Crave To Travel

Amazon Jungle: Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Lagunas, Peru

There are many ways to experience the Amazon jungle in South America. Before we started our travels, the Amazon was one of the top things we wanted to see. When I mention Amazon throughout this blog, I usually refer to the Amazon basin, not the specific river itself, though we did get the opportunity to go on the river once in Iquitos.
Cute little monos in Pacaya Samiria NR

The Amazon basin is so big, you can take a trip through it from one of several COUNTRIES. Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia all have huge areas of “selva” or jungle that tourists can go to. This is not an exhaustive list, I am sure. We skipped Colombia right away as we had researched that selva trips from there are not safe. Ecuador didn’t work out due to timing issues. But in Peru, we were finally able to realize our dream. We zeroed down on the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, as it is not far from Chachapoyas, and it is also on the way to Iquitos, a city that is connected to the rest of the world only by water and air, not land. 

Getting to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Peru

There are different ways to book a trip into this reserve – either from Iquitos or from Yurimaguas. When booking the trip from Yurimaguas, your starting point will be the tiny village of Lagunas, which is an eight hour boat ride from Yurimaguas. There are different authorized tour agencies who can take you into the selva (jungle), and all of them have a presence in Lagunas and Yurimaguas.

We booked our selva trip with Huayruru Tours. We first contacted them via email and received a quote from them before visiting their office in Yurimaguas. We also joined a few other travelers in Yuri – Sam and Law – the cousins from England and an English couple who all made excellent travel companions. We stayed overnight in Yurimaguas as the boat to Lagunas leaves early in the morning and we needed a day to get money and supplies – hammock, a lunch box, medicines (moquito repellant), snacks and other sundry items. Definitely make sure you are well stocked on toothpaste, mouthwash and other hygiene items. There is nothing available in the jungle and Lagunas is not a safe bet – you may/may not find things.

The boat from Yurimaguas to Lagunas

If possible, go to the port the previous day to confirm the boat leaves the following morning. The boat may or may not leave the following day. The ticket cost us 25 soles. Hammock is compulsory as there are no seats on the boat (or lancha, in spanish). There is plenty of space to hang hammocks in an organized manner in rows.  Get to the boat well ahead of time as you’ll find a good spot for your hammock. There are people available to help you hook up a hammer for 3 or 4 soles on the boat. Or you can do it yourself. The boat ride is typically 8-10 hours long. Restrooms on the boat use river water and are not the cleanest. They will do for an emergency, but its best to be planned. :)

Hammocks strung in the boat to Lagunas
The path to Lagunas

In Lagunas, someone from Huayruru tours will be available to pick you up and take you to the office, if you have notified ahead of time in Yurimaguas. In the office, you will get details about the jungle trip and you can negotiate a bit. This is where you will state your dietary preferences, decide how long your trip should be and this is where you will leave your bags. They put us all up in a couple of local hotels. Lagunas doesnt have too many of those! Breakfast is provided the following morning before starting the trip.

The Jungle Trip

Transportation to park entrance

We started early next morning from our hotel and the tour company will take us in a moto-taxi : a motorbike outfitted with a cart of some sort. We then stop at the park entrance and get our permits. Our canoes are loaded with food for the next 5-6 days. All our bags are back in the tour office and we are asked to bring very limited luggage. Just one or two change of clothes for the night, rain gear and medicines, mosquito repellant etc. When we went, the water level was very high – so we did almost no walking during our trip. It was all on the boat and we stopped at campsites along the way for the night. We returned to Laguna after a 5 day stop in the jungle.

The Huayruru tours office in Lagunas. Hammock space on top for travelers to wait.

Accommodation for a night in the jungle

Our transport for the next 5 days

Victoria Regis – strong enough to hold a baby without sinking!

Gear for the trip for the customers and the guides

Food – clearly, we mostly ate plantains

 Our jungle trip was a very low key experience. We were very close to the water throughout, on canoes. We ate simple food and stayed in very basic lodging. And we encountered very few tourists (<10). Our guides were fantastic and we spotted some really beautiful bird life and monkeys. Our choice of timing was a bit unfortunate, as the water level was too high to see jaguars or puma, but when we went to sleep, we heard the mono rojo (red monkey) which roars like a lion and one hot evening, we stopped by a secluded part of our campsite and dipped an old mug into the river and bathed like in an Indian movie from the 70’s. The memory was truly unforgettable!

Cost of Jungle trip: ~100 soles per person per night. Includes three meals. Vegetarian possible, though you will all get sick of the food by the end of the trip. Interestingly, everyone opted for a vegetarian meal on our trip. But some folks chose to have some freshly caught fish right from the river.