Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, Tambopata

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Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, Tambopata

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Review of "Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, Tambopata"

published 20/02/2015 | hiker
Member since : 28/03/2003
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Hope 2017 has started well for you...if anyone's interested in what I'm reading this days you'll find it on thebookbag website.
Excellent
Pro Location, service, experience (all of it)
Cons None - even if you don't think you'll like this kind of terrain
exceptional
Value for Money
Sightseeing
Shopping
Nightlife
Ease of getting around

"Reservations Overcome at the Inkaterra Reserva"

Boat trip to reserve

Boat trip to reserve

Getting There

If I'm honest the one part of my trip to Peru that I wasn't looking forward to, was the Amazon rainforest. Yes, I know how special it is and all that, but the facts are: I'm over-weight and unfit and don't really do hot sweaty environments and if there's an insect within a ten mile radius it will seek me out and bite me… and then… well, yes, then there will be spiders. Don't even make me think about spiders!

But it was part of the deal. And if this is the price to be paid for all the other wonderful stuff, then take a deep breath and resolve to at least look like you're having fun.

I couldn't have been more wrong. The short time spent at the Inkaterra reserve was nowhere near long enough.

No, scrap that. For this trip, it was long enough. I'd brought the wrong clothes, and it was the end of the tiring trip, but… it was long enough to know that I want to go back and spend longer. I want to go back and make it the point of the trip, not just the add-on at the end of something focussed elsewhere.

This review is being written some 18 months after the event (Feb 2015 thinking back on a trip taken in October 2013) so details may vary, but hopefully the feel of the thing, and importantly the lingering impression, will still be of value. Where I've found updated info I've included this.

I guess that like most people on their first trip to Peru, the driving purpose was Machu Picchu. We did lots of other wonderful things, but that was the focus. So anything after having hit the high spot was going to need to be very different to even keep us remotely interested.

After the high Andes, Amazonian rainforest is definitely different.

We flew from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, a flight time of about 50 minutes that takes you from our normal world into something alien. As a short flight it doesn't reach the giddy heights that have you looking down on cloudscape. You can see the ground for most of the trip. As you look down from the plane the brown trails you see below you stop being Inca footpaths and become muddy waterways, the silty rivers after the very first rains of the approaching wet season. Then you see the boundary of the forest. Naturally you would expect forest to thin out, but it doesn't, it's a sharp hard line…evidence of the impact of man.

The Inkaterra reps met us at the airport in Maldonado and a short open-sided bus ride took us to their admin base. Here we went through a number of formalities, checking in, passport checks and the like. More importantly we got our first taste of the damp heat, after the high & dry of the hills.

We also got to unpack and repack. We'd organised stuff to cope with flight regulations, but most of our luggage would be left in store here. There's only one way into the reserve and it's by boat and your luggage allowance is strictly controlled.

There was a little time to rehydrate, to wander around the butterfly farm, to get a feel for the fact that everything was now very different.

Then we were driven down to the river and boarded the motor canoe to head out to the reserve. It's a small boat, seating maybe 20 people along benches that back you onto the water, so everyone will end up sitting twisted in the seat to look ahead, to look behind, to the side in front or the side behind. It's almost certainly not the most comfortable river-going vessel you'll ever travel in, and you absolutely certainly won't care.

The 7 kilometre trip out to the reserve takes about thirty to forty-five minutes. Half-to-three-quarters of an hour of you slowly realising just how dense the forest can be just minutes out of a really urban space. This really is where worlds collide. If anything makes you realise just how special the rainforest is and how magnificent and how fragile, it should be this slow journey across the boundary.

Where Is There?

I should pause at this point to talk about where "there" actually is….

The Inkaterra Reserva sits on the banks of the Madre de Dios river in southern Peru, adjacent to the Tambopata National Reserve.

The lodge has a decidedly, almost clichéd, jungle-lodge feel to it. Whilst there may be the occasional world-weary traveller out there who find this a bit "de trop" – I loved it. After the modernism of El Mapi in Aguas Calientas (now sadly more commonly known as Machu Picchu Pueblo) ~ which incidentally is run by the same company ~ and the various Spanish-feel places of the rest of the trip, this was a sudden shift and one that absolutely fits with the environment.

