Community-owned, Heath River offers unique opportunities for exciting wildlife encounters in two very different environments in Peru.
First, you travel up the Heath River into the Pampa and savannah, where the open views mean great chances to spot wildlife.
Then, you head to Sandoval Lake Lodge, to spend time at one of the most beautiful oxbow lakes in the dense Peruvian Amazon.
At Heath River, there are miles of well-defined forest trails provide exciting viewing of a variety of animals, birds, and flora.
The elusive Jaguar roams the forest while Red Howler Monkeys chase through the trees.
The Heath River Macaw clay lick is nearby. A strategically placed floating blind allows a safe and comfortable view of the early morning gathering of parrots and macaws, who gather at the lick to eat mineral-rich clay from the riverbank.
At Sandoval, explore the lake in search of Black Caimans and Giant Otters, take a guided walk through the forest.
Or relax in a hammock, admire the sun set over the lake and, after dinner, enjoy a nightly canoe journey under starry skies.
Visit two different eco-systems and maximise your wildlife viewing.
Stay at community-owned lodges, helping locals in the Peruvian Amazon.
Experience the open pampa and savannah, perfect for spotting animals.
Search for otters and caiman at one of the Amazon's most beautiful oxbow lakes.
Although it was only a short trip, it exceeded all our expectations. Truly amazing.
J. Gibb, Sandoval Lake Lodge
Fly to Puerto Maldonado airport and transfer to the port on the Tambopata River. Here we board a motorized canoe for a four-and-a-half hour journey to the Heath River Wildlife Centre.
After descending the Tambopata River to the confluence with the larger Madre de Dios River, our boat heads east, downstream on the mighty Madre de Dios River, passing small gold prospecting barges before reaching the Peru-Bolivia border. This stretch of the Madre de Dios River is particularly attractive, as more than 75% of the riverbank is still covered by towering, virgin rainforest. We transfer to a smaller motorized canoe and head up the narrow Heath River, which forms the wilderness border between Peru and Bolivia, to arrive at the lodge.
Afternoon and evening walks to explore the forest surrounding the lodge in search for the various species of monkeys and hundreds of species of birds that make the rainforest home.
Today we start very early to visit the most spectacular attraction of this area: the parrot and macaw clay lick along the river.
Here these colourful birds gather to eat the clay in the cliffs on the riverbanks to neutralise certain toxins in their daily diet (poisonous berries and hallucinogenic plants). Sometimes they congregate in the hundreds, pushing and squabbling over the best place to eat.
This noisy and unforgettable show can go on for two or three hours, and can gather many varieties of parrots, parakeets, Chestnut-Fronted Macaws and their larger cousins, the Red and Green Macaw. This extraordinary display occurs in only a handful of places in the Upper Amazon Basin.
Our floating platform provides us with comfort and is completely hidden, so here we enjoy a full breakfast during the show (May-July there may be less activity).
We make land back down the river and walk back along a section of the extensive jungle trails. Here we find huge Chestnut, Kapok and fig trees; along with the dark strangler fig whose strategy of life is as sinister as its name implies.
Our guide explains the medicinal use and trade of dozens of plants and trees, while keeping eyes and ears open for birds or one of the eight species of monkeys found in this region. We could run into a small herd of the two species of wild pigs that are common in this area. In order to mark their territory they use scent glands so powerful that they can be smelt long before being seen.
After lunch we hike along the trail leading to the point where the forest abruptly gives way to the vast plains of the Pampas of Heath. This unique land is a result of poor soil and extreme climatic cycles of droughts and floods. It is the largest intact tropical savanna in the Amazon is the habitat of endemic birds and mammals, such as the Fork-Tailed Hummingbird and the Manned Wolf.
Just beyond the edge of the forest you can climb to an elevated platform that allows for a great view of this vast expanse of grasslands and shrubs, dotted with palm trees. The palm tree Mauritia Flexuosa produces nuts rich in palm oil and dry hollow stems that provide vital food and shelter for nesting pairs of Red Bellied Macaws and the rare Blue and Yellow Macaws.
We aim to arrive around sunset, when the parrots are returning from their daily search for food to gather in this place. We return to the lodge at night using headlamps and flashlights, and perhaps stopping here and there in total darkness to listen to the ever-changing sounds of frogs, insects, and other animals; the magic of the jungle at night. We may run into frogs the size of small rabbits, homes of hairy tarantulas or night monkeys hanging from the trees; there is a huge and unpredictable collection of nocturnal creatures in the night.
After dinner some guests may choose to visit the lick of mammals, with the hope of seeing the Lowland Tapir, the largest mammal in the jungle.
On our second full day in at the lodge we can choose from a wide range of activities available in this diverse and unique tropical environment.
