Things To Do While Visiting Iquitos, Peru
By Mike Collis
Over a 150 years ago Iquitos was just a native village sitting on a mud bank. Now it truly is regarded as "The Gateway to the Amazon". A lot of visitors come here and head straight off to a jungle lodge and then leave on their return from the jungle. This is a shame because Iquitos has a lot to offer and I always recommend that visitors allow at least 2 days before or after their jungle excursion to explore this charming city. Surrounded by rivers and jungle and with no road connection to the outside world, Iquitos has acquired a unique culture that has come from years of isolation.
We have compiled a list of things to do during your stay here in Iquitos. Some of these trips can take a whole day, like monkey island, others half a day, some no more than a couple of hours, so you can see something more of Iquitos before leaving for the airport. These trips you can do by yourself but we recommend you go with an english speaking guide who will not only keep you safe, but will explain about what you are seeing. Having a guide can actually save you time and money. We recommend Angel Brandon who can be contacted by phone on 987620316 or email; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and Amazon Animal Orphanage
If you do have half a day to spare then this, in my opinion is your best choice (but not on Mondays, itís closed on Mondays). It is a butterfly farm and an animal sanctuary and it is worthwhile going there. You will learn all about the life cycle of butterflies and get to meet some of the animals that Gudren Sperrer the owner has rescued over the years. Pedro Bello is a 5 year old jaguar that Gudrun rescued as a cub. There are also alligators, a manatee and lots of monkeys. Watch out for the monkeys, they are very proficient thieves and will steal anything they can get their hands on. Best to take a bunch of bananas and bribe them to leave you alone. It is also easy to get to. Just get a motocarro to Puerto Bella Vista Nanay and from there a water taxi (or colectivo) for about 15 minutes to the village of Padre Cocha, from there it is only a short walk to the entrance of Pilpintuwasi.
You can take a cruise along the Iquitos waterfront very easily by renting a wooden palm roofed boat called a "peque peque". You can find these below the Boulevard and they normally cost about 30 soles per hour. They will take you to the floating village of Belen and during high water you can cruise through the flooded streets. Then back along the entire waterfront taking in the naval port with its old warships and onto Masusa the main port of Iquitos and then the confluence of the Itaya and Amazon rivers before dropping you off back at the Boulevard.
We recommend you call Hector Flores on 963 50 2532 (English spoken).
The Yagua and Bora Indigenous Villages.
The Boras and the Yagua Natives live on the Momon River near the village of San Andres. Each community wears their own traditional clothing and the women are normally bare breasted. They will dance and sing for you and then invite you to dance with them before showing you their handicrafts which they hope you will buy. They used the money as their source of income which they also use to buy medicines for the children. To get to the Yaguas and Boras simply get a motocarro to the port of Bella Vista Nanay and from there rent an aluminium speedboat for an hour or two to take you for the 20 minute ride to San Andres.
Quistococha Zoo and Tunchi Playa
The wildlife in the rainforest is very illusive, mostly nocturnal and living in the thick jungle. So spending some time at the Quistococha Zoo is the best and most effective way to see Amazon animals up close. Nearly all of the animals of the Peruvian Amazon are there, all the big cats like jaguars, pumas and ocelots are there along with capybaras, caymen, many kinds of monkeys (some of which have escaped and come down at night to visit their cousins in the cages), parrots and the Giant Amazon Otters are there too. There is a small monkey island. There is also a serpentarium and pools of Amazon fish like the paiche and sabalo. Below the zoo is a beautiful lake and a sandy beach called "Playa Tunchi", which is surrounded by small restaurants that served delicious Peruvian cuisine. There are two ways of getting to Quistococha Zoo, the one is by bus and the other a half hour ride in a motocarro. Well worth the trip and donít forget your swimming gear for the lake.
This trip is best done on foot with an English speaking guide like Angel Brandon (tel 987620316). The best place to start is in the Plaza de Armas the Casa de Fierro (The Iron House) is nearby and was originally built by Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel tower in France fame). The cathedral is also on the plaza ( Inglesia Matriz). Other sites worth seeing are the Seminary of St. Augustin, the Museo Amazonico, the Masonic Temple, the Palace Hotel and the Iglesia de la Consolacion Chapel.
Pink Dolphin Watching
If you have a couple of hours to kill then why not go and look for pink and grey dolphins. There are lots of places to see these beautiful creatures but the closest and best place is at the confluence of the Amazon and Nanay rivers at Bella Vista Nanay. Just get a motorcar to the port at Bella Vista Nanay and hire a boat for an hour or two The confluence is only a few hundred yards away and there are always dolphins congregating there,
Just 11 blocks from the Plaza de Armas up Prospero Street lies the sprawling Belen Market. The market covers many blocks and sells everything you can think of and it is open from about 5.00 a.m. every single morning throughout the year. Everything is on sale here from jungle fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and poultry along with unusual items like coca leaves, mapacho tobacco, turtle eggs, snails, cows udders, cow tongues, cows stomachs and feet. There is a passageway devoted entirely to natural medicines which the vendors claim can cure almost anything including diabetes, cancer, arthritis, baldness and even a medicine to bring your runaway wife back home. Visiting Belen Market is a very interesting way to spend an hour or two.
Words of advice:
Never go at dark time. Best time is early in the morning. Leave your valuables at home!
Manatee Rescue Centre
The ACOBIA-DWAzoo Amazonian Manatee Rescue Center is located 4.5 klms from Iquitos Airport on the main Iquitos to Nauta highway. The facility is run by IIAP the Research Institute for the Peruvian Amazon. The center welcomes visitors every day and the Visitors Center has a lecture room and shows videos of Manatees displaying the valuable work the center carries out. There are pools with baby manatees up to 2 years old. After the young ones reach 2 years old they are released into the wild. Baby manatees feed exclusively on their mothers milk for about 18 months and then they feed on vegetation which is supplemented by their mothers milk until they are 2 years old and gain independence. Visitors are invited to bottle feed the youngsters, so it really is a "hands on" experience.
The center is supported by Dallas World Aquarium in the U.S.A. whose help is invaluable but the rescue center still relies on donations to continue its work.
The Waterfront at Night
Known as "The Boulevard", this pedestrian promenade overlooking the river is the place to hang out in the evenings. Things normally get going around 7.00 p.m and usually goes on till 11.00 p.m. Drink a cold beer outside one of the many bars and restaurants facing the boulevard, listen to great music, enjoy a meal or just watch the street entertainers. The local capoeira club always gather at about 8.00 p.m. and they practice this Brazilian form of martial art, and they are quite acrobatic.
Some two hours down the Amazon by fast boat lies Monkey Island. This sanctuary was provided because here in the rainforest monkey meat is on many of the locals diets. Local people shoot monkeys to eat and sell the babies as pets. The 200 hectare island is inhabited by 9 species of monkey in 10 family units and they live safely. The monkeys roam freely and feed off a variety of fruits such as starfruit, banana, pineapple, cocona and guava, these were especially planted to ensure the monkeyís staple diet is maintained. As soon as visitors arrive at the island the monkeys swarm towards them so itís always best to take some bananas with you so as not to disappoint them. You can go for a walk through the rainforest and the monkeys will follow you, one even leading you by the hand. There is no charge for visiting Monkey Island but visitors are expected to make a voluntary contribution for the upkeep of the sanctuary. Allow a full day for this trip.
For full information on how to get the best out of these trips please contact;
Mike Collis at Mad Mickís Trading Post
Raymondi 303 ( corner of Pevas) Iquitos
or email: email@example.com