TAMBO BLANQUILLO

NATURE ATTRACTIONS

MACAW CLAY LICK

Tambo Blanquillo Amazon Private Reserve and why it’s the best in the World.

This is what Michele Lent Hirsch from the Smithsonian magazine wrote about the Macaw Clay Licks of Peru: 

“Exposed river banks in the western Amazon basin, within the borders of Peru, macaws and other parrots flock by the hundreds. They come to gather clay that they’ll later eat in the same site or on nearby trees.

At first, studies hinted that the clay might help remove toxins, such as naturally occurring tannins, which birds ingest from plants. When animals in general consume clay, it can help neutralize such toxins through the process of absorption, in which the clay binds to the tannins before the gastrointestinal tract can absorb them. The toxins then get excreted alongside the clay.

From our own experience of several years of monitoring the monthly attendance of wildlife (macaws, parrots, parakeets and other birds as well as mammals), is that there is a correlation between the need to eat clay and the ripeness of the fruits they eat.

The attendance diminishes certain months when fruits are ripe enough and rises in the periods when the fruits are not mature enough.

Being the only Clay Lick world-wide that monitors wildlife activity 365 days per year, has given us the chance to record wildlife and bird attendance to eat clay, as well as other animals that prey on clay eaters.

Why is this clay lick the best in the world? These natural clay deposits attract not only large amounts of wildlife, but have optimal facilities for observation.  With a large “hide” built over stilts 5 m. (16.4 ft.) high and 100 m. (358 ft.) in length, it can comfortably hold up to 50 seated visitors at a time in front of a triple size clay wall.
Completely roofed with air fans, swivel chairs for rapid change of observation point without losing wildlife sighting, plus a long table thought to set your camera equipment, binoculars, and books. It allows visitors to have breakfast and enjoy fruits, pancakes and coffee in abundance during the long observation period. No other bird hide has been so thoroughly designed to permit observation with enough comfort to withstand long observation hours without being exposed to the elements (wind, rain ,bugs etc.), in a very relaxed atmosphere.This type of facility is not found anywhere; it even has chaise-lungs for a short nap.

IN-LAND MAMMAL CLAY LICKS

We humans have been since ancient times, used to a practice called Geophagy which consists in eating soils directly from earth. This practice was initiated by humans as a quick solution to treat an illness, or to detox from something eaten and, or even as natural supplements when lacking nutrients. 

With years, clay became essential and men were more selective in the sense that some types were to treat the common stomach ache, and others as an antacid. Different types of clay are still used in emerging countries to treat poisoning by herbicides.

More that 50 species of animals have been recorded eating clay. A classic example are elephants that travel great distances to eat clay, backtracking to certain specific sites where they either eat clay or cover themselves with it.
Monkeys in the Amazon jungle eat termite mounds that contain clay as a major component and when they can’t find termite nests they search for clay licks, especially if these sediments contain a high sodium content which is vital for muscles and heart’s function. When we look at animals engaging in these seemingly bizarre behaviors we can understand the activity by looking at our own behaviors and medical history. It seems that many animals, including humans, have an ingrained or cultural knowledge for obtaining the many essential chemicals we require.

OXBOW LAKES &
CATAMARAN RIDES

Camungo, Blanquillo & Blanco Oxbow Lakes
In the Amazon, one can expect oxbow lake formation as a rule of thumb as a consequence of large volume rivers when they reach usually flat, low-lying plains,  generally near to where the main body of water from the river empties into another smaller body of water. 

Blanco Oxbow Lake
Our largest Oxbow lake, home of dozens of different bird species, caimans and giant otter families. Enjoy the different ecosystems this habitat offers smoothly from a catamaran.  Easy to enjoy at any hour of the day.  Only a 15-minute motorized canoe ride upstream, plus a 15 minute (1.2km) walk from the river bank. Also accessible by foot from the Lodge premises, through Tocon trail (3.6 km) or through Machin trail (3.4 km) that connects the loop.
Blanquillo Oxbow Lake

Located only 1.8 km from the lodge (25-minute walking distance), enjoy the view of more than a dozen different bird species, caimans, and monkeys playing along the water banks. This is the only lake in our premises where fishing is permitted.

Camungo Oxbow lake
On these plains, rivers often have wide meanders. These in turn, and during a large period of time, end up forming oxbow lakes from two sets of curves: one curving away from the straight path of the river and one curving back. When this last situation happens, it’s very probable that an oxbow lake will be formed shortly after volume of water increases in a given period of time in large amounts, leaving the loop of water separated by the river. Oxbow lakes are unique habitats for wildlife since there is no human presence nor boat traffic inside of them.

They are one of the best places to spot black caiman. As the largest reptile in the Neotropical Zone, these prehistoric creatures can grow up to five meters in length, and prey on a variety of fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. 