Many people choose to make a second visit to the macaw clay lick or spend more time on the trails.
Later we can take a canoe tour around the Cocha Guacamayo, an oxbow lake that is home of a family of giant otters. The lake is located inside the Bahuaja Sonene National Park, a short distance by boat from the lodge.
We return by boat after dusk looking for caimans; a crocodile cousin that lives in the Amazon. This region is home to the Black Caiman, which is endangered, and almost always distinguishable along the river’s edge with its glowing orange eyes.
We leave at dawn for the return journey downstream.
The mornings are the peak of wildlife activity, so keep a sharp eye on the banks of the river where we may see families of Capybaras and maybe be rewarded with a rare glimpse of Jaguar or Tapir swimming through the stream.
We arrive at Port Sandoval where we walk to Sandoval Lake, which is protected by Tambopata National Reserve.
Along the trail there are birds and butterflies; and after 3km/2 miles, the trail leads to a narrow canal lined boats.
This flooded forest leads to the open waters of Sandoval Lake. In the golden light of afternoon our crew row the boats across to the lodge (motors are banned here).
We can see the appearance of turbid lake while a huge Paichebreaks the surface (an Amazonian fish that can weigh up to 100kg/220lbs. Or you may hear strange and unsettling screams and see heads peering from the surface of the lake, which mark our encounter with Pteronura brasiliensis, the Giant Otter of the Amazon.
After dinner we can finish the day with a short night walk, spotting some nocturnal creatures along one of the trails near the lodge.
After breakfast at dawn we cross the lake, perhaps finding a family of macaws leaving their roost or a troop of monkeys waking in the morning light. We walk back to the river where our motorised canoe quickly leads upstream to the boat dock in Puerto Maldonado, and then on to the airport.
Please note: All itineraries may vary slightly to maximsze wildlife viewing. This depends on the reports of our researchers and experienced naturalist guides. Also, Heath Lodge is located on the Bolivian side of the Heath River so passports are required to pass the Bolivian control of documents.
Prices From $1,324 / £1,123 per person
Enquire about booking
Meals and water from lunch day 1 to breakfast departure day, guide, accommodation, 3 nights at Heath Centre, 1 night at Sandoval, transfers.
Domestic or international flights (we can look for prices for you), insurance, tips, alcoholic and soft drinks, personal expenses, meals other than stated.
Heath River Wildlife Centre
The lodge is built with almost exclusive use of materials that could be sustainably harvested in the surrounding forest.
Rooms are twin or double beds, and mosquito nets, with private bathroom and showers.
The whole complex is housed in one structure and includes 25 double occupancy rooms with private bathrooms, hot showers, fans and mosquito nets.
Sandoval Lake Lodge is built out of ecologically-correct driftwood mahogany and is owned jointly by a nonprofit conservation group and five families of indigenous Brazil nut collectors.
There is a spacious dining room overlooking the lake, and there is electricity at certain times of the day so you can charge cameras etc.
Your bilingual, English-speaking guide will be with you throughout the tour.
The Ese Eja Sonene Indian Community runs and owns 100% of the Heath River Wildlife Centre. It is an eco-conservation lodge that is used as a scientific research station as well as a tourist facility, and the lodge benefits the whole community as the staff come from the community.
Sandoval uses local native guides come from the community and/or the area surrounding the lodge. Some specialist guides do come from other parts of Peru. The lodge itself is staffed by members from the local communities.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please ask in advance.
The lodges’ dedicated kitchen staff serve up a mix of local dishes and international plates using food from the rainforest wherever possible.
This means a delight for the tastebuds as there are so many tasty treats growing around the lodge.
Breakfasts are usually early and there are fruit juices made from local plants – some of which you may have never heard of – along with teas and locally-grown coffee. There are usually cakes, jams and a choice of eggs, toasts and cereals.
Lunch and dinner are usually three courses – a soup to start followed by a hearty main and then pudding.
Fish, chicken and beef all feature, and there is always a vegetarian option, too (almost all dietary requirements can be catered for). Side dishes include yams and potatoes and rice, plus more rainforest delicacies.
Pudding is often fruit or a cake made in the local style.
These trips are designed to be open to people of all ages and abilities.
You need to be able to step into and out of a boat and the fitter you are the more you will enjoy the trip.
You need to be able to walk for 1-2 hours on some hikes, and to move around.
Walks are short in length but you may be on your feet for 2-3 hours as you stop to look at wildlife. There are shorter walks for those who don’t want to walk so far – your guide will talk to you about preferred activity levels.
There are also rides in boats/canoes/floating catamarans that can last up to 1.5 hours, depending on the tour.
