Birding Without Borders

Day 63: The Ecolodges of Southeastern Peru

The little luxuries even big-time birders can't turn down.

March 4, 2015, Pousada Amazonas, Peru — According to Gunnar, there are nearly 40 lodges in this part of southeast Peru which cater to nature lovers. This morning we visited a new one that hasn’t even been built yet, called Saona Lodge, just outside the city of Puerto Maldonado. It is being constructed on a 300-hectare patch of good forest along the Tambopata River by a family of 20 siblings (no kidding, twenty!), and, so far, consists of a block of half-made cabins and an open platform which will be the dining area. Gunnar, Glenn, and I spent several hours along some of the property’s trails today. The big highlight was a Rufous-headed Woodpecker, a rare Amazonian resident and a specialty of Saona—cool bird!

At lunch, Gunnar expounded a bit on his ideas about ecolodges, which I found interesting. Most of the lodges around here, he said, are empty right now—no surprise, because it’s the rainy season. But some are still busy, and those are the high-end ones: The places with hot showers, wifi, comfortable rooms, specialized birding guides, canopy towers, and all the amenities. In short, Gunnar said, ecolodges should aim high, because foreign visitors are willing to pay for it (one of Brazil’s most well-known lodges apparently charges US$400/night, which is craziness). The most luxurious lodges tend to have the highest occupancy.

I won’t stay in many such places this year, but Gunnar finagled one night for us today at Pousada Amazonas, one of the most inclusive nature lodges in southeast Peru. After lunch, we took a boat 45 minutes up the Tambopata River to reach Amazonas. It’s certainly a different experience to be handed a cool, wet towel as you arrive (to wipe off sweat) and to have an on-site massage room and dance classes (for rainy days)! For its soft edges, though, Amazonas offers good, hardcore birding, and it will be a wonderful place to spend my last 24 hours in Peru.

New birds today: 11

Year list: 1453

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