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Peru - Iquitos or Peurto Maldonaldo

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Old Wednesday 30th March 2005, 23:47   #1
Grahame
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Smile Peru - Iquitos or Peurto Maldonaldo

Hi Birders, would like opinions on whether to bird the Iquitos or Puerto Maldonaldo area. dont have time to do both. Are the birds much the same?

Thanks

Birdo
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Old Thursday 31st March 2005, 04:39   #2
Rasmus Boegh
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It depends on you. Obviously, there are a number of "typical Amazonian species"; in total perhaps 80% of the species are found in both regions (and you're likely to see Parrots, Toucans and alike in both areas). Otherwise, however, the species found in the two areas are quite different (although often members of the same superspecies complex). Below I have tried to emphasize on the differences rather than the similarities.

Iquitos is located in the Napo (aka the Upper Amazonian) bioregion. Hence, the region near Iquitos share quite a few species with Amazonian Ecuador. Furthermore, there are several river island specialists (Lesser Hornero, Parker's Spinetail, Black-and-White Antbird, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, Riverside Tyrant, Pearly-breasted Conebill, etc.) and several species restricted to white-sand forests; species usually associated with the Guianan Shield (e.g. Fairy Topaz, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Pompadour Cotinga). Recently, several discoveries have been made in this region, such as the Ancient Antwren, Allpahuayo Antbird, Mishana Tyrannulet and a Gnatcatcher that still hasn't been described officially.
Several of the previously mentioned species can be seen in the Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve (several species are actually only known from this reserve!), which is easy to visit from Iquitos (~half an hour by taxi). There's also cheap & basic facilities near the headquarters of the reserve, so you can stay there if you prefer (but ask beforehand as it sometimes is full). At night this reserve is Potoo galore with both the Rufous and the White-winged present (although rare).
There are also several river islands located in the vicinity of Iquitos, likewise very easy to visit. Basically, you rent a boat in Puerto Bellavista (one of several ports in Iquitos) and aim for the nearest island or go downstream until you find a suitable island. Do visit more than one locality as the various stages of growth on a river island have different specialists.
Lodges are plentyful near Iquitos, but the main rule is that the more you pay, the further they'll take you from the city, the more pristine the area is, and the more animals you're likely to see. Do note that most lodges specialize in "normal tourists" that are happy if they see a single monkey and a toucan - it can be very frustrating to be on those tours if you are a birder! The most famous lodge in the area may be ExplorNapo (ACEER) with its famous canopy walkway. In addition to the numerous canopy species you can observe during the day, Nocturnal Curassow is spotted with some regularity on late night walks along the canopy walk (although I only have heard it). They also have a Black-necked Red Cotinga lek. While it certainly is amazing, it certainly isn't cheap. Supposedly, some other lodges in the area can also arrange trips to the walkway which may be cheaper than actually staying at the ExplorNapo Lodge. Some lodges near Puerto Maldonado have canopy towers, but nothing that compares to ExplorNapo's canopy walkway.
I would recommend min. 3 days at a lodge, min. 1 day at the river islands and min. 3 days at the Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve. As always - more is better...

