Private Journeys

Wildlife Peru and Galapagos

14 days from £5,460pp

Peru / Galapagos Islands / The Amazon

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Cusco and transfer to your hotel in the city centre.

You arrive at Cusco, high in the Peruvian Andes. The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire, which reached its zenith at the same time as England was fighting the Wars of the Roses. Today its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches. It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and enthusiasts selling day trips jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, clubs and bars.

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Day 2

Guided walking tour of Cusco.

You'll have a guided walking tour of the city's highlights. Stroll to the arty quarter San Blas, characterised by evocative narrow streets, a compact, pretty square, workshops and handicraft shops. Visit the neighbourhood's church and a family-run workshop. The atmospheric Hatunrumiyoc street is lined by near perfect Inca masonry, epitomised by the extraordinary twelve-angled stone about halfway down. Continue walking towards the buzzing main square, the Plaza de Armas  and visit the imposing baroque cathedral and the dazzling Inca Koricancha temple. Call in at a traditional textiles museum before you walk to popular San Pedro market, a vast indoor emporium with stalls overflowing with flowers, juices, fruits and vegetables as well as a multitude of artisan goods.

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Day 3

Fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon and transfer to jungle lodge.

Begin your adventure to the Peruvian Amazon, it's just a one hour flight to Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to the southern area of the steamy jungle. This busy port is a market town for the communities which live along the banks of the Amazon tributaries. From there you have your first wildlife experience - a 2.5hr motorised canoe trip on the river to your lodge deep in the rainforest, Refugio Amazonas.

The accommodation there is constructed in harmony with its isolated jungle setting, combining simplicity with relative comfort. One side of each room is facing the forest and open air, taking advantage of the low incidence of mosquitoes to allow intimate contact with the sights and sounds of nature.  Insects humming, tropical birds whooping and howler monkeys growling.

After dark, you might venture out on the river again on a guided caiman-spotting expedition. These watchful reptiles beady eyes are lit up with a bright red glow in the guide's torchlight.  

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Day 4

Continue by river deeper into the jungle to the the Tambopata Research Centre.

After breakfast you walk for a couple of kilometres to climb a canopy tower 25m high. From the top you have an amazing vantage point at tree-top level from which to view the birds as they flutter through the dense tropical foliage. Then, back at ground level, paddle around the serene, still waters of a glossy oxbow lake in search of other wildlife - mammals and reptiles such as giant otters and river turtles. Afterwards, you leave the lodge to take a four-hour boat ride up the jungle-fringed Tambopata river in the heart of the eponymous reserve, visiting a parrot clay lick along the way and eventually arriving at the Tambopata Research Centre. 

This is a low-key, rustic property on a twisty young Amazonian tributary which exudes atmosphere. You'll really feel enveloped in the jungle here. Far from any village or farmstead, it's remote enough to give you an excellent chance of observing undisturbed wildlife. Researchers have been carrying out groundbreaking macaw conservation research here - during your stay, you may have the chance  to speak to macaw biologists, ecologists and other experts while they undertake their fieldwork.

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Day 5

Visit parrot clay lick.

Set off at dawn to visit the world's largest known macaw clay lick where hundreds of parrots and macaws congregate daily. Access is by motorised canoe to a sandbank approximately 100m from the lick, from where you have an undisturbed view of this colourful spectacle.  Red bellied and chestnut-fronted macaws are the most frequently seen here as they jostle with each other in search of breakfast on the muddy walls of the lick.

Return to the lodge for your own breakfast then hike a 5 km trail, which offers a stunning example of primary tropical rainforest, including the huge, magnificent ceiba tree. On the branches of these and other ebullient trees you may spot cute little squirrel and capuchin monkeys and collared peccary. In the afternoon, take a ten-minute boat ride to a small oxbow lake which has an observation platform set within it, from which it is easy to observe bird life.

Later, after dinner at the lodge, take a nocturnal hike around the research centre. After dark you have a good opportunity to  spot frogs, snakes and other creatures which are active at night, or discover others snoozing in the foliage. All this accompanied by the symphony of haunting nocturnal jungle sounds: the croaking of toads, buzzing of insects, the squawk of a disturbed bird or the gentle flapping of an owl's wings.

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Day 6

Return to Cusco, chocolate and pisco tasting tour.

Return to Puerto Maldonado by boat and fly back to Cusco. Later you'll be escorted on a private tour where in just four hours you will visit an artisan chocolate factory, a coffee museum and a similar establishment dedicated to pisco, the grape brandy spirit loved by the people of Chile and Peru which dispute its origin.

You will learn about the production process and, in the chocolate and coffee establishments, participate in an interactive workshop where you are taught to make your own confectionery and coffee blend. Naturally you get to taste and keep the result. At the bar Republica del Pisco, close to the main square, you have the opportunity to sample each of four varieties of pisco, washing down a plateful of tapas. If you are enjoying yourself you can stay on in the bar afterwards; they sometimes have live music in the evening.

