February 25, 2012

Rainforest Expeditions - About Us


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Click To Play Video Tambopata, the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. In the shadow of the Andes, this stretch of tropical rainforest is home to a stunning myriad of plants and animals. It is widely recognised as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth.

Tambopata is also the centre of operations of Rainforest Expeditions, Peru’s largest ecotourism company. 

In partnership with local indigenous communities, we run three award-winning lodges deep inside Tambopata’s forests, giving visitors a unique chance to sustainably experience the natural wonders of the Amazon.

Since our first lodge was founded in 1989, thousands of travellers from around the world have stayed with us. By choosing Rainforest Expeditions, each of those travellers has allowed us to reinvest in the conservation and protection of this unique wilderness. 

Our guests choose from a menu of activities, tailoring their trips to their specific tastes and needs. We offer everything from family excursions to adventurous overnight hikes and kayak trips, and cultural tourism including traditional ayahuasca ceremonies and home-stays with local families. But more than anything else, our guests have the opportunity to get up close to the amazing plants and animals that surround our lodges, observing everything from caymans to seven different species of monkeys and hundreds of kinds of exotic birds. 

Our work to protect the rainforest is now more urgent than ever. New roads are opening up Tambopata to logging, poaching and unsustainable agriculture. And record commodity prices have triggered a wave of illegal gold mining. But there is another way – the Rainforest Expeditions way. 

By offering local indigenous communities the chance to use ecotourism to create value from healthy living forests, we are helping to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of the Amazon – and prevent millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.

 At Rainforest Expeditions, we also support conservation research. Every year, we host dozens of scientists from around the world who come to study this spectacular ecosystem, often making discoveries that can help save threatened rainforests in other parts of the world. 

Without our guests, none of this would be possible. Rainforest Expeditions will be happy to make your stay in the Amazon a truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime event. 

The world’s greatest rainforest is waiting for you.
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February 24, 2012

The Cryptic Potoo Bird

Long-tailed Potoo (Credit: Jeff Cremer)
Not all nights in the Amazon are pitch black. When the full moon takes to the sky, it can even become light enough to see shadows inside the rainforest. On nights such as these, you barely need a flashlight in the clearings or along the shore of the river. Certain birds also call more often during the full moon.

Spectacled and Tawny-bellied Screech Owls can be heard as they call near the lodges. Spix’s Guan, a large arboreal turkey-like bird, frequently calls on nights such as these. Some of the strangest sounds, though, are made by the potoos. Bizarre, nocturnal birds that are rarely seen during the day, they reveal their presence with eerie vocalizations that carry for long distances. The Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus) gives a mournful series of whistled notes that go down in scale. The huge Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis) utters loud squawks and a deep guttural sound that has frightened many a guest and given rise to folktales throughout its range. Deep inside the forest, the strange call of the Long-tailed Potoo (Nyctibius aethereus) is also occasionally heard.

Here are some facts about these strange fascinating Amazonian creatures:
  • Potoos have highly cryptic plumage: Potoos are only active at night and thus sleep during the day. Like most other nocturnal birds, they also have plumage that acts as camouflage and gives them the appearance of a piece of tree bark or broken off stump.
  • Wide, large mouths: Although potoos have small beaks, their mouths are huge. They have such wide, large mouths to aid them in catching moths, beetles, and other insects during the night.
  • The Common Potoo cries for the moon: According to legend, the call of the Common Potoo is the mournful lament of a spirit in love with but separated from the spirit of the moon.
  • No nest: Potoos do lay a single egg but place it in the nook of a branch or broken off stem instead of building an actual nest made of sticks.
How to see potoo species when visiting Tambopata on an Amazon adventure tour:
  • Ask guides about sites for potoos: The guides who work for Rainforest Expeditions make efforts to keep up on recent sightings of monkeys, eagles, frogs and other interesting animals such as potoos. If the roosting site of a potoo is known, they will be happy to show you one of these strange birds.
  • Watch for them on moonlit nights: Since potoos tend to call more on clear, moonlit nights, they are also easier to locate at such times. Listen for their calls and see if you can go on a night walk with a guide to track them down. Great Potoos often call from and perch on snags that stick up above the forest canopy.
  • Look for odd lumps on branches: Although it is very difficult to find potoos during the day, “lumps” on branches and the tips of dead snags occasionally turn out to be roosting potoos after carefully checking them with binoculars.

    Hear potoos call during the Amazonian night and look for them during the day on a tour to the Peruvian jungle with Rainforest Expeditions.

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Mealy Parrot Facts

Mealy Parrots at the TRC Claylick
As the morning sun begins to burn off the mist above the Amazon rainforest, birdsong issues from the surrounding sea of green. Exclaiming their territorial rights, toucans yelp from distant emergent snags. Woodcreepers, jacamars, trogons, and hundreds of other bird species call from treetops and from deep within the dim, forest understory. The canopy towers at Posada Amazonas and Refugio Amazonas are some of the best spots to take in this dawn chorus but not every bird has a whistled, melodious song.

