Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
| Pacaya Samiria
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve covers an area larger than 20,000 square kilometers (5 million acres) and is located in Peru’s Loreto department. The park currently protects around 1.5% of the total surface area of Peru. Established in 1982, the park is located between the rivers Maranon and Ucayali, both major tributaries of the Amazon, and ends at their confluence near the town of Iquitos, Peru.
The principal objective of the Park is to protect the incredible biodiversity of the flooded forest (varzea) of the Omagua region, as well as to promote the sustainable development of local towns and villages. Pacaya Samiria is commonly referred to as 'The Jungle of Mirrors' owing to the impressive reflections one can observe during the high-water period.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is the second largest ecological reserve in the entire Amazon, behind Grão-Pará Ecological Station of Brazil. Many Amazon riverboat cruises offered by Rainforest Cruises visit this important reserve, as it is relatively easy to reach from the Amazon port town of Nauta. Amazon riverboat cruises tour up the Rio Marañon to an entry checkpoint controlled by the Peruvian Government, and after paying an entrance fee and registering, one can embark on short trips, touring the surrounding virgin Amazon Jungle.
How to get there:
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is located 114 miles southwest of Iquitos. The quickest way there is to travel overland from Iquitos to the port town of Nauta. This can be done in approximately 2 hours. From Nauta, there are a number of Amazon riverboat cruises and jungle tours one can take to enjoy the staggering beauty the park has to offer. Once you are in the park, the principal activity would be adventure or eco tourism.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve boasts some of the Amazon’s most abundant biodiversity. Scientists have registered the presence of 527 species of birds, 102 mammal species, 69 species of reptiles, 58 amphibian species, 269 different kinds of fish, and 1,024 species of wild or domesticated plants. This incredible concentration of life is made possible by the abundant rainfall and stable temperatures typical of the region. Annual rainfall ranges from 2000 - 3000 millimeters and temperatures range from 20°C (68°F) and 33°C (91°F). A few of the endangered, charismatic megafauna one has the possibility of viewing while touring the wild Amazon jungles of Pacaya Samiria are:
- Pink River Dolphin
- Grey River Dolphin
- Giant River Otter
- Red Macaw
- Black Caiman
- Amazonian Manatee
Natural Cycles of the Park:
You have two choices in deciding when to take your Peru Amazon riverboat cruise: high or low water season. The cycle of crescent and reflux of the rivers is a unique characteristic of this protected area.
Each year, between the months of October and April, heavy rains fall and the water levels in creeks and rivers rises. This makes for easy accessibility, and is an ideal time to enjoy an Amazon Riverboat Cruise as you can witness the incredible sights of a flooded rainforest. This is the period which gives Pacaya Samiria the name 'Jungle of Mirrors'.
Conversely, from May to September, when rainfall decreases, the water levels gently retreat reaching their lowest levels in August of each year. This time of year allows for some trekking within the park (owing to the presence of dry patches), and much better fishing as the wildlife is concentrated in the streams and lakes. The seasonal pattern of crescent and reflux are as vital to the Amazon as the tides are to the oceans, and provide two very different experiences when touring Pacaya Samiria aboard your Peru Amazon cruise.
Over the course of thousands of years, wildlife has adapted perfectly to the cycle of crescent and reflux. When the forests are flooded, animals seek shelter in the highest areas which remain dry throughout the year. During reflux, water that remains in small creeks and lakes provides refuge to immense concentrations of wildlife. Large beaches also form which are used as nesting sites for animals such as the Charapa and Taricaya (or Yellow-spotted River) Turtles, as well as humans which use the flat, fertile soil to plant crops such as rice, beans, and peanuts.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is part of the National System of Natural Areas, and is protected by the Peruvian Government. Its administration is in hands of INRENA (National Institute of Natural Resources), which has offices in Lima and Iquitos. According to the Master Plan for the Conservation of the Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, tourists have access only to determined zones of the Reserve, with previous payment of an entrance fee.
Most Amazon riverboat cruises are sold with entrance tickets included, and the procedure for entering the park is relatively easy, so as not to disrupt your tour of the Amazon Jungle.
It is important to remember that although Pacaya Samiria is considered a park and receives some 'protection' from the Peruvian Government, it is still home to a number of native communities. There is a population of approximately 42,000 people, who earn a living through subsistence farming, hunting, fishing, and the gathering of forest products.
Tourism will undoubtedly remain an important income stream for native communities. Visitors to the park by Amazon riverboat cruise are encouraged to buy handicrafts at fair value from local artisans. The tourism industry helps to preserve the national park by providing jobs which reduce the pressure to hunt and harvest wood illegally. Thus, participation in a tour of the Amazon jungle helps to preserve the jungle by providing economic alternatives to local populations.