Puerto Maldonado is located in the bioregion centered along the Rio Madeira (as is lowland Manu). Among others, this region has several localized bamboo specialists (e.g. White-cheeked Bamboo-tyrant, Bamboo Antshrike, Manu Antbird, Peruvian Recurvebill and a Twistwing that still hasn't been described officially). There are also several colpas (places where parrots come down to eat clay) near Puerto Maldonado, including one near the Tambopata Research Center that may be the largest in the World. I've seen many different species at this colpa, incl. 6 species of macaws (Chestnut-fronted, Red-bellied, Scarlet, Red-and-Green, Blue-and-Yellow and the localized Blue-headed). As far as I know, it would be very difficult to visit the large colpa unless you stay at the Tambopata Research Center (one of the more expensive lodges in the area as it is located ca. 8 hours - incl. 7 in boat - from Puerto Maldonado). However, there are several other colpas in the region, and while they are smaller, a visit to one of those can be quite spectacular aswell. I don't know about any colpas near Iquitos, but if there are any, they certainly are relatively small.
As far as I know, the only good birding area that can be easily visited if staying in Puerto Maldonado is Lago Sandoval. Getting there involves ~half an hour by boat (ask at the peer in Puerto Maldonado) and another hour or so of walking (don't know exactly how long, birding is good and I always took around 1 hour). There are two lodges at the lake, too. Most game birds (Curassows, Wood-Quail, etc.) are rather rare and so is Scarlet & Red-and-Green Macaw as it is relatively close to Puerto Maldonado. However, Blue-and-Yellow Macaw is common, and so is the smaller Red-bellied (there's a large colony at the lake). Many other nice things are found at this location and species associated with oxbow lakes and/or Mauritia palms are often easier here than anywhere else in Peru. Such species include Agami Heron (colony at the lake), Boat-billed Heron (colony), Horned Screamer, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Long-billed Woodcreeper and Sulphury Flycatcher. The true speciality here may be the Black-faced Cotinga (otherwise, you'll have to visit Manu for this species and it's probably easier at Lago Sandoval). The lake also has a good population of the spectacular Hoatzin, but this species is quite common in the appropriate habitat throughout the Amazon (near Iquitos, too). If you're lucky you may see the family of Giant Otters that live in the lake (a species you have a good chance of seeing in Tambopata aswell).
However, most go on a tour to one of the numerous lodges that usually are located 1-7 hours up-river in the Tambopata or Pampas del Heath region. The same rule that applied to Iquitos applies here: The more you pay, the further away from the city they'll take you, and the more animals you're likely to see (especially in regards of game birds and larger mammals, though sightings of Tapirs and Jaguars still require a good deal of luck).
In my opinion a visit to Puerto Maldonado should include min. 3 days for a visit to a lodge (min. 4-5 days are required if you want to visit the distant Tambopata Research Center) and min. 2 days for Lago Sandoval.
It may be possible to camp at some locations (both near Iquitos and near Puerto Maldonado), but I certainly wouldn't recommend camping in the rainforest by yourself (although I must admit I have done it occasionally. Once I managed to camp near a trail with leafcutter ants - stupid, but duct tape solved the problem!).
Manu is also located in this region (although usually visited by plane from Cusco to Boca Manu or a boat from the town of Shintuya - the end of the Manu Road), but it is more expensive and in my opinion no better than Tambopata. The only reason Manu has more species than Tambopata is that Tambopata strictly is in the lowlands, while Manu range far into the highlands. The lodges in Manu are located in the lowlands, meaning that the actual species a birder would see are almost the same you would see in Tambopata. For a good intersection ranging from almost 4000 meters asl to the lowlands I can recommend the Manu Road (doesn't actually enter the reserve - only the buffer zone) - easily done from Cusco in private car or somewhat harder using busses that go all the way to Pilcopata. Actually, you can drive all the way to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco (not the same road as the Manu Road), but I wouldn't recommend it if there's been a significant amount of rain earlier (as there often has, but especially in the rainy season obviously). This sometimes result in travelling being very (VERY!) slow as the road can be terrible and often downright dangerous after heavy rain. Local flights are fast and rather cheap. BTW: If you fly into Cusco from the lowlands be warned that the change in altitude can be a bit tough. After a day with a somewhat slower pace there's usually no problems.

Personally, I find it impossible to weigh the two regions agaist each other and the total number of species is comparable (both have ~600 species, with some lodge-lists above 500... I'd recommend that you start practising voices and ID's as soon as possible if you haven't begun already). If you have visited the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon, I would recommend Puerto Maldonado. If you have visited Cristalino (a rather famous lodge regularly visited by birders) in Brazil or the Amazonian region in northern Bolivia, I would recommend Iquitos. Regardless, do get the new "Where to Watch Birds in Peru" by Thomas Valqui - it's great.

The region near Iquitos and the region near Tambopata are both quite amazing and no matter what you choose the experiance quite certainly will be great - good luck!

If you're anything like me you'll fall in love with the Neotropics and this won't be your last visit... don't say I didn't warn you!

Last edited by Rasmus Boegh : Thursday 31st March 2005 at 18:38. Reason: as usual - it grew in the process!
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Old Thursday 31st March 2005, 17:07   #3
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I have to plug Posadas Amazonas, near Puerto Maldonado, where we stayed last January. I can't say whether the birds are better or worse than another lodge, because I lack experience. I suspect the birding is what you make it, though, and the opportunity is there. I enjoyed the company of the native guides a lot, and even if they may not be up to the standards of some professional tour companies now, I suspect they will get there. They are certainly sincere and enthusiastic. The whole idea of native ownership is great, and this lodge is one that seems to be working to help the community economically as well as encouraging them to learn to appreciate more of what we see in the local fauna. I see that as a key to better habitat protection.
In all, good food, comfortable surroundings, wonderful companionship, terre firme forest, screamers, antbirds, many kinds of macaws, toucans, it is all good, and not nearly as expensive as some lodges. I would return in a second, except that there is so much of South America I haven't seen, and I can only go three times a year.

