The sun is barely a glimmer in the sky when we board the boat for a trip to a clay lick. More than 200 birds show up for breakfast. Parrots, parakeets and macaws will fly as much as 11 kilometres each day for one piece of mineral-rich clay.
We watch the birds chatter, socialize and pick up clay in their beaks.
It takes almost hypnotic concentration to spot the two orange-cheeked parrots and handful of dusky parakeets among the riot of blue-headed parrots.
But as we turn to head back to the lodge, I realize that this is what Alan means when he says the Amazon requires patience. Nature forces us to slow to its rhythm.
Later that day, we gather for our last excursion. We don’t have to go far. Alan leads us to the steamy green swamp near the lodge. We climb into two canoes and slowly paddle under the hanging branches along the banks. The strange brown birds called hoatzins are thrashing around in the bushes and one turtle pokes his head out of the water.
When we get to the deepest part of the swamp, Alan has us stop and pull the canoes close together. He tells us the local legend: if a body of water like this never drains, that means it has a very large anaconda living in it. I concentrate on taking photos of the birds. After another half hour of slow paddling, we make our way back.
Jim is so disappointed at not seeing a snake, he takes the canoe out for another circuit by himself.
I, meanwhile, retreat to a white cotton hammock back at the lodge. We will leave the following morning and I’m grateful for all the creatures we did see – and the ones we didn’t.
IF YOU GO
Once you arrive in Peru, venturing into the Amazon is much easier than it used to be. Sure, you can do it the hard way by travelling overland by bus, but it’s quicker to fly into Puerto Maldonado on one of the domestic airlines such as LAN or TACA.
Puerto Maldonado is a sprawling settlement with a bit of swagger. Illegal gold mining operations on the Rio Madre de Dios are sometimes run out of this frontier town. There are a few hotels, but many travellers quickly board a boat for jungle lodges on the Rio Madre de Dios.
The weather is hot and humid year-round. The hottest and rainiest months are December to March.
Where to Stay: Hacienda Concepcion The lodge is set in more than 800 hectares of rain forest and promises an authentic jungle experience. Amenities include hot rain showers, Peruvian cotton linens and guided excursions in English, Spanish or French. Meals are buffet-style and a farm provides organic fruit and vegetables . The National Geographic Society has endorsed the lodge for its efforts in conservation and education. Rooms from $280 a night. 1-855-409 1456; byinkaterra.com/hacienda-concepcion
Reserva Amazonica Adjacent to the Tambopata National Reserve, the upscale Inkaterra lodge has 35 private cabanas, each with their own screened porch and hammock. Guests can also spend the night in a treehouse room in the jungle canopy. There is also a spa on-site. Meals and excursions are a la carte. Currently a three-day “Family Expedition to the Amazon” package is on offer for $712.00 (U.S.) per adult and $316.00 per child under 12. 1-855-409-1456; inkaterra.com/en/reserva-amazonica