Home of several reptiles, these still waters are optimal for the Anaconda and the graceful Giant River Otter, which can be regularly seen at Blanco and Camungo Oxbow lakes, where 2020 reports suggest two families per oxbow lake have been spotted.

Charming as these may seem to observers, this is an efficient carnivore, when in still waters. It can grow up to 1.7 meters in length and consume as much as 5 kilos of fish in a single day. Poaching in the 1950s and 1960s throughout South America by hunters in search of its pelt, the species severely reduced its numbers, and the giant river otter was listed as endangered in 1999. 
Giant otters are well protected against predators like Caiman and Anaconda by careful team work performed by the family, and a vast number of calls to communicate amongst each other. Today, protected areas like Blanquillo Oxbow Lake, Blanco and Camungo Oxbow Lakes at Tambo Blanquillo Amazon Nature Reserve offer these fascinating species a refuge from habitat loss and other pressures.

CANOPY OBSERVATION TOWER

Brazil has a 350 meter-high tower built for exclusive scientific research and not for tourism observation. Located on the Camungo Loop and with an observation platform situated 50 m. above the canopy ground, it is probably the highest in the Amazon for tourism observation and by far the highest and safest in Peru. It’s a beautiful steel tower with a magnificent site that allows a full panoramic view of the foliage from a 400 year old Kapok (Ceiba) tree.
  

The base of the tree is so huge that it takes 40 people holding hands to complete a circle at the base of its circumference. The tower is a true work of engineering since it was built in Lima and Cuzco, which were then later transported by river to a nearby port, and after carrying them through four kilometers of muddy trail to its current location.
  

Extra care was taken not to hurt the tree especially when the excavation for the concrete foundations was performed. One of the dangers that we studied thoroughly were the location of the roots that as in all Amazon trees are very superficial and intricate, making it very hard to position the steel and concrete base’s exactly in order to take advantage of the final part of the tower. 

specially when setting it at its final position, where it would lie right next to the tree and platform. Success was achieved and the steel tower doesn’t touch the tree in any portion. The final stairs leading to the top are in the air to provide freedom of growth. The tree hasn’t stopped growing since the tower and platform were finished in 1999.

The tower offers great opportunities for photography, filming and birdwatching.  Carefully situated at the top of a 450-year-old Kapok tree, arrive at the observation platform throughout a 10 -minute boat ride plus a 15-minute walk from the lodge. 
Quite an achievement that demonstrates that nature can be protected even in the vicinity and continuous use of human-made access for conservation and tourism. The tower location also takes advantage of being next to one of our oxbow lakes (Camungo) so the view is magnificent, especially at dawn and sunset. Flocks of birds can be seen regularly at eye level, flying right  next to the tower platform giving visitors the sensation of being part of this wonderful nature spectacle and view.

TRAIL SYSTEM

The trail grid in Tambo Blanquillo Amazon Nature Reserve covers more than 17 Km (10.5 miles) of pristine paths. Carefully designed to interconnect the principal attractions with the lodge and at the same time serve as extraordinary observation spots for wildlife observation and botanical species sighting.

 Most of these paths can be easily and comfortably walked at night, since trails are ample enough with almost nil obstacles due that they are cleaned on a weekly basis from debris and fallen limbs (or even whole trees) after severe storms.

All trails are clearly signaled and point you in the right direction. At several points throughout the grid, we have installed camera traps that provide updated wildlife activity footage serving as valuable information for guides to stay up-to-date with our forests latest wildlife activity.

Most recent films are edited and shown to newly arrived groups so they know what species have recently been found wandering around a specific trail. The need of a guide is a mandatory requirement to venture in any of our trails, this way the possibility of accidents diminishes radically since even this paradise has inherent dangers that have to be avoided at all costs.
 

Optimal for smooth or hardcore walks and excursions that surprise any nature lover. Ideal for mammal spotting and birdwatching. Animal activity is monitored all year along these paths thanks to trap camera systems, hidden within the forest and prudently set and studied for research purposes.

This data is key for our guides’ awareness towards the latest in animal behavior to enhance educated-excursions and sightings.

NOTICE

Even though trials are clearly labeled, and orientation can be easily-to-follow, for your safety, no walks are allowed without the company of our experienced guides.

TROCHAS

These trails are a nature wonder by itself, marvelous for discovering the botanical vastness of the forest.

Optimal for smooth or hardcore walks and excursions that surprise any nature lover. Ideal for mammal spotting and birdwatching. Animal activity is monitored all year along these paths thanks to trap camera systems, hidden within the forest and prudently set and studied for research purposes. This data is key for our guides’ awareness towards the latest in animal behavior to enhance educated-excursions and sightings.

Notice: Even though trials are clearly labeled, and orientation can be easily-to-follow, for your safety, no walks are allowed without the company of our experienced guides.

