Don’t get lost in the Amazon rainforest
For all desiring to visit my second home in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest – welcome! Let me present you the region with the highest biodiversity on Earth. Fortunately, large parts of this pristine forests remain intact, though threats are closer every day. Follow the text below to discover how to get the most out of the jungle by taking nothing from it.
Heads up !
The trade in jungle animals is illegal in Peru, but unfortunately continues almost unchecked. Many people who own or sell animals, whether it be as pets or for consumption, have little regard for the physical and mental well-being of the animals. The same is true for the many illegal operations known where jungle animals are put on display for you, the visitor, often in terrible circumstances.
Don’t be a Gringo !!
Think before handling over your money for that one of a kind vacation shot with a baby monkey or a sloth. These are wild animals who have been ripped away from their natural habitats, their parents killed to “rescue” the baby, only to be abused, neglected and starved so you can have that vacation shot. The same goes for any souvenir made of animal parts. For those animal lovers, I strongly urge you not to buy any animals, thinking you are saving them from a heart-wrenching situation. Buying animals only encourage the trade, as the seller now has an incentive to get more animals from the jungle to keep his business alive. There is no tradition in this practice just a simple law of business trade, supply and demand. So-called sanctuaries are often a part of this hidden reality, making money on those same rescued animals who will never be reintroduced back to the jungle.
Manatee rescue center is THE ONLY place to go!
For more info check out these videos produced by National Geographic:
So, where can you go?
Of course, seeing jungle animals and exploring the city is part of the reason why you came to Iquitos. So, where can you go? The town of Iquitos has a quite interesting history that can be observed, including museums, buildings, local life and jungle tours. Make sure to bring your student card and enjoy discounts!
To get a deeper peek into Amazon history, there are two museums and several historical buildings worth a visit. The museum Barco Ayapua is housed in a preserved steamship, the Ayapua, from the rubber boom era. Its rooms contain artifacts, books, and information on the history of Iquitos, the rubber boom and the ‘discovery’ of the Amazon by the West. This can be a good introduction to understand why anyone would establish a city in the middle of the jungle! The ticket price also includes a complimentary 30-minute boat ride out on the River Itaya; note that the boat ride is not available in the height of summer (June to November) when the river close to the museum dries up.
The local library, La Biblioteca Amazónica is a good place to pass away the afternoon reading in a relatively quiet atmosphere, which is hard to be found on the busy streets of Iquitos. This is a good place to be if you are staying in Iquitos for a longer time and prefer to explore the culture with your body and mind. According to some sources, this is considered to be one of the most important collections on the continent.
If you take a walk to Plaza de Armas you will notice a house made of iron, so-called the Iron house (La Casa de Fierro). This building has an unclear history and some sources indicate it might be a piece of art made by the famous Eiffel. If this made you think twice – yes, the same one that made the Paris Tower. Many other historical buildings and events might attract your attention to Iquitos. For instance, if you are a fan of popular rock band The Rolling Stones you might be surprised to find out Mick Jagger was here to film a movie. You also might get a bit disappointed with the following information, he wasn’t in the movie at all. The set needed to be re-filmed but Mick just hit the road for his tour. Still, you can try out the same bed he’s been sleeping in Casa Fitzcarraldo (http://www.casafitzcarraldo.com/en/mick-jagger-room/)
If you’re more interested in the everyday life of the locals, you should not miss out the famous market of Belen. Keep in mind you are entering the zone of extreme poverty where frequent cases of pickpocketing come along. Still, there is no need to avoid this place. In order to appreciate the rich diversity of products available in the market and to feel safer, it can help to go with a guide. If you want to make sure you get the proper tour, ask for Lito at Green Track Hostel. By the way, this is a good place to stay. (Cost per person S/25; Tour duration: approx. 2h.)
For the ones that are more interested in exploring the Amazon Wildlife, visiting the National Reserve Allpahuayo-mishana is a good option for travellers who are looking for a one-day tour. If you want to go on a multi-day tour and get a real feeling for a pristine jungle, where wildlife is free (as it should be) check out privately owned Tapiche Reserve. The income received from visitors provides wages for locals whose alternative is logging and poaching. Most importantly, you will witness this first-hand experience as the lodge is shared with local villagers. Located 404 km south from the city of Iquitos, the Tapiche lodge is the ultimate immersion in nature. (www.tapichejungle.com)
What can you do? Volunteer!
If you want to spend your time in Iquitos in a more meaningful and useful way, there are many volunteer opportunities. It is very common for travelers to be a part of river cleaning action, street dog rescue, and kids’ education. Once you get there you will understand why. Please just make sure you’re not charged for your service. There is no reason ever who could justify that kind of demand and you may be sure you were deceived!
To conclude, I know how much you value the well-being of the jungle and its inhabitants, and how much you wish to see some of its most famous creatures up close. Whether it is the legendary anaconda; the mysterious caiman; the mighty jaguar; the charming sloth, or the cute monkeys – you probably have a favorite. That is why I would like to ask for your help in protecting some of these animals and raise your awareness about unethical practices in Iquitos.
So, how can you help? It is quite simple:
- Don´t buy any animals, no matter how sad their situation may seem
- Don´t visit locations where wild animals are kept in a controlled environment
- Don´t buy any souvenirs made with animal products such as teeth, skin, fur, or bones.
Heads up and do not Forget!
What you pay for is what you support – you can make a difference by making a better choice.
I would rather see wild creatures in the wild… Wouldn’t you?
by: Ana Borović
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