Lake Sandoval, Tambopata Reserve

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Lake Sandoval, Tambopata Reserve

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Review of "Lake Sandoval, Tambopata Reserve"

published 22/02/2015 | hiker
Member since : 28/03/2003
Reviews : 797
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About me :
Just a flying visit...hope all is well with all my Ciao buddies.
Pro A simply gorgeous part of the planet
Cons None
very helpful
Value for Money
Ease of getting around

"Lake Surface to Tree Tops"

Information board, Lake Sandoval, Tambopata Reserve

Information board, Lake Sandoval, Tambopata Reserve

Sandoval is an oxbow lake in the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru. It's an off-cut remnant from the meanders of the Rio Madre de Dios in south western Peru, close to the Bolivian border.

It's really hard to find any objective information to give you about the lake, because you can trawl through the internet search for pages and pages, and everything you find will be advert for going to visit. There are so many of them… so many people who want to take you to Sandoval, that it'd be easy to be put off going. It's got to be the local tourist trap, right?

Well, actually, probably, yes. It almost certainly is. You're not likely to fly into Puerto Maldonado, without you're heading to one of the nearby lodges (and there aren't that many of them) which will almost certainly be intent on getting you out onto the Lake.

All I can really say is: just go with the programme. You'll love it.

We travelled out from Inkaterra's Reserva Amazonica Lodge about ten minutes up-stream by motor canoe. On arrival at the Reserve, there are a few formalities to go through. Access is restricted to ensure limited impact on the eco-systems. While our local guides were dealing with the paperwork, we browsed the information boards that gave us an idea of what we might expect to see.

Then it was a slow walk to the lakeside, three kilometres through the buffer zone that separates the reserve proper for the river. It's a wide track, frequented by locals plying their trade with in-reserve lodges, mostly fit young men hauling carts of water or other goods. The forest is close in on either side though, and the reason for the walk being slow, is that the whole experience is a matter of trying to pretend to the local wild-life that you're not really there.

That pretence becomes easier once you've reached your destination and clambered aboard the low-lying dug-out that will float you out onto the lake. Our cheerful guide paddled easily away from the jetty and gave us the only instruction we'd need for the next couple of hours

"Please stay seated. Please keep your hands out of the water, we'd like you take them home again. I will use the air-force location system: 12 o'clock is directly ahead of you, 6 o'clock behind, 3 to the right, 9 to the left" I was surprised to see a few puzzled looks at what I thought was something every school-kid was taught before they had to start spotting Spitfires in war movies – but it wasn't long before a whispered 2 o'clock high had us all peering into the trees in the same direction.

This is wildlife spotting for the impatient. Every couple of minutes or so, our attention was drawn to something amazing.

Somewhere along the line we stopped for a hand-out of water and Toni (I want to call him Toni but I've no idea whether I've just made that up or remembered it) passed down snacks of cereal bars and apples. All the time telling us snippets of science and anecdotes of visits. Immediately breaking off when there was anything to see.

It's a slow drift around a fairly well-defined route. The oar will get passed down the boat at some point, and you'll be asked to row for a stretch, but just for the fun of it.

Don't be under any illusion that you'll have the lake to yourself, but there'll be few enough out there for you not to worry about anyone else – and the lake looks somewhat bigger in the water than it does on the map.

What will you see? I don't know, I have incomprehensible notes and photos that do or don't match up with them. You can check out some of the pictures for yourself – I was most delighted with the leaf-cutter ants and the short-nosed(?) bats: tiny wee things crawling down a tree-trunk.

My notes tell also of red howler monkeys, white(?) capuchins, striated heron, green ibis, some unidentified eagle, Hoatzin, red capuchin, swifts…

… We saw a tiny black caiman under the trees and a massive one out in the lake – large enough for our guides to get excited and start calling to each other.

We didn't see otters or piranha, electric eel or freshwater snake – although all are said to live in this water.

There was a cormorant fishing. Parrots or parakeets screeched in the trees. Macaws flew past.

Bejewelled butterflies languished in the sun-washed path as we made our way back landside from boat to base.


The day was not yet over though. From the sedate drifting on the water, we were going to be pushed into challenging our sense of what we could do. Some of us anyway.

Next up was the canopy walk. My advice to anyone scared of heights is that first coined by Susan Jeffers: feel the fear and do it anyway. You will be led around by guides who are infinitely patient with those who don't know they're afraid of heights until they're half-way across a swaying vibrating metal walkway nonchalantly slung between a couple of tree trunks.

They've not dropped a passenger yet, they'll tell you. The bridges are high-sided and generally they only allow one person at a time on them, and they restrict the numbers waiting at the top of the towers as well. This is a well organised, safety-conscious operation.

And it is amazing!

We saw some unexpected flowers, and a monkey-mother carrying her babies. But mostly we saw trees in a whole different way. You get a real fee for the power of them way up here eighty to a hundred feet of the ground, on walkways that move with them.

Just another day in the rainforest – just a short taste of how every day will be different. And an understanding of why the guides love their jobs so much.


I travelled in October 2014 with Ramblers Worldwide on their Five Faces of Peru trip which involved a couple of nights at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Lodge (reviewed elsewhere on this site). The Sandoval trip was an inclusive excursion from the lodge and a variant on it seems to be run from most of the lodges in the area. The cost will often be inclusive.

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Comments on this review

  • euphie published 23/03/2015
    e :o)
  • mumsymary published 27/02/2015
    Wonderful experience
  • mumsymary published 27/02/2015
    Wonderful experience
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Product Information : Lake Sandoval, Tambopata Reserve

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Listed on Ciao since: 18/02/2015