CANOPY OBSERVATION TOWER

Trocha Guacamayo

Starts: Lodge 
Ends: Macaw Claylick (or vice versa).
Length: 4.1 km (90-min. walking distance)

Full of newly formed ecosystems, observe several bird species this riparian terrain has to offer. This habitat has made a massive transition over the past 20 years from an aquatic ecosystem to a lowland terrestrial forest, hosting a large community of Cecropia (Cecropia peltata) trees.

This naturally formed island was secluded by the Madre de Dios River, after it changed its course at the beginning of the 2000’s. Tree species diversity is high.  This path is specially designed to reach the Macaw Claylick by foot.  Observe pairs of red-and-green macaws feeding on Mauritia palm seeds (aguaje) at the end of the trek. Lowering your voices before reaching the blind will help ensure bird activity on the claywall, and allow their daily ingest not to be disturbed.

Enjoy these floodable territories best during the dry season (March-November).

SHEBONAL TRAIL

Trocha Shebonal

Starts: Lodge 
Ends: Machin Trail, Tocon Trail, Blanquillo Oxbow Lake (or vice versa).
Length: 1.8 km (25-min. walking distance)

Start your trek at the Lodge, and reach Blanquillo Oxbow Lake or connect with crossroads of Machin Trail (leads up to the large in-land mammal claylick) or Tocon Trail that loops around Blanquillo Oxbow Lake to connect with Peccary trail (land route up to Blanco Oxbow Lake).

Walk through a bamboo forest full of different ecosystems.  Keep a close look when spotting dead palms along the trail sides, you might catch a red-and-green macaw perched on the inside.  The understory of this forest is quite dense, which makes a perfect habitat for small rodents like the agouti, large mammals as tapirs and even big wildcats like jaguars and pumas.

TOCON TRAIL

Trocha Tocón

Starts: Crossroads with Shebonal Trail Connects: Peccary Trail 
Ends: Back at the Lodge (or vice versa).
Length: 5.4 km (115-min. walking distance)

Making a loop around Blanquillo Oxbow Lake, connects with Peccary Trail -almost at mid-point length- (which takes you toward Blanco Oxbow Lake), or back towards the Lodge if you follow back the way downstream Madre de Dios River. Circulating along the west-side of Blanquillo Oxbow Lake, the dense understory starts to unfold into a more dispersed foliage. 

Keep your eyes open, several trap camera sightings have caught tapirs and pumas along this same path.  Before reaching the connection with Machin trail, traverse through several small streams that will showcase arthropods and related species around these wetlands like crustaceans, snails or crabs (specially around the months of rain season- Dec. through February-). Ideal for night excursions.

MACHIN TRAIL

Trocha Machín

Starts: Crossroads with Shebonal Trail Connects: Peccary Trail 
Ends: Back at the Lodge (or vice versa).
Length: 5.4 km (115-min. walking distance)

Making a loop around Blanquillo Oxbow Lake, connects with Peccary Trail -almost at mid-point length- (which takes you toward Blanco Oxbow Lake), or back towards the Lodge if you follow back the way downstream Madre de Dios River. Circulating along the west-side of Blanquillo Oxbow Lake, the dense understory starts to unfold into a more dispersed foliage. 

Keep your eyes open, several trap camera sightings have caught tapirs and pumas along this same path.  Before reaching the connection with Machin trail, traverse through several small streams that will showcase arthropods and related species around these wetlands like crustaceans, snails or crabs (specially around the months of rain season- Dec. through February-). Ideal for night excursions.

CAMUNGO LOOP

Lazo Camungo

Starts: Madre de Dios River 
Ends: Madre de Dios River (makes a roundabout)
Length: 2.7 km (45 min. walking distance)

Discover a clean primary forest and observe the canopy layer of trees from the floor. This trail takes you towards Camungo Oxbow lake, Camungo Observation Tower, and circles back its way to Madre de Dios River.

Observe some epiphytes or “air plants”, sitting on high trunks of tall trees. This forest hosts several large species of Kapok trees (Ceiba pentandra), Mahogany trees (Swietenia macrophylla), and different Cedar species. 

It’s common to spot strangler figs try to take over territory over the tree trunks, and observe how neatly lianas or vines grow vines, grow up to the canopy by climbing trees.

PECCARY TRAIL

Trocha Pecarí

Starts: Madre de Dios River 
Ends: Madre de Dios River (makes a roundabout)
Length: 2.7 km (45 min. walking distance)

Discover a clean primary forest and observe the canopy layer of trees from the floor. This trail takes you towards Camungo Oxbow lake, Camungo Observation Tower, and circles back its way to Madre de Dios River.

Observe some epiphytes or “air plants”, sitting on high trunks of tall trees. This forest hosts several large species of Kapok trees (Ceiba pentandra), Mahogany trees (Swietenia macrophylla), and different Cedar species. 

It’s common to spot strangler figs try to take over territory over the tree trunks, and observe how neatly lianas or vines grow vines, grow up to the canopy by climbing trees.

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