Heath River Wildlife Center 5d/4n

On this trip to Heath River we will find the most impressive, varied and pristine rainforest the Upper Amazon Basin has to offer. The small and cozy Heath River Wildlife Center is the only eco-lodge in the remote Rio Heath; on the wild frontier of Bolivia and Peru. Few lodges can offer this unbeatable combination of remoteness and accessibility.

 

Itinerary

Day 1
Puerto Maldonado to Heath River Wildlife Center. Our staff will welcome you at the airport in Puerto Maldonado and drive you through the city to the boat dock on the Tambopata River. Here we board a motorized canoe and head towards the nearby confluence of the mighty Madre de Dios River to the mouth of the Heath River, which is the natural border of Peru and Bolivia.

In the sanctuary of this important Amazonian tributary, we enjoy views of the diversity of the riverside environment; cliffs of red earth with over-arching forest are interspersed with thick banks of Cecropia trees and couch grass.

After brief formalities at border crossings, we take the boat through the narrow waterways for a couple of hours, enjoying the intimacy of the mysterious forest on both sides. Occasional sightings of native children splashing along the banks are interspersed with long, silent stretches where we can locate herons, hawks, cormorants, geese, orinoco, and perhaps a family of capybaras, the world’s largest rodent which can weigh up to 55Kg. After this interesting trip we arrive at our simple, but comfortable accommodation at the Heath River Wildlife Center, just in time for dinner. (Box Lunch, D)

Day 2
Heath River Wildlife Center.

Today we start very early to visit the most spectacular attraction of this area: the parrot and macaw clay lick along the river. Here these colorful birds gather to eat the clay off the cliffs on the riverbanks to neutralize certain toxins in their daily diet (poisonous berries and hallucinogenic plants). Sometimes they congregate in the hundreds, pushing and squabbling over the best place to eat. This noisy and unforgettable show can go on for two or three hours and can involve various species of parrots, parakeets, Chestnut Fronted Macaws and their larger cousins, the Red and Green Macaw. This extraordinary display occurs in only a handful of places in the Upper Amazon Basin. Our floating platform provides us with comfort and is completely hidden, so here we will enjoy a full breakfast during the display.

We make land back down the river will walk back along a section of the extensive jungle trails. Here we will find huge Chestnut, Kapok and fig trees; along with the dark strangler fig whose strategy of life is as sinister as its name implies. Our guide will point out and explain the medicinal use of dozens of plants and trees while keeping eyes and ears open for birds or one of the eight species of monkeys found in this region. We could run into a small herd of either of the two species of wild pigs that are common in this area. In order to mark their territory, they use scent glands so powerful that they can be smelt long before being seen.

After lunch, we hike along the trail leading to the point where the forest abruptly gives way to the vast plains of the Pampas of Heath. This unique land is a result of poor soil and extreme climatic cycles of droughts and floods. It is the largest intact tropical savanna in the Amazon and is the habitat of endemic birds and mammals, such as the Fork-Tailed Hummingbird and the Maned Wolf. Just beyond the edge of the forest, you can climb to an elevated platform that allows for a great view of this vast expanse of grasslands and shrubs, dotted with palm trees. The palm tree, Mauritia Flexuosa, produces nuts rich in palm oil and dry, hollow stems that provide vital food and shelter for nesting pairs of Red Bellied Macaws as well as the rare Blue and Yellow Macaws. We aim to arrive around sunset when the parrots are returning from their daily search for food to gather in this place.

We return to the lodge at night using headlamps and flashlights, and perhaps stopping here and there in total darkness to listen to the ever-changing sounds of frogs, insects, and other animals; the magic of the jungle at night. We may run into frogs the size of small rabbits, homes of hairy tarantulas or night monkeys hanging from the trees; there is a huge and unpredictable collection of nocturnal creatures that become active after night has fallen. After dinner, some guests may choose to visit the mammal lick, searching for the Lowland Tapir, the largest mammal in the jungle. (B/L/D)

Day 3
Heath River Wildlife Center. On our second full day in at the lodge, we can choose from a wide range of activities available in this diverse and unique tropical environment. Many people choose to make a second visit to the macaw clay lick or spend more time on the trails. Later we can take a canoe tour around the Cocha Guacamayo, an oxbow lake that is home to a family of giant otters. The lake is located inside the Bahuaja Sonene National Park, a short distance by boat from the lodge. We return by boat after dusk looking for caimans; a crocodile cousin that lives in the Amazon. This region is home to the Black Caiman, which is endangered, and almost always distinguishable along the river’s edge with its glowing orange eyes. (B/L/D)
Day 4

Heath River Wildlife Center. Today we will explore the extensive network of forest trails in the area to deepen our understanding of the jungle and its ways, and to search for birds or other creatures that we have not seen yet. Perhaps we will encounter the peccary or add two or three species of monkeys to our have seen lists. Our guides will point out various species of trees and plants, explaining their medicinal, commercial, or ritual use. Towards the end of our trek, we will pass by the mammal lick, which could give us a sighting of a Tapir or a Red Deer. (B/L/D)

Day 5
The Heath River Wildlife Center to Puerto Maldonado. We leave at dawn for the return journey downstream. This is the peak of wildlife activity, so keep a sharp eye on the banks of the river where we may see families of Capybaras, and perhaps be rewarded with a rare glimpse of Jaguar or Tapir swimming through the stream. We return to Peru through the Madre de Dios River and head upstream to Puerto Maldonado, where you will be transferred to the airport for flights to Cusco or Lima. (B)

Notes

A daily commercial flight from Lima (2 hours), or Cusco (30 minutes), takes you to Puerto Maldonado, a bustling frontier town and the gateway to the Tambopata National Reserve. Here our staff will meet you as you leave the airport arrivals area and will stay with you until you return to the airport to board your flight back to Cusco or Lima.

