The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve in Peru’s northern Loreto region is the country’s largest and most pristine protected area and the second largest reserve in the Amazon. Located at the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers, the reserve has some of the most biodiverse rainforests in the world.
The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve covers more than 5,140,000 acres (2,080,000 hectares)—an area roughly the size of New Jersey. Tours of the reserve offer a combination of adventures along the Marañón and Ucayali rivers and other, smaller waterways. Most tours involve canoe excursions as well as treks through the jungle, and many also visit one or two of the dozens of indigenous communities located here.
The highlight of trips through the reserve is the opportunity to spot a wide range of wildlife: The area is home to more than 500 bird species and almost 300 fish species, as well as pink and gray river dolphins, 13 different primates, sloths, manatees, black caimans, tapirs, and more.
Things To Know Before You Go
- You can only visit the reserve as part of a guided tour.
- Bring long-sleeved clothes to protect yourself against insects and the sun. You’ll also need a parka and waterproof clothing, shoes, and bags (to protect cameras and other valuables).
- If you want to spot as much wildlife as possible, bring high-quality binoculars.
How To Get There
The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is located in Peru’s northern Amazon region, and many tours start from the town of Nauta, which sits at the northern corner of the reserve. Many people reach the site from Iquitos on transportation arranged by a tour. You can also drive or take a bus to Nauta; the trip takes just under 2 hours.
When To Get There
While it might seem counterintuitive, you should visit the reserve during Peru’s rainy months (December–May), because they offer the best chance to see wildlife and the best time to navigate the park’s rivers. In the dry season (April–November), there are more insects, the rivers are harder to navigate, and the local wildlife is less active.
Pink River Dolphins
Visitors touring the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve often have a chance to see pink river dolphins, the largest river dolphin species in the world. This freshwater species—also known as the Amazon river dolphin, or boto—is found in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers. While the World Wildlife Fund estimates that there are tens of thousands of the animals, the species is still considered vulnerable in some areas because their habitats are becoming polluted.