What we tend to forget about clichés is that they only become such because they emanate from the repetition of truths. The design and construction of the site is founded on best eco-principles. Roofs are the shape they are to encourage rain run-off. Interiors are designed to capture cool, deter bugs, and limit the need for artificial light.

Most of the rooms are in what the website calls Ese’ Eja-style wooden cabañas topped by a high thatched-palm roof. The higher up the price range you go, the larger the cabin and of course the more luxurious the facilities.

My recollection is that our rooms were in the main building, but this doesn't quite seem to work with the info on the website, so maybe I've lost orientation somewhere along the line.

Certainly the main building houses the restaurant/bar and the admin for the complex.

The complex sits in a very small area of manicured garden, and gives immediately onto the forest and the river. This makes for ease of maintenance, retention of the feel of being right on the edge of civilisation but still feeling secure and pampered.

The Room

Whether in the main building or an adjacent structure, my room was on the first floor. Opening off a screened balcony, it was all plain-white walls and simply wooden fixtures.

A floor of polished wood (and a request not to wear boots indoors), held two single beds, and a couple of truly rustic tables. There were electric lights for when the generator was running and a candle for when it wasn't. The latticed window served well at letting in a reasonable amount of light while keeping out a reasonable about of heat. Simple cotton covers were sufficient for humid night cover. With double-net screening between the outside world and the room, no overbed nets were provided here… and to be fair they weren't needed. I had no biting insects in the room. Suffered a little from sitting bare-armed it the bar one evening, but I should have known better.

The very high white-painted ceiling gives what's a very basic room an air of space & light that it would otherwise lack.

The ensuite is a wooden shack in the corner. The rustic feel of that works especially well because once you get inside it, you're into western-style, all mod cons plumbing. If you want a hot shower, you're stuck with the limits of the hot water generation – but trust me, you'll settle for the tepid one two or three times a day if (like me) you're really unused to hot & humid.

Towelling robes and slippers are provided. And the toiletries were divine.

Back in the bedroom, the other joy of the power being on was that the fan worked. An unexpected joy of intermittent power was that you simply left the fan running at night when you went to bed, it cut out when everything else did (sensibly but not unrealistically early) and would kick in about five minutes after the bird song (I use the expression loosely) has woken you up in the early hours.

You're on jungle time here, early nights and early mornings are the order of the day.

It took no getting used to at all.

The Experience, Food & Hospitality

This is a resort not a hotel, so everything is part of the experience. You're in the middle of nowhere, so if you don't like being a captive audience, this won't be your thing. But then if you don't get that, don't go. A number of excursions will be included in your price, and so will meals. Drinks will be extra – and if they're making a bit of a mark-up at the bar, be honest, getting the stuff here isn't exactly easy. Once you've seen the lads hauling the rickshaw carts laden with gallons of water, you'll get the idea. In my head anything which makes this a bed job-opportunity than hacking down a bit more forest and trying to farm, is probably a good thing.

And yes, I do get that farming is more intellectually challenging and more satisfying than hauling the cart, but those with the wherewithal to do so gain opportunities as guides and research-project workers.

Off the boat we walked up to the central cabin and were met in the lounge with hot towels and iced tea, while the formalities were gone through.

Keys were rather casually left in a basket on the counter for us to help ourselves, but to be fair the only stuff worth stealing anyone here will have will be their camera kit, and they're likely to have that to hand at all times for hope of use. The keys themselves are attached to large chunks of wood carved into animal likenesses, but the numbering is a bit "which way up? Is this a 6 or a 9?" haphazard. In the end it does all seem to work, somehow.

Once we'd checked in it was time for lunch. It does seem to me that the people who run the place are very clear that guests have to take whatever they are given, so what they are given is a wonderful choice. My notes say simply: salads, beans, rice, skewered steak, potatoesbest meal yet.