The Amazon is very hot between midday and early afternoon, so we rise early, between 06.00 and 07.00, to catch the animals at dawn when they are very active. Some trips, such as macaw lick, require an earlier start.
We leave the lodge early, go on an activity, and then relax when the sun is at its hottest.
Peru is the perfect holiday destination for adventure travellers that want an amazing variety of activity, geography and cultural travel experiences.
The breadth of travel experiences in Peru is breathtaking – from trekking in the Andes to Machu Picchu to the tropical jungle of the Amazon, and plenty in between.
The people of Peru make it a special destination too, with its colourful and traditional street life and friendly locals.
Peru is made up of 3 distinct geographical areas: the coast, the mountains and the jungle.
The costa or coastal region is a narrow ribbon of desert 2,250 km long, crossed by fertile river valleys flowing from the Andes. It takes up 11% of the country and holds more than 40% of the population.
The cold Humboldt current gives rise to a blanket of mist – the garua – which hangs above coastal cities like the capital Lima from May to November.
Heading east, you’re soon climbing above the garua and into the Andes. The sierra, or mountainous region, covers some 25% of Peru’s territory and contains 50% of the population. The sierra inhabitants are mainly Indigenous or Mestizo, and many still speak Quechua or Aymara.
The sierra contains dozens of 6,000-metre snow peaks and volcanoes, including Huascaran (6,768m) the highest mountain in the tropics. The deep valley basins contain most of the towns and arable land; the terracing and canal systems of the Incas and pre-Incas are often still used today.
The eastern Andes are heavily forested up to 3,350m and sweep down into the Amazon Basin.
Peru’s selva or jungle makes up almost two thirds of the country’s area, but holds only about 6% of the population: the only towns with significant populations are Iquitos and Pucallpa.
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
You can also read our blog about a day in the Amazon rainforest of Peru.
Detailed kit list
Please note: Guests should arrive in clothes which they do not mind getting slightly dirty or wet, and should wear footwear that is suitable to walk on a rainforest trail. Sun cream, insect repellent, hat and waterproof clothing should be carried in hand luggage and kept accessible for the journey to the lodge.
You may want to keep your binoculars and camera handy, too.
All bedding, toilet paper etc. is provided at the lodge (or camp, if camping).
The Amazon rainforest
Year-round, weather conditions are hot and humid and there is always the risk of rain
There is a ‘dry season’ in Tambopata and Manu between May and October. The average daytime high temperature is between 25°C and 34°C and the average nighttime low is between 16°C and 22°C. Heavy downpours typically occur every few days.
Around 80% of annual average rainfall – approx 2,000 mm in Manu and Tambopata and 1,400 mm in Iquitos – occurs in the wet season Nov-April.
On rare occasions, between May and September, cold fronts from Argentina – ‘friajes’ – can sweep into southwest Amazonia and push temperatures down to 9° C. (Friajes usually last between 1 and 3 days).
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Peru boasts in its Amazonian region a vast swathe of world-class tropical wilderness with several rain forest and cloud forest reserves which are home to an immense diversity of wildlife.
Accessible from Lima, Iquitos or Cusco, the Amazon jungle is just a short flight away.
In Peru’s southeast lies the extraordinary region comprising the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene and Manu National Parks, with the greatest animal and plant diversity anywhere in the world.
Whether you choose to base yourself at a comfortable lodge or enjoy a more demanding camping trip, you can be sure of a unique, exhilarating and unforgettable experience.
The beautiful colonial city of Arequipa is replete with history and culture, and is the gateway to the condors of Colca Canyon.
Nestled at 2,325m/7,627ft, the ‘white city’ sits at the foot of three tremendous volcanoes: El Misti (5,821m/19,098ft), Chachani (6,075m/19,930ft) and Pichu Pichu (5,542m/18,182ft).
Arequipa’s attractions include the Cathedral, Compañía de Jesús Church, Santa Catalina Convent and the Dama de Ampato (Juanita Mummy) Museum.
With a year-round spring climate and sunshine guaranteed for 300 days of the year, it is the perfect place to begin acclimatising before continuing upwards.
Nearby is the famous Colca Canyon. At hundred kilometres long, this incredible gorge is said to reach a maximum depth of 3,400m/11,155ft – twice that of the Grand Canyon.
An overnight tour to Colca gives you the chance to see the iconic, soaring condors of the canyon.
Cusco is the archaeological and cultural capital of South America.
The one-time centre of the vast Inca Empire is a bustling highland city with bags of character.
Its whitewashed streets and plazas feature a fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish colonial stonework and offer endless possibilities for exploration.
You don’t have to venture far to find outstanding examples of high quality Inca architecture, including the monumental temple fortress of Sacsayhuaman.
There is also the fertile farming land of the Sacred Valley on the doorstep, with many Inca terraces, temples and fortresses, plus colourful local markets and small villages.
