiliar constellations and superb vistas of the Milky Way.

B
L
D

Day 5

Sandoval Lake Lodge

We rise early to tour the lake shore by canoe once more, in quest of new wildlife sightings. Our viewpoint from the canoe often allows closer and more extended encounters with birds and mammals than on a typical forest trail hike, and we may witness intimate feeding and mating behavior. On Lake Sandoval monkeys, in particular, have almost lost their fear of humans.

We return to the lodge for breakfast and rest for a while, perhaps enjoying the panoramic view from our high point on the lake shore, before setting out to walk a special circuit where we investigate and learn the uses of dozens of Amazonian medicinal plants. We will see palmicho, the plant that supplies the roof-thatch material for our lodges, Candlestick Ginger for anti-inflammatory medicine, the historically important Chinchona, or Quinine tree, whose bark has saved countless thousands from the throes of malaria, and numerous other vital plants. This route includes both wild forest and a small botanical garden dedicated to cultivation of some of these species.

After the mid-day heat subsides we canoe our way around the shore to the western end of the lake, and encounter the flooded palm swamps where macaws make their home and monkeys abound. As we make our way back to the lodge later, it is getting dark and we can use our flashlights to spot the brilliant red eyes of caimans and get close to them as they lurk along the bushy shoreline with their snouts just above water.

B
L
D

Day 6

Sandoval Lake Lodge to Puerto Maldonado

After a dawn breakfast we take a final, short paddle along the palm swamps of the west end of the lake in search of the resident Giant Otter family. From here, on clear mornings, we will see a glorious sunrise and its reflection in the open waters of the lake. Returning once more down the trail to the Madre de Dios River, we return to the Puerto Maldonado Airport as our Amazon adventure finishes.

B

Included:

All accommodation, meals, transfers, and excursions as described in the itinerary.

Not Included:

*Airfare to/from Puerto Maldonado.
*Portage to guides.

Notes:

*Prices above reflect the fixed departures every Monday or Thursday.
*Tour may operate on any other day of the week by paying a supplement starting at US$355 per person.
*Minimum of two passengers for tour to operate.

Indicative Tour Cost

Per person in USD

*** Sandoval Lake Lodge Share Twin $753.00

*** Sandoval Lake Lodge Single $1,505.00

MEALS:

B.  Breakfast included
L.  Lunch included
D.  Dinner included

Why Choose BFirst Travel?

BFirst Travel, a wholly owned Australian tour company, ATAS/AFTA accredited and helloworld affiliate. For the past 15 years we have specialised exclusively in Latin America. We know a few parts of the world, and we know them well. Our been there, done that expertise elevates your experience beyond the ordinary, to the level of adventure with comfort! "Travel is all about the experience, which starts with your travel preparations”.

Recent Tweets

Heavy rains in Northern Chile have affected some cities, we hereby inform you on the situation: In San Pedro de... http://t.co/6tDFzEkECL
BFirst Travel (2 years ago)
This new TAP Air Portugal safety video demonstration celebrates the airline's 70's... http://t.co/2FZc6Wr7Cf
BFirst Travel (2 years ago)
Congratulations to Carnaval winners this year: Rio de Janeiro: Beija Flor Samba school Sao Paulo: Vai Vai Samba School
BFirst Travel (2 years ago)
We wish our clients and friends a nice weekend!
BFirst Travel (2 years ago)
We, at BFirst Travel, wish all our customers, friends and family a Happy Australia Day!
BFirst Travel (2 years ago)
If you are thinking or planning a trip to South America this weekend, check this exciting short video about Lima.... http://t.co/tVleejhf4p
BFirst Travel (2 years ago)
2015 - the year of innovation! We are living in the time of rethinking, redesigning and innovation. 2015 arrived... http://t.co/8I8YkV8VhZ
BFirst Travel (2 years ago)

Flickr Stream