Friday, December 9, 2011

THE PACAYA SAMIRIA NATIONAL RESERVE


Herons flying on a lagoon in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (PSNR), located close to Iquitos (Peru), is the largest government protected area within the floodable Amazon basin in South America with 2'080,000 ha (20,800 sq km or 5139.7 acres) is twice the area of the Yellowstone National Park (USA).

Herons colony
RAMSAR site since 1986, it is located among the rivers Marañón, Ucayali and Amazon housing a huge biodiversity: 527 bird species, 102 mammal species, 69 species of reptiles, 58 species of amphibians, 269 fish species, and 1024 species of plants. Some of these species are endangered as the charapa turtle (Podocnemis expansa), taricaya turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), the spider monkey (Ateles sp.), the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the jaguar (Panthera onca), the Amazon manatee (Trichechus inunguis), black caimans (Melanosuchus niger), the red macaw (Ara macao; A. ararauna), herons, hummingbirds, the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), and more.
Jungle trek

The altitude of the Reserve is between 80 to 206 msnm (263 to 675 feet above sea level) and have many lagoons and streams of calm water that reflects the landscapes and sky as a mirror. Due its landscapes and biodiversity, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is an Amazon hotspot for ecotourism, adventure travel and birdwatching.

There are many tour companies -cruises, lodges, travel agencies and local guides of the villages living in the protected area (these people were trainned by the Peruvian government and NGOs)- that organizes jungle trips to the reserve, but always is better contact only with registered ones.

Sunset on the Amazon rainforest
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is a superb place to see wildlife. Usually is necessary to take a minimun of three days, two nights or more to travel to the Pacaya Samiria and El Dorado lagoon ("cocha El Dorado" as the locals say) is one of the most interesting places within it, because hosts a plenty of birds, alligators, river turtles, paiches (Arapaima gigas, the largest fresh water fish in the world), monkeys, and beautiful landscapes of primary jungle. To visit El Dorado it is necessary to take at least a 6-day expedition.

To obtain official information on activities in Iquitos and Peru, tour companies and their reputation, Amazon rainforest tours, and local guides of the villages living in the Pacaya Samiria area, contact iPerú, the nationwide tourism office (run by PromPeru, the Peruvian tourism board) to iperuiquitos@promperu.gob.pe, www.peru.travel or their 24-hour line (+51 1) 574-8000.

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