We have a 15-minute bus transfer from the airport to the Tambopata River port, and then take a motorized canoe for 2 hours down the Madre de Dios River and two hours up the Heath River to the lodge.  (Returning trip to Puerto Maldonado may take 45 additional minutes)  The boats are equipped with a 65 HP engine, a roof to protect against the sun and rain, cushioned seats, and carry a spare motor in the unlikely event that the principal engine breaks down.

For trips to the Heath River Wildlife Center please consider the following when booking your flights:

To ensure a smooth journey and allow plenty of time for the river journey please book the earliest flight available to reach Puerto Maldonado on your arrival day and the latest flight out of Puerto Maldonado on your departure day.

For all passengers staying at Heath River Wildlife Center, it is mandatory to provide us in advance a copy of their passport to ensure smooth border proceedings when crossing over into Bolivia (Heath River Wildlife Center lies on the Bolivian side of the river).

  • Reception, assistance and transfer from the Airport in Puerto Maldonado on the first day and back to the airport on the last day.
  • Overland & River transportation.
  • Accommodation in the following lodge 4 nights at Heath River Wildlife Center
  • Meals during the trip (starting with lunch on day 1 and ending with breakfast on day 4
  • Air tickets.
  • Personal expenses such as beverages, telephone call, tips, etc.
  • Extras not mentioned in the itinerary

Please note: itineraries may vary slightly to maximize wildlife viewing, depending on the reports of our local researchers and experienced naturalist guides.

The jungle is not a place to show off expensive jewelry or delicate clothes. Please arrive in clothes that you do not mind getting slightly dirty or wet, and please make sure to wear footwear that is suitable for walking on a (possibly muddy) rainforest trail.

Weather:

Rainfall in the Tambopata Reserve is around 2500 – 3500 millimeters per year, with most rainfall occurring in the rainy season months from November to April. The average temperature in the National Reserve is 28° C (82° F), with daily highs of 34° C (94° F) and nightly lows of 22° C (72° F). During the dry season, cold fronts from the South Atlantic (friajes) occur every month or so, with daily temperatures dropping as low as 16° C (59° F) and nightly temperatures to 13° C (55° F). Best season to travel: Late March through December.

Healthcare:

Yellow fever vaccinations are no longer mandatory in Tambopata, however, they are highly recommended. Please check with the CDC for current health information. Dengue Fever and Leishmaniasis are present in the region. Prevention is the best medicine: wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a hat and cover exposed areas with effective bug repellent (deet content at least 20%).

Arrival/Departures:

Fixed departure days are

  • Good binoculars and cameras (electricity available for recharging)
  • Two or three pairs of lightweight, long trousers
  • Two or three long-sleeved, lightweight shirts
  • Three or four T-shirts
  • One or two pairs of shorts (mostly for around the lodge)
  • Lightweight sweater or jacket
  • WARM coat for May-Sept cold front (10-15 degrees above freezing)
  • Raingear, telescoping small umbrella (put in check-in luggage)
  • Three or four pairs of absorbent socks
  • One pair of sneakers and/or light hiking boots
  • Sandals for around the lodge (Teva type or similar)
  • Small day pack for excursions,
  • Water bottle for hikes
  • Ziplock-type plastic bags to protect optics or other gear
  • Insect repellent (>20% DEET product, consider pre-trip Permethrin application to trousers, socks to prevent chiggers and ticks).
  • Two flashlights bright enough for use on night walks
  • Hat for sun protection (that stays on during windy boat rides)
  • Sunglasses,
  • high SFP sunscreen lotion, sunblock for lips
  • Personal toiletries and medications (hand carry medications when you are in transit to and from lodge)
  • Passport, and a photocopy of your passport (always good to have)
  • Cash (Euros, US$, or Peruvian Soles) for bar bills, tips, etc

It`s not necessary to bring all of your luggage with you to Heath River Wildlife Center.  You will enjoy your trip more if only the essentials are brought.  WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU PREPARE YOUR DAY PACK A DAY BEFORE YOUR TRIP. YOUR MAIN LUGGAGE CAN BE LEFT IN OUR STORE ROOM AT OUR OFFICE IN PUERTO MALDONADO.

Rainforest Alliance Verification: 
The Rainforest Alliance Verified mark communicates a business’ commitment to reducing its environmental impact and is awarded to tourism and certain forestry enterprises and projects that meet criteria developed (or endorsed) by the Rainforest Alliance. The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and improve livelihoods by promoting and evaluating the implementation of the most globally respected sustainability standards in a variety of fields.
We are Rainforest Alliance Verified in two of our lodges: Sandoval Lake Lodge and Cock of the Rock Lodge. This means we are committed to developing sustainable tourism!
Children’s Educational Assistance Programme – Heath River Center
The reality at the border between Peru and Bolivia is hard. A neglected school system and extremely difficult access, reduce people’s options dramatically, therefore their survival translates to a direct impact on the forest and its resource. Through our project, new criteria for the use of land and skills create a challenge to students and their families. For 2013 we have a reforestation program and also a team of Bolivian professionals working directly with the Community in order to foster environmental awareness.
Macaw Conservation Proyect – Manu Wildlife Center
Deforestation presents a serious problem for macaws as they struggle to find appropriate nesting sites to mate and to raise their chicks. This project consists of placing artificial nests in areas affected by deforestation and illegal logging, therefore, compensating the lack of natural spaces for nesting. This work has been carried out with very good results for several years. Currently, field monitoring has shown that these nests are being used repeatedly by different pairs of macaws.