One of the most raucous jungle sounds heard by guests on an Amazonian jungle adventure in Tambopata are the cackling, loud screeches made by the Mealy Parrot (Amazona farinosa). These large, green parrots are common residents of forests at Tambopata and like other members of the parrot family, have loud voices and love to use them. The screeches of Mealy Parrots are commonly heard at all of the Tambopata lodges run by Rainforest Expeditions and the birds themselves are frequently seen as they fly past the canopy towers or while taking clay from the colpas.

Here are some other interesting facts about the Mealy Parrot:
  • The back and nape often have a whitish tinge; almost as if it had been covered in a thin layer of flour or "meal"; hence its name).
  • One of the largest parrots in the Amazon rainforest: In Tambopata, the only members of the Psittacidae larger than the Mealy Parrot are the three big macaw species (Scarlet, Blue and Yellow, and Red and Green).
  • Wide-ranging, successful, rainforest bird: Mealy Parrots occur in the canopy of lowland rainforests in southeastern Mexico, Central America, northwestern South America, and throughout the Amazon jungle.
  • There are five subspecies of Mealy Parrots: Five distinct subspecies occur. Some have a bluish tinge to the head whereas others sport a spot of yellow on the crown. The birds at Tambopata are the chapmani subspecies and have blue-green feathers on the head.
  • They nest in tree cavities: Like other parrots, this species nests in tree cavities. As with macaws, its population is probably limited by the paucity of cavities appropriate for nesting.
  • Mealy Parrots feed on fruits and seeds: This large parrot is often seen as it feeds on unripe fruits and seeds of various Amazonian trees.
  • They make seasonal movements: Although the movements of Mealy Parrots have been studied very little, they may migrate short (or even long) distances within the Amazon rainforest. This hypothesis is supported by changes in the numbers of Mealy Parrots that show up at Tambopata clay licks throughout the year.
How to see Mealy Parrots during your trip to the Peruvian Amazon:
  • Visit the clay licks or “colpas”: Mealy Parrots are frequent visitors to the clay licks near the Rainforest Expedition lodges. This is a fantastic way to get close looks at and take pictures of these intelligent birds.
  • Watch for them from the canopy tower: Mealy Parrots are often seen as they fly by the towers that overlook the rainforest canopy at Posada Amazonas and Refugio Amazonas. They can also be viewed with binoculars and telescopes as they perch in the crowns of giant rainforest trees.
  • Walk with a guide: Although seeing Mealy Parrots at the Rainforest Expedition lodges is easier than viewing some other types of wildlife, you will still see more when walking with one of our trained guides.
Come to the Tambopata region for your Peruvian jungle adventure to see and photograph loud, green Mealy Parrots in action!
February 22, 2012

Amazon Jungle Wildlife - The Amazon Kingfisher

Amazon Kingfisher in Tambopata, Peru
The best eco-lodges in the Peruvian Amazon can’t be reached by road. They sit deep within the Amazon jungle, in remote wilderness areas where macaws are seen on a daily basis. Lodges like these are perfect for Amazon adventure tours because they provide guests with an authentic, wild experience. The lack of roads means that the forest and its complex ecosystems are intact, that the animals living there occur, as they should as opposed to forests that have been affected by logging and hunting. However, no roads also mean that eco-lodges (such as those run by Rainforest Expeditions) are only accessible by boat.

This is actually a good thing because traveling by boat on the Tambopata River is a relaxed, easy-going endeavor that never fails to turn up sightings of herons, egrets, and a variety of other rainforest wildlife. One of the bird species that is frequently sighted on boat rides is the Amazon Kingfisher. Perched in riverside vegetation, they watch the water for fish and other aquatic prey. They also make their presence known as they give their rattling calls and zip across the river on quick wings. This crested, green bird is found throughout the Amazon basin as well as along waterways north to eastern Mexico and is a common resident in the Tambopata region.

Here are a few more facts about the Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona):
  • Plunge dives for food: Like many other kingfishers, this species dives head first into the water to catch fish, crustaceans, or other small aquatic creatures with its long, dagger-like bill.
  • Aerodynamic shape: The shape of the Amazon Kingfisher is adapted for aerodynamics. This bird has a pointed bill and head to lessen the resistance to both air and water when making a dive. The shape of many kingfishers is so aerodynamic that they were used as a model for designing high speed trains in Japan!
  • Similar to the Green Kingfisher: The Amazon Kingfisher is very similar in coloration and shape to the smaller Green Kingfisher. Since size can be difficult and tricky to accurately asses when watching birds, the easiest way to tell these two species apart is by noting the amount of white in the wings and tail. Whereas Green Kingfishers show a fair amount of white in the wings and tail, the wings and tail of the Amazon Kingfisher are mostly green.
How to see Amazon Kingfishers on Peruvian jungle tours in Tambopata:
  • Watch the bare branches along the edge of the river: Amazon Kingfishers frequently perch on snags that stick out over the edge of the water and on bare branches that come out of the water. Scan such sites with binoculars and watch for a green and white bird with a large, crested head.
  • Take a boat ride on an oxbow lake: Amazon Kingfishers can be found along any large waterway in the Tambopata region. They especially love the calm, peaceful waters of oxbow lakes and are frequently encountered perched above the edge of the water or as they fly in front of the boat.
Watch jade-green Amazon Kingfishers in action on a family friendly Amazon adventure tour with Rainforest Expeditions.
February 14, 2012

See More Wildlife during your Amazon Adventure with Kayaking!