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Day 7

Fly via Lima to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Fly from Cusco to Lima and change planes for your flight to Guayaquil Ecuador's principal Pacific port. Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, is situated on the banks of the River Guayas, and has gone through something of a transformation in the last few years. The expanse of waterfront has been made into an outdoor architectural showpiece, and restoration work has taken place along the city's main thoroughfare and in the historical neighbourhood of Las Peñas. Time permitting, you can take a walk from the frenetic, noisy open market at La Bahia, and past the colonial naval shipyard to the Malecón (the waterfront promenade), Guayaquil's crowning jewel. Stroll past tropical gardens, markets and street cafés, and head to Santa Ana Hill and Las Peñas, a district of brightly-coloured wooden houses and ramshackle streets dating back to the 16th century. 

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Day 8

Guided expedition to a mangrove forest

It is a short drive to Manglares Churute Reserve, a protected mangrove and dry tropical forest. The park is home to a broad variety of wildlife including aquatic birds, shrimp, crabs, tortoise and armadillo. Primates include white-fronted capuchin and howler monkey. Upon arrival you will be met by your guide who will give you an idea of why this area and its mangroves are so important, then make your way by boat through this intriguing and little known world, stopping along the way to observe the wildlife and watch crab pickers at work. You will have a chance to get close to a wide array of birds, and sometimes even dolphins. Later, there's time further to explore the coastal rainforest on foot. A highlight of this hike is the unforgettable sight of howler monkeys crashing through the tree tops above.

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Day 9

Fly to the Galapagos islands, board motor vessel for you expedition cruise.

It's a flight of only around 90 minutes it it takes you to another world.  Upon arrival in the Galápagos Islands, you'll be escorted to your waiting motor cruiser, a small and friendly vessel with a qualified naturalist guide on board. The remote Galápagos Islands emerged in the Pacific Ocean six million years ago following a spate of volcanic activity and, isolated from the continental mainland, have become home to unique plant and animal species. Without fear of humans, they are sufficiently trusting to allow you to approach them and observe them up close.

The islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which formed the basis for his revolutionary book ‘On The Origin of Species’, published in 1859.

Although geologically constantly on the move, these islands remain suspended in time, with giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, frigate birds, waved albatross and blue-footed boobies and a wealth of rare flora all thriving there. For many, the fascinating and unique wildlife and natural beauty of the islands are matched by the thrill of being at sea. Find a spot on deck as your ship makes way through the ocean, often trailed by flocks of birds and playful dolphins.

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Days 10-12

Land excursions from the cruise around the Galápagos Islands.

The itinerary for your days in the Galápagos is subject to change for operational reasons and according to the rules of the Galápagos National Park authorities. There are normally two landings a day, which will usually include chances to snorkel, on which you are accompanied by your guide in search of the different wildlife that inhabits the islands. Below is a summary of the islands that you visit on this journey, and the animals and birds that can be found on each of them.

Santa Cruz (Indefatigable): This island has the largest human population of the five inhabited islands. Some 4,000 residents are distributed between the cattle farming communities in the lush highlands and the coastal town of Puerto Ayora, which is mainly dominated by tourism. The Charles Darwin Research Station here is staffed by international scientists conducting biological research and conservation projects.

Fernandina (Narborough): The island is one of the world’s most active and impressive volcanoes, having erupted at least 10 times in the last 150 years. The lava fields offer a ‘land without time’ landscape and the island is home to a huge colony of marine iguanas, flightless cormorants and some penguins.

Isabela (Albemarle): The largest island in the archipelago, it has 5 volcanoes forming a chain down its spine. The most famous sites are situated on the western side, such as the impressive and spectacular inlets of Vincente Roca, with its high cliffs, lava formations and wonderful marine life. Urbina Bay offers an impressive array of birdlife including finches, warblers and mockingbirds, whilst Elizabeth Bay lined with mangroves is home to turtles and rays.

James (Santiago): The island is one of black rocks and little shade, and the western coast is pitted with lava pools and caves which are home to a wealth of marine life. You may well see herons and oyster catchers as well as Galápagos fur seals playing in the deep, cool water pools, and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside colourful Sally Lightfoot crabs.

Rabida Island (Jervis) is unique because the red colour of the rocks and sand. The volcanic material in this island is very porous and external factors as rain, salt water and sea breeze have acted as an oxidizing agent. A short walk along a trail lead us to a coastal lagoon behind the beach permits the observation of land birds as finches, doves, yellow warblers and mocking birds. At the lagoon there is a colony of flamingos.

Bartolome Island (San Salvador) has an altitude of 114 meters, from where you can observe one of the most beautiful sceneries of the Galapagos Islands such as: Volcanic cones, lunar like craters, lava fields, and the famous Toba formed pinnacle eroded by the sea. There is very little vegetation on this island. It has two breathtaking beaches where marine turtles exist and at the base of the pinnacle, as well as a very small colony of Galápagos penguins.

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Day 13

Fly to Guayaquil, connect with international flight home.

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  • Jamie Swan
    Jamie Swan - Travel Consultant

    Jamie backpacked across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil before joining us; he has a degree in politics and is also a keen sportsman..

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    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

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    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

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    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

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    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

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