Cheers,
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Old Thursday 31st March 2005, 23:03   #4
Grahame
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Iquitos of Purto Maldonaldo

Thank you very much for the detailed response. Great information.

Grahame Finnigan - Australia


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasmus Boegh
It depends on you. Obviously, there are a number of "typical Amazonian species"; in total perhaps 80% of the species are found in both regions (and you're likely to see Parrots, Toucans and alike in both areas). Otherwise, however, the species found in the two areas are quite different (although often members of the same superspecies complex). Below I have tried to emphasize on the differences rather than the similarities.

Iquitos is located in the Napo (aka the Upper Amazonian) bioregion. Hence, the region near Iquitos share quite a few species with Amazonian Ecuador. Furthermore, there are several river island specialists (Lesser Hornero, Parker's Spinetail, Black-and-White Antbird, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, Riverside Tyrant, Pearly-breasted Conebill, etc.) and several species restricted to white-sand forests; species usually associated with the Guianan Shield (e.g. Fairy Topaz, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Pompadour Cotinga). Recently, several discoveries have been made in this region, such as the Ancient Antwren, Allpahuayo Antbird, Mishana Tyrannulet and a Gnatcatcher that still hasn't been described officially.
Several of the previously mentioned species can be seen in the Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve (several species are actually only known from this reserve!), which is easy to visit from Iquitos (~half an hour by taxi). There's also cheap & basic facilities near the headquarters of the reserve, so you can stay there if you prefer (but ask beforehand as it sometimes is full). At night this reserve is Potoo galore with both the Rufous and the White-winged present (although rare).
There are also several river islands located in the vicinity of Iquitos, likewise very easy to visit. Basically, you rent a boat in Puerto Bellavista (one of several ports in Iquitos) and aim for the nearest island or go downstream until you find a suitable island. Do visit more than one locality as the various stages of growth on a river island have different specialists.
Lodges are plentyful near Iquitos, but the main rule is that the more you pay, the further they'll take you from the city, the more pristine the area is, and the more animals you're likely to see. Do note that most lodges specialize in "normal tourists" that are happy if they see a single monkey and a toucan - it can be very frustrating to be on those tours if you are a birder! The most famous lodge in the area may be ExplorNapo (ACEER) with its famous canopy walkway. In addition to the numerous canopy species you can observe during the day, Nocturnal Curassow is spotted with some regularity on late night walks along the canopy walk (although I only have heard it). They also have a Black-necked Red Cotinga lek. While it certainly is amazing, it certainly isn't cheap. Supposedly, some other lodges in the area can also arrange trips to the walkway which may be cheaper than actually staying at the ExplorNapo Lodge. Some lodges near Puerto Maldonado have canopy towers, but nothing that compares to ExplorNapo's canopy walkway.
I would recommend min. 3 days at a lodge, min. 1 day at the river islands and min. 3 days at the Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve. As always - more is better...

