Peruvian Amazon, 45 minutes by boat from Maldonado
There are those who believe comfort is overrated. Thankfully, sustainable hotelier Inkaterra is not among them. At Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, conscientious pleasure–seekers enjoy eco–friendly luxury in one of Peru's most remote territories.
The jungle is not naturally hospitable. In Peru, for example, where the lush Amazon Basin comprises more than fifty percent of the country, only five percent of the population calls it home. Creating a life within the dense tangle of impenetrable rainforest—let alone a luxury eco lodge — isn't easy. There are termites and mud, precious ecosystems and habitats, in addition to lethal plants, insects and animals to contend with. But that's the magic of it. It's Pachamama (Mother Earth) in sultry green Technicolor.
And that's what makes a stay at the exotic Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, situated at the heart of a 42,000–acre private ecological reserve in one of Peru's remotest territories, just as magical. Because, while you're busy exploring and learning about the wondrous world of the Amazon and sleeping and dining in pampered style, you're also providing planet–friendly jobs to locals, helping to fund ethnological and ecological research and supporting vital conservation programs. Good for you. Good for Pachamama.
The adventure begins in southeastern Peru in the jungle outpost of Puerto Maldonado via a short flight from Lima or Cusco. After a personal airport welcome and brief stop at the Inkaterra registration lounge and Butterfly House, a scenic 45–minute boat ride up the swiftly flowing Madre de Dios River past puttering peki-pekis (traditional canoes retrofitted with motorcycle engines), flowering kapok trees and small farms delivers you to this serene rainforest retreat.
Arriving at the lodge's riverbank staircase, a short trail leads you to the lodge's huge thatched–roof two–story dining and reception building where you are greeted with a cool towel and refreshing tropical juice then escorted to your private cabaña. Lodge porters will have already delivered your luggage.
It may be the jungle, but at Reserva Amazonica you won't have to eschew your creature comforts. Four cabaña options are offered: Superior, Superior Rio (riverside), Suite Amazonica (647 sq ft), and, the most luxurious, Suite Tambopata (840 sq ft) with private plunge pool. But no matter which category of accommodation you choose, each of the thirty–five spacious thatched–roof cabañas with their high ceilings, handmade furnishings and fine linens, is tricked out with everything you'd want in an eco luxury getaway. King–size beds with billowing mosquito netting. Fluffy robes and slippers. Sumptuous towels and signature organic toiletries. And screened decks with comfy lounge chairs and hammocks. They're also outfitted with practical extras like umbrellas, flashlight, ceiling fan and Kerosene lanterns. What you will not find, however, is air conditioning.
Those who choose to sleep in the Canopy Tree House (90 feet above the lush jungle floor) will enjoy a romantic dinner, sunset cocktails and unforgettable night in treetop comfort secluded away from the rest of the lodge.
Interconnecting the cabañas with the spa, eco–center and main lodge are meandering trails of raised wood and covered boardwalks, perfect for keeping feet high and dry. The freestanding cabañas are situated within shouting distance of one another, but lush gardens of flowering plants and bird–filled trees provide a natural screen and sense of privacy.
Winner of both the 2012 Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Conservation and the 2012 Green Choice Sustainable Tourism Award and one–hundred percent carbon neutral, Inkaterra is as committed to preservation as they are to guest comfort. By employing simple sustainable solutions—like using kerosene lantern illuminated pathways, responsible recycling practices, preservative–free, biodegradable toiletries, and complimentary canteens for guest drinking water—Reserva Amazonica maintains as light an environmental footprint as possible. This stance means limited electricity when it's really needed: a power generator works from 4a.m. to 3:30p.m. and 6p.m. to 11p.m. daily
The natural world is the main event at Reserva Amazonica, with complimentary (or private) excursions on tap for every age and interest. Guests can spy on the secret lives of the world's largest rodent, the Capybara, and search for elusive caimans and gigantic tarantulas by flashlight on a twilight river cruise or night walk. Or, team up with explorer guides to hike the reserve trail system and learn about medicinal plants, animal behavior and jungle life. Climb high above the rainforest on the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway (a network of treetop towers, bridges and platforms) to spot monkeys, toucans, macaws and sloths. And fish for piranha, explore a jungle farm or visit the Inkaterra Butterfly House. There are also jungle treasure hunts and a fun–filled child's explorer packs available for families doing their Amazon trips with kids.
Foodies will appreciate the exquisitely presented and creatively prepared meals made from fresh local ingredients. And the relaxing river's edge ENA Spa, offering an inviting menu of cooling therapies featuring exotic Amazonian botanical extracts, will appeal to both lodge lizards and fatigued jungle explorers. But perhaps the biggest luxury is the lodge's rich rainforest soundtrack: the trill of birdsong, the gentle rustle of palm fronds, and cheerful chirps of insects and tree frogs.
Digital nomads should be forewarned that Reserva Amazonica is a total disconnect vacation. There is no cellular or Wi–Fi coverage at the lodge; and limited Internet access is only available upon request. Also, this is the rainforest where it rains—a lot—and humidity can make electronics go wonky. Protect your gizmos with Ziplocs, dry sacks, or a waterproof daypack and throw in a moisture–absorbing silica gel packet or two.
The bottom line: Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica is an exotic, adventurous and unforgettable Amazon experience.
Web Address: www.Inkaterra.com/en/reserva-amazonica
Total Number of Rooms: 35
Published rates: Starting from US$ 692 per adult for 3 days, 2 nights. This includes round trip transportation by land and river (airport-lodge–airport), meals, water and non–alcoholic house beverages, plus a–la–carte guided excursions in English.
Review and photos by Ellen Barone.