Tambopata National Reserve
The Tambopata National Reserve is one of the last easily accessible virgin tropical rainforests in the world.
The Tambopata National Reserve (TNR) is located south of the Madre de Dios River in the Tambopata and Inambari districts of the Tambopata province, Madre de Dios department. It covers an area of 274,690.00 hectares. The presence of this important protected natural space aims to preserve the flora, fauna, and ecological processes of a sample of the tropical rainforest. Additionally, the TNR generates conservation processes that ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and the landscape.
The Tambopata River basin boasts one of the highest levels of biological diversity in the world. The TNR is situated in the middle and lower parts of this basin, near the city of Puerto Maldonado. Its common ecosystems include aguajales (palm swamps), wetlands, pacales (swamp forests), and riparian forests, which provide the local population with natural resource opportunities.
It is contiguous with the Bahuaja Sonene National Park, which entirely surrounds it to the south, forming a highly significant protected area for the country. Connectivity with other protected natural areas in the department (Amarakaeri Communal Reserve and the Alto Purús and Manu National Parks) and neighboring Bolivia supports the existence of the proposed Vilcabamba-Amboró biological corridor.
The TNRMB hosts mainly aquatic habitats that serve as stopovers for more than 40 species of transcontinental migratory birds. The national reserve protects important species considered to be on the brink of extinction and offers tourism a privileged destination for observing the diversity of wild flora and fauna.
In the buffer zone, there are native communities such as Palma Real, Sonene, and Infierno, belonging to the Ese’Eja ethnolinguistic group, and the Kotsimba native community of the Puquirieri ethnolinguistic group.
Flora and Fauna Observation in the Tambopata National Reserve
The TNRMB has reported the presence of more than 632 bird species, 1,200 butterfly species, 103 amphibian species, 180 fish species, 169 mammal species, and 103 reptile species. It contains healthy habitats for the recovery and refuge of threatened species such as the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis), and felines like the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), puma (Puma concolor), jaguar (Panthera onca), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), and margay (Leopardus wiedii).
Among the primate species are the black spider monkey (Ateles chamek), saddleback tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis), emperor tamarin (Saguinus imperator), howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), black-headed night monkey (Aotus nigriceps), woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha), squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis), squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus), white-fronted capuchin (Cebus albifrons), and brown capuchin (Cebus apella).
Other notable mammal species in the wildlife include the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris), collared peccary (Tayassu pecari), white-lipped peccary (Tayassu tajacu), red brocket deer (Mazama americana), gray brocket deer (Mazama gouazoubira), and two-toed sloths (Choloepus hoffmanni and Bradypus variegatus).
In terms of birds, the reserve is home to the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), crested eagle (Morphus guianensis), wattled curassow (Mitu tuberosa), horned curassow (Pauxi unicornis), and blue-billed curassow (Crax globulosa). The TNRMB contains almost all macaw species found in Peru.
Reptiles are represented mainly by the emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus), bothrops (Bothrops bilineatus), boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), and bushmaster (Lachesis muta). It is also common to observe the black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodylus), and giant river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis).
The fish fauna is also highly diverse, including species like the prochilodus (Prochilodus nigricans), tiger catfish (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum), yahuarachi (Potamorrhyna latior), dorado (Brachyplatystoma flavicans), and paco (Piaractus brachipomun). Non-commercial fish species include sabalo (Brycon spp.), Schizodon fasciatus, and Pimelodus sp.
The TNRMB features various types of vegetation, including aguajales on sedimentation plains, pacales, terrace forests, and gallery forests. Seventeen vegetation associations have been identified by forest type, with a total of 1,255 plant species.
An important species conserved in the TNRMB is the Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa), which grows on non-floodable terraces in the lowland Amazon rainforest. It is exclusively found in the eastern part of Madre de Dios department in Peru and is the most important non-timber commercial species with a significant impact on the local economy. It plays a valuable role in the habitat of numerous mammal species as a food source and nesting site for raptors.
The most visited tourist destination is Lake Sandoval, located in the Madre de Dios River basin. This 127-hectare body of water is surrounded by palm trees filled with macaws and is just a half-hour boat ride from Puerto Maldonado. In its waters, which can be explored by renting boats from local residents and lodges, a large family of giant otters can be observed hunting and grooming on logs. There is also an observation tower for a panoramic view.
Upstream in the Tambopata River basin, there are other important lakes, such as Cocococha, 2 hours from Puerto Maldonado, also home to giant otters, and Sachavacayoc, located 3 hours from Puerto Maldonado, where there is a camping area for overnight stays.
Navigating the Tambopata River, you will find El Gato stream with its waterfall. Nearby are the Baltimorillo rapids. Tambopata’s characteristic attractions are the clay licks found on the riverbanks, where hundreds of birds (macaws, hawks, and parrots) gather, offering a spectacular display of color and sound (especially between 5:30 and 9:00 am).
Inland clay licks are visited, generally at night, by mammals such as collared peccaries, white-lipped peccaries, and tapirs. The Chuncho and Colorado clay licks are located on the left bank of the Tambopata River. The latter is considered the largest known clay lick in all of the Peruvian Amazon.
Within the TNRMB, various places with several clay licks and diverse beaches have been identified where caimans, tapirs, capybaras, and other species can be observed.
The TNRMB has an interpretive center on the way to Lake Sandoval and 8 control posts. Lake Cocococha has a hideout-observatory, camping areas at the Chuncho and Colorado clay licks, a camping and embarkation area at Lake Sachavacayoc, an observation tower and embarkation point at Lake Sandoval, and embarkation points at Condenado Lakes and La Torre control post.
There are also private companies that provide accommodation within the protected area, ensuring that the stay in this impressive corner of the country is enjoyable and can be fully appreciated.
Points of Interest
The Tambopata National Reserve is located south of the Madre de Dios River in the Tambopata and Inambari districts of the Tambopata province.
It borders the Tambopata province of the Madre de Dios department to the north, Bolivia to the east, the Bahuaja Sonene National Park to the south, and the Kotsimba Native Community to the west.
To reach the reserve, one must depart from Puerto Maldonado, where the Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers meet; access is by river.
The average annual temperature is 26º C, fluctuating between 10º and 38º C. Low temperatures are influenced by cold Antarctic winds that come through the Andes and enter the Amazon basin. The presence of cold winds is most intense in June and July. Rainfall occurs from December to March.