Amazonia – Peru or Ecuador
Hi, I need some advice….again.
I’m thinking of taking the family to South America in Summer 2018. Primarily we’re birders (sorry!) but increasingly catching the mammal bug. We’re thinking Ecuador and Peru. The planning is going well but the cost certainly ramps up a little when I start to look at visiting Amazonia. Does anyone have any views on whether we should choose the Manu region of Peru (we’ll most likely be visiting the Cusco area) or the Napo/Yasuni NP area of Ecuador? Is any better than the other for mammal watching opportunities? My family will insist on not too basic accommodation so some of the more remote places might be out, unfortunately.
Any recommendations or tips for either Peru or Ecuador (or both)? Or for any particular lodges, guides or tour companies?
Thanks in advance, Nick, UK
The least expensive lodge in the Yasuni/Napo area is Tiputini on the edge of Yasuni National Park. The mammal watching is outstanding – 10 species of primates, all of which are likely to be seen on a 5 to 7 day visit, and a host of other species. Also good for birds and reptiles. The facility is primarily set up for researchers but will accommodate tourists if they have space, which they normally do, and you provide a reason why you are interested in visiting the site. The director is Kelly Swing. Accommodation is in small bungalows which are fine although not flashy and the meals are good. The quality of guiding is outstanding. If you have further questions feel free to e-mail me at the address below.
E-mail address is email@example.com
Elias Sadalla Filho
I visited both in 2016: Manu NP area in Peru and Napo Wildlife Reserve in Ecuador. Manu has less experience guides and difficult to see mammals. Napo is excellent, with very expertise guides, the hotel is fantastic (Wifi great!) and I saw 12 species of mammals.
I think that Ecuador will be an easier/more acceptable destination if “appeasing” the family is critical.
Personally I prefer Peru, and agree with what Ben says. Peru was more fun and more “adventurous/wilder”. The southeast Amazon + Manu/Machu Picchu + maybe an altiplano/desert destination would be my first choice. But some of the Amazonian lodges in Manu may be a little too much for your family if creature comforts are an issue. I think CICRA is fabulous, but the rooms and food may be a little basic for some.
Second best (or arguably equally good) in Peru: the northeast Amazon. See for example the trip report by Cheryl Antonucci, and maybe combine that with Chappari Lodge for Sechuran Fox and Spectacler Bear (ask them about the right season).
Ecuador may give you a longer list (simply because distances/travel times between sites are shorter) if you can/want to spend the money to visit Bellavista Lodge, look for the bear/tapir in Coca-Cayambe (pretty though though) and add an Amazonian Lodge . Ecuador (on average) has the plusher lodges but it often felt a little too polished, calculated and a little overpriced imho.
In the Ecuadorian Amazon I personally liked Shiripuno much better than the Yasuni area (wilder and less polished), but the lodge is rather basic and guiding quality varies (try to get the owner as a guide, he is very good). I found monkeys (and other mammals) in practically all areas along the Yasuni river rather shy as well, not more or less so than Shiripuno, but this was in 2015. This may have changed for the worse as Ben suggests. A much cheaper alternative to Yasuni (with nice lodges, take a private guide) is Cuyabeno, but it will be mainly good monkeys, sightings of other larger mammals appear to be scarce.
Do you have any must see species ; that would make it easier to highlight certain lodges.
Here are a few more thoughts:
1. On a trip to Peru/Ecuador, one could either go to the Amazon alone, or combine it with visits to sites in other habitats. Personally, I prefer the former. Even if you were interested in only birds or only mammals, you could spend years at a single site in the Amazon and still not see everything. On the other hand, if you won’t be able to make many trips to the neotropics, try to see some other habitats/species as well.
2. There are lodges in the Manu region just as luxurious as those in Napo (Manu Wildlife Center, for example). CICRA Los Amigos is a research station, not a lodge, so do not expect luxury there.
3. SE Peru has significantly lower hunting pressure than any other accessible area in western Amazonia (with the exception of Tiputini Biodiversity Station and perhaps Shiripuno). A good proxy for this is the frequency of sightings of large ground birds such as Curassows and Trumpeters. Razor-billed Curassow is regularly seen at many sites in SE Peru, whereas some of the guides I met in the Napo area had only seen Salvin’s Curassow a few times. Check out the difference between these maps (click “show points sooner” and look at the number of total sightings versus the number of total checklists)
Salvin’s Curassow: http://ebird.org/ebird/map/salcur1?neg=true&env.minX=&env.minY=&env.maxX=&env.maxY=&zh=false&gp=false&ev=Z&mr=1-12&bmo=1&emo=12&yr=all&byr=1900&eyr=2017
Razor-billed Curassow: http://ebird.org/ebird/map/rabcur2?neg=true&env.minX=-99.78114495405111&env.minY=-21.672906003657587&env.maxX=-49.156144954051115&env.maxY=1.037976405257154&zh=true&gp=true&ev=Z&mr=1-12&bmo=1&emo=12&yr=all&byr=1900&eyr=2017
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In general, lodges in SE Peru are both less expensive and have lower hunting pressure (=>better mammal-watching) than those in Ecuador. Another reason to choose SE Peru is seasonality – the northern summer is the middle of the dry season there, so you can hear some species of mammals rustling leaves more easily. The Ecuadorian Amazon doesn’t have pronounced wet and dry seasons. (BTW, all of the Amazonian lodges I have been to have been quite comfortable).
I don’t know much about guided trips, but if you want to do things on your own, I strongly recommend Manu Birding Lodge in Peru. You can combine a visit there with a trip down Manu Road (beautiful forest, but not as many mammals). CICRA Los Amigos is also very good. Check out my trip report here: http://www.tremarctos.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Manu.pdf
As to lodges in Ecuador, I’ve heard good things about Shiripuno (though hunting pressure is increasing there) and Napo Wildlife Center.