Kayaking usually brings up images of white water adventures where the adrenaline flows just as fast as the rushing river. The backdrop is typically a cold, northern river flanked by dense pine forest and surrounded by mountain scenery, so you may be wondering how kayaks can ever be mentioned in the same sentence as jungle adventure tours in the Amazon rainforest. Well, there is more than one type of kayak and those built for paddling on the sea work just as well on the big, meandering rivers of the Amazon basin. 

Even better, kayaks are one of the best ways to see wildlife in the Amazon, including Tambopata. On recent kayaking trips near our lodges, guests have been surprised to see how close they were able to approach small caimans, capybaras, and various waterbirds. The reason that kayaks have turned out to be a safe, excellent way to observe wildlife on rainforest adventure tours in Tambopata is due to their stealth.

Much more quiet than motorboats (kayaks are more or less silent), these unobtrusive watercraft seem not to readily scare off animals that frequent the water’s edge. Their slower speed and maneuverability also come in handy for finding more wildlife and getting prolonged views. Capybaras, Capped Herons, and monkeys may also pay less attention to a kayak because they don’t recognize its shape as being that of a person. Perhaps they think that the kayaks floating by are just more pieces of driftwood on the peaceful Tambopata.

Whatever the reasons may be that explain why animals show less fear of kayaks, we know that you could be in for some close looks at jungle wildlife as you float down a beautiful jungle river when taking one of our soft adventure programs.

February 09, 2012



by Kurt Holle

When a forest is worth more as a farm than as a forest, it tends to be cut down. That is why deforestation is a problem in many places.  How does the Amazon rain forest lose its value? I recently heard a conversation between Miguel and Juan, two natives of the Peruvian Amazon, that helped me to better understand. 
Peccaries in the Amazon Rainforest
Miguel was explaining to Juan how to ambush peccary with bow and arrow in bamboo thickets: “You must go barefoot. Your feet just know where the thorns are. Boots are useless.  They’ll give you away”.  Juan looked at his boots: “I used to do that. I can’t anymore. When I was drafted by the army, I had to wear boots. I lost my hard foot soles. Now, I can walk barefoot for short periods only.” 
“You miss out on peccaries in bamboo?” Miguel asks.
“I just use a shotgun.” Juan answered. 
Juan is an Ese’eja native from the Tambopata River in Amazonian Peru. Miguel is a Machiguenga who lives along the Manu River. Juan lives 20 kilometers by road from the town of Puerto Maldonado (population 50,000). Miguel is two days of travel on the river by boat from the town of Boca Manu (population 500). 
They are on a journey on the same path, but Juan has advanced further on it. The path was laid out in the nineteenth century by the Industrial Revolution. The path is no longer useful. You can see this clearly in the Amazon. When a native boy trades in an arrow made of palm bark, wild cane stems and forest bee wax for a shotgun, the forest has lost a bit of value to him. Each time a native boy forgets how to walk barefoot losing his chance to hunt peccary in bamboo groves, the forest is worth less. Every liter of mercury, oil or sewage poured into the Amazon River basin takes more value away from it. Every time an Ese’eja or Machiguenga has to travel further upriver to fish because his neighborhood stream is polluted, it is another sign of the forest losing worth.  How can this be? How can we change it?
We need a path leading into the Green Economy.  I imagine that path is more like the Amazon river basin, with hundreds of tributaries carving their way into one large river - the Green Economy. I will describe one of these tributaries: the tributary that adds value to standing forests worldwide. Forests are the world´s largest carbon sink and hold most of our biological diversity. They play a critical role regulating the planet’s water cycle and soil erosion. So what does this added value tributary look like in the Amazon?   
The Amazon is not empty. It is full of residents who use it: indigenous people and second or third generation settlers.  Most of them have intense personal relationships to the forest. They want any excuse to keep it standing. Their reasoning is like this: “I will keep the forest standing on part of my property. I will do this because it is right, or because it is what my parents would have liked, or because it might prove to be a good investment. But, if I need money to send my kids to school, or to pay for my mom’s operation, then I need to cash in. I can do this by cutting forest and planting corn or renting my land to palm oil planters.”
Necklace: ORG by vio®.  Made from local materials by indigenous residents of the Amazon.
Your purchases can help Amazon residents make an income out of standing forest.  Next time you’re looking for an original gift or vacation idea, go to the internet and find handicrafts, wooden decorations, ecotours, carbon credits and other products. Make sure their produced by Amazon residents bent on keeping their forest standing.  Purchase them. You will help add value to the forest. You will help carve this tributary of the Green Economy. 

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