I have no notes from breakfasts or dinners. I remember lots of fresh fruit at the former, and a semi-formal approach to the latter. I do remember that we ate well and being back down from altitude were willing to drink a little as well. A free pisco sour to start each evening seems to be the norm, and unusually for cocktails, it's not a bad drink to stay on during dinner. I don't remember anything more exotic being requested other than the occasional beer.

The dining room is large, but with tables that will be shunted and arranged to accommodate the size of parties. There are lots of candles and kerosene lamps and the lighting is kept low enough to be able to see out into the night forest outside.

My overriding memory of it is, simply, that it was lovely. Not a word often used these days, but I can't think of a better one. It's the kind of place that imbues you with a sense of slowing down and being content.

And that was the feeling that surprised me.

~

After lunch – and in recognition that we're all now breathing a bit easier (being back below 1,000 metres) – we're taken on an introduction walk around the lodge site itself. This is partly an orienteering walk, but is also an introduction to the research and conservation work going on in the area.Whilst owning that I really should write up my notes more quickly, I simply share what I wrote of that walk:
  • Russet tinted monkeys (ruddy?) – including the joy of a mother with her baby
  • Fondoroles (???) – yellowish parrot-type device
  • Blue-fronted jacamar
  • Agouti
  • The wonderful walking fig…

There's also a rusting old boat that's been abandoned up a creek, now silted up and slowly being buried. I hear echoes of The African Queen in the story our guide tells us and at the same time have visions of future archaeologists finding a rusted outline in the ground and posing all sorts of ritual burial theories.It's only a very short walk, but it's enough to convince me that this part of the trip that I was – not exactly dreading , but honestly feeling like I'd simply endure – would actually turn out to be yet one more highlight.

Before we settled in to dinner, the final treat of the day would be a dusk-ride to go caiman hunting. A short ride along the river rewarded us with fishing bats as well as a few sightings of dwarf caiman.

Other "Inclusives" on our trip were a full day outing to Sandoval Lake and a canopy walk (more on those elsewhere) and the one that I'm afraid I did dip out of: a late-night bug-hunt walk. I was fully prepared to accept I'd have to deal with Spiders in the jungle, but actually going out looking for them was, I'm ashamed to say, a step too far.

I'm told they found them, so mozzie-bites notwithstanding I'm glad I opted for another cocktail and some convivial company. Maybe next time!

About Inkaterra

Inkaterra have been working in sustainable tourism in Peru for nearly 40 years. They were one of the first to be accredited as being carbon neutral. They have 42,000 acres of rainforest where they've been monitoring "carbon sequestration" in conjunction with Leeds University since 1989.

My experience is that they run a slick and friendly service that (on this site at least) is well geared up to take groups, singles, and families. Our pre- and de-brief sessions where held in the 'school-room' which gives a clear indication that they're ready and will to engage curious minds of all ages. I wouldn't recommend taking a tiny tot, but I think that any child of junior school age and above would have a fabulous time.
Costs

I can't analyse out what I paid for this part of the trip. I travelled with Ramblers Worldwide and it's part of their Five Faces of Peru holiday.

From Inkaterra's own website: prices for 2015 range from $541 to $1146 for a 3-day, 2-night programme. See the website (http://www.inkaterra.com/inkaterra/reserva-amazonica/ ) to find out exactly what's included for that.

Note also that unlike many firms, they're up-front about the fact that these are "Rack Rates".

Received wisdom is that no-one pays the rack rate for anything these days – so do talk to them about exactly what you want and see if they'll do a deal accordingly… especially if you think you might want to stay longer. I can imagine this as a great retreat for a writer, or anyone else who just wants to get right away from everything.

~

I loved it and it's definitely on my ever-expanding must-go-back list.

~

© Lesley Mason
15.2.15


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Comments on this review

  • euphie published 21/03/2015
    e :o)
  • catsholiday published 22/02/2015
    We stayed here and I reviewed it here :http://travel.ciao.co.uk/Inkaterra_Reserva_Amazonica__7043794 Fabulous place
  • Scotlass712 published 22/02/2015
    Back with the "E" as promised :-)
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Product Information : Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, Tambopata

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Listed on Ciao since: 15/02/2015