Puerto Maldonado is located in the bioregion centered along the Rio Madeira (as is lowland Manu). Among others, this region has several localized bamboo specialists (e.g. White-cheeked Bamboo-tyrant, Bamboo Antshrike, Manu Antbird, Peruvian Recurvebill and a Twistwing that still hasn't been described officially). There are also several colpas (places where parrots come down to eat clay) near Puerto Maldonado, including one near the Tambopata Research Center that may be the largest in the World. I've seen many different species at this colpa, incl. 6 species of macaws (Chestnut-fronted, Red-bellied, Scarlet, Red-and-Green, Blue-and-Yellow and the localized Blue-headed). As far as I know, it would be very difficult to visit the large colpa unless you stay at the Tambopata Research Center (one of the more expensive lodges in the area as it is located ca. 8 hours - incl. 7 in boat - from Puerto Maldonado). However, there are several other colpas in the region, and while they are smaller, a visit to one of those can be quite spectacular aswell. I don't know about any colpas near Iquitos, but if there are any, they certainly are relatively small.
As far as I know, the only good birding area that can be easily visited if staying in Puerto Maldonado is Lago Sandoval. Getting there involves ~half an hour by boat (ask at the peer in Puerto Maldonado) and another hour or so of walking (don't know exactly how long, birding is good and I always took around 1 hour). There are two lodges at the lake, too. Most game birds (Curassows, Wood-Quail, etc.) are rather rare and so is Scarlet & Red-and-Green Macaw as it is relatively close to Puerto Maldonado. However, Blue-and-Yellow Macaw is common, and so is the smaller Red-bellied (there's a large colony at the lake). Many other nice things are found at this location and species associated with oxbow lakes and/or Mauritia palms are often easier here than anywhere else in Peru. Such species include Agami Heron (colony at the lake), Boat-billed Heron (colony), Horned Screamer, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Long-billed Woodcreeper and Sulphury Flycatcher. The true speciality here may be the Black-faced Cotinga (otherwise, you'll have to visit Manu for this species and it's probably easier at Lago Sandoval). The lake also has a good population of the spectacular Hoatzin, but this species is quite common in the appropriate habitat throughout the Amazon (near Iquitos, too). If you're lucky you may see the family of Giant Otters that live in the lake (a species you have a good chance of seeing in Tambopata aswell).
However, most go on a tour to one of the numerous lodges that usually are located 1-7 hours up-river in the Tambopata or Pampas del Heath region. The same rule that applied to Iquitos applies here: The more you pay, the further away from the city they'll take you, and the more animals you're likely to see (especially in regards of game birds and larger mammals, though sightings of Tapirs and Jaguars still require a good deal of luck).
In my opinion a visit to Puerto Maldonado should include min. 3 days for a visit to a lodge (min. 4-5 days are required if you want to visit the distant Tambopata Research Center) and min. 2 days for Lago Sandoval.
It may be possible to camp at some locations (both near Iquitos and near Puerto Maldonado), but I certainly wouldn't recommend camping in the rainforest by yourself (although I must admit I have done it occasionally. Once I managed to camp near a trail with leafcutter ants - stupid, but duct tape solved the problem!).
Manu is also located in this region (although usually visited by plane from Cusco to Boca Manu or a boat from the town of Shintuya - the end of the Manu Road), but it is more expensive and in my opinion no better than Tambopata. The only reason Manu has more species than Tambopata is that Tambopata strictly is in the lowlands, while Manu range far into the highlands. The lodges in Manu are located in the lowlands, meaning that the actual species a birder would see are almost the same you would see in Tambopata. For a good intersection ranging from almost 4000 meters asl to the lowlands I can recommend the Manu Road (doesn't actually enter the reserve - only the buffer zone) - easily done from Cusco in private car or somewhat harder using busses that go all the way to Pilcopata. Actually, you can drive all the way to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco (not the same road as the Manu Road), but I wouldn't recommend it if there's been a significant amount of rain earlier (as there often has, but especially in the rainy season obviously). This sometimes result in travelling being very (VERY!) slow as the road can be terrible and often downright dangerous after heavy rain. Local flights are fast and rather cheap. BTW: If you fly into Cusco from the lowlands be warned that the change in altitude can be a bit tough. After a day with a somewhat slower pace there's usually no problems.

Personally, I find it impossible to weigh the two regions agaist each other and the total number of species is comparable (both have ~600 species, with some lodge-lists above 500... I'd recommend that you start practising voices and ID's as soon as possible if you haven't begun already). If you have visited the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon, I would recommend Puerto Maldonado. If you have visited Cristalino (a rather famous lodge regularly visited by birders) in Brazil or the Amazonian region in northern Bolivia, I would recommend Iquitos. Regardless, do get the new "Where to Watch Birds in Peru" by Thomas Valqui - it's great.

The region near Iquitos and the region near Tambopata are both quite amazing and no matter what you choose the experiance quite certainly will be great - good luck!

If you're anything like me you'll fall in love with the Neotropics and this won't be your last visit... don't say I didn't warn you!
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Old Thursday 31st March 2005, 23:06   #5
Grahame
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Smile Iquitos and Puerto Maldonaldo

Thanks for the info Jeff. I will look up the lodge you mention.

Grahame - Australia


Quote:
Originally Posted by Oregonian
I have to plug Posadas Amazonas, near Puerto Maldonado, where we stayed last January. I can't say whether the birds are better or worse than another lodge, because I lack experience. I suspect the birding is what you make it, though, and the opportunity is there. I enjoyed the company of the native guides a lot, and even if they may not be up to the standards of some professional tour companies now, I suspect they will get there. They are certainly sincere and enthusiastic. The whole idea of native ownership is great, and this lodge is one that seems to be working to help the community economically as well as encouraging them to learn to appreciate more of what we see in the local fauna. I see that as a key to better habitat protection.
In all, good food, comfortable surroundings, wonderful companionship, terre firme forest, screamers, antbirds, many kinds of macaws, toucans, it is all good, and not nearly as expensive as some lodges. I would return in a second, except that there is so much of South America I haven't seen, and I can only go three times a year.

Cheers,
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