Puerto Maldonado - An Amazonian Experience On A Budget

Friday, 16 March 2018

When planning our trip we highlighted a few things in the guidebook which we just HAD to do. Machu Picchu was a given and so was the Atacama Desert, but possibly the highest on our list was experiencing the jungle. We felt that we couldn’t travel through Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador (where half of each country is covered by the Amazon rainforest) without ever going into the jungle ourselves. Having previously picked out Iquitos in the North East of Peru as a gateway to the Amazon and somewhere we could visit, looking more closely now it seems like it could just be too expensive to get to. Being the largest city in the world unreachable by road we would have to take a £100 return flight from Lima which wouldn't fit into our budget at all. 

However, a quick look in the guidebook and we found in their Peru top 6 was an area called Madre de Dios, a gateway to the Amazon Jungle in the South. Only being a night bus away from Puno and Cusco this seemed like a much better option and so we decided, whilst on Isla del Sol, that we'd spend a day getting to the town of Puerto Maldonado in Madre de Dios, by however means possible!

We took the 10:30 boat off Isla del Sol to Copacabana where we then caught the 1:30 bus to Puno. The border crossing was super easy and we were back on the bus in no time. From Puno, we then found one company which ran buses to Puerto Maldonado overnight and so we arrived on the edge of the jungle at 7:30 am and made our way to the hostel.

Normally we like to talk about where we stayed later on in the post but in this case, we’ll put it here as it was so important to our amazing experience across our 2 days. So, we stayed at a place called Wasai Puerto Maldonado Hostel & Ecolodge which is possibly our best hostel to date. It's located right on the river bank with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge copy (perhaps the town itself’s biggest attraction). The breakfast was a buffet full of exotic fruits as well as the usual eggs, breads etc. There was a really well kept pool, also overlooking the river and perhaps most excitingly the hostel was home to lots of wild animals in and around the social areas and rooms (including sloths!)

A dorm room only cost $12us a night which seemed really reasonable for what you got, but book a few days ahead as there aren’t many beds at that price.

There were so many different tours which took you into the jungle, available to book from reception, such as boat trips, kayaking, fishing, bird watching, cayman searching, zip lining, chocolate making, camping and ayahuasca ceremonies. We chose to do a tour named ’centro cachuela’ which took us our into the jungle for some exploring with a guide.

The tour started with a short drive into secondary rainforest where we started a trek into the trees, wading through muddy waters full of who knows what (I saw a few suspicious looking spotted frogs but thankfully no snakes!)

As we pressed on our guide raised his hand as a sign for us to all shut up, because we had come across a group of monkeys launching themselves from tree to tree. We stood there for a while surrounded by monkeys and exotic birds feeling a million miles away from home but enjoying every second.

Later on in the day we climbed an observation tower to get panoramic views across the canopy, which was amazing but really tested my slight fear of heights! 

Afterwards we tried our hand at fishing with a local expert as well as ziplining across alligator infested waters. 

The rain came and we took shelter in a large hut which is normally used for ayahuasca ceremonies and lay back enjoying the peacefulness of the surroundings. The whole tour was only supposed to be in the morning but we arrived back at the hostel at around 2:30pm having had an unforgettable jungle experience. It cost $25us pp which seemed completely reasonable for everything that was included, especially considering there were only 4 of us in the group - we couldn’t recommend it more.

As for things to do in Puerto Maldonado itself, there isn’t much, apart from a dilapidated observation tower in the centre which you can climb for only 3 soles, to get views over the city. The views were good but nothing compared to those we got from within the rainforest and so if you’re going to go up it’s probably best to go before your trip into the jungle as we did, otherwise you could be a bit disappointed!

Where to eat?
The food here is great! Look no further than the Hostel’s restaurant itself or Shamans bar across the road which does a really cheap menu of the day option.

If you’re looking for an escape from the high altitudes of Cusco, Lake Titicaca or La Paz, or if you’re simply in search of some better weather, Madre de Dios is the place to go and Puerto Maldonado makes a great base to visit the surrounding jungle. 

Hope this is useful!

Thanks for reading,

Will & Melissa

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