At night, Cusco offers an excellent array or restaurants and bars plus the continent’s best Andean folk music scene.
In the northeast of Peru lies Kuelap – the jewel in the massive archaeological crown of the Chachapoyas Cloud People.
The mystical structure of Kuelap – dubbed the Peru’s second Machu Picchu by locals – is 1,200 years old.
It features massive limestone walls towering 60 feet, pottery, bones and hundreds of mysterious round stone structures, and away from the crowds of other sites.
This is a remote area of sub-tropical valleys, half way down the eastern slopes of the Andes. The jungle is impenetrable, dense with low trees, bromeliads, bamboos, orchids and mosses.
Lake Titicaca, at around 4,000m/13,123ft above sea level, is a vast shimmering body of water on the Peru/Bolivia border.
It is the world’s highest navigable lake, set against a breathtaking background of towering ice-covered Andean mountain peaks.
The islands and shoreline of Lake Titicaca support many Indian communities, including the well known floating islands of Uros and the more remote islands of Taquile and Amantani. Here, traditions are strong and it appears time really does stand.
Agriculture, fishing, knitting and weaving are important to the islanders and by staying a day or two you gain just a small insights into this traditional way of life.
Islanders welcome tourists into their homes and this is a wonderful opportunity to experience island life.
Lima, the capital city of Peru, is a vibrant bustling place with a wide variety of things to do.
Stroll or bike around the historic centre, visiting the many museums or just chilling out in a café or restaurant in Miraflores.
In Parque Kennedy you can sit outside in Parisian fashion and watch the world go by in cafes and restaurants, or walk to the shore and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
There are a number of artisan shops & market stalls, plus a big silver jewellery trade, and a burgeoning number of top end restaurants with delicious food.
The centre of Lima is home to impressive Colonial architecture – Plaza de Armas has the Palace, official residence of the president, on one side, and on another is the Cathedral.
San Francisco Church, home of the Catacombs, is well worth a visit, as is the Inquisition museum.
Nothing says Peru quite the way Machu Picchu does.
The Lost City of the Incas, perches dramatically on a ridge-top 400 metres above the Urubamba river. The extensive site, with its many terraces, temples and palaces, is set amid a beautiful landscape of deep gorges and thickly forested mountains.
When Machu Picchu was rediscovered early in the 20th century and cleared of forest, it was found to be very well preserved. It has since presented archaeologists with many unanswered questions regarding the role it played in Inca times.
The sense of grandeur, whether you arrive on the Inca Trail or not, is impressive.
Try to arrive early at the site to enjoy it at its best – and late afternoon can often see you almost alone in the ruins.
North east of Lima, the Cordillera Blanca offers fantastic mountain scenery and some of the best trekking and climbing in the Andes.
The Cordillera Blanca boasts dozens of peaks over 6,000 metres, including Peru’s highest Huascaran at 6,768m/22,205ft above sea level.
The Blanca range also contains the world’s largest concentration of tropical glaciers.
This is an ideal destination for treks, from just a few to 12 days or so and also an ideal starting place for learning or improving mountaineering skills.
The nearby Huayhuash mountain range contains a dazzling array of snow peaks including seven summits above 6,000 metres.
This is a trekking paradise with breathtaking majestic panoramas and stunningly remote and picturesque camping spots. There is no better place to visit to get away from it all.
2022 guide per person price, 2 people, double/twin room
Departures Mondays and Thursdays, year round
Private departures daily
Single supplement applies
Longer stays possible
Enquire about booking
Can’t find what you’re
looking for? Get in Touch
+44 (0)131 378 5593
+44 (0)131 554 6025
What's a group trip?
Join a small group of like-minded travellers on a guided trip.
What's a tailor made trip?
We put together a bespoke tour to fit your requirements.
Prices From $1,153 / £978 per person
Dates: From April 2024 to December 2024
Capacity: 16 people
Enquire about booking
Prices From $560 / £475 per person
Dates: From March 2023 to December 2023
Prices From $650 / £551 per person
Dates: From January 2024 to December 2024
Prices From $1,295 / £1,098 per person
Dates: From April 2024 to December 2023
Capacity: 32 people
Students Study Food Insecurity & Climate Change in Peru University of Edinburgh students and teachers report back from Peru, where they learned how traditional farming techniques could help prevent climate change and reduce food insecurity. The team visited coastal Lima, the Cusco Highlands, and the cloud forest. For Andean Trails and our local team, it was a chance to showcase a side of Peru that many visitors may not see when passing through. It went so well that the University has already signed up its team to another Food Security tour in the spring of 2024. Learning About …
Sign up here to receive the latest news and info from Andean Trails