The Amazon River gives the Peruvian rainforest its name – Peruvian Amazonia. It was discovered by Francisco de Orellana in 1541 and it is the largest and mightiest river in the world. Its watercourse reaches a width of 4,000 meters in some sectors making it look like a sea. All the rivers that have their origin on the eastern slope of the Andes are tributaries of the Amazon River. They form swamps, marshes and channel labyrinths. The Peruvian rainforest has an area of 8o million hectares where many flora and fauna species inhabit. It is said that its former inhabitants called the Amazon Paranaguasú that means “great river”. It is also said that the river’s name is product of the union of two indigenous words ama (to break) and zona (canoe): canoe-breaker.
Iquitos, the capital of Loreto department, is on the Amazon riverside and it is surrounded by other rivers like the Ninai and the Itaya rivers. In Iquitos, we can find native communities such as the Cocamas, the Boras, the Ticuna and the Witotos. The city was founded by the Jesuit José Bahamonde in 1747.
It is an exotic, hot city with an impressive vegetation and it is the entry point to navigate on the Amazon which means getting in contact with nature.
The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is a protected area of Peru located in the department of Loreto in the Amazon.
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The Peruvian Amazonia territories were inhabited in the pre-Columbian times by ethnic groups like the Yameos and the Iquito (from which the city’s name comes from).
The city’s written records date from the 17th century. After the arrival of the Spaniards, several tribes were relocated to where the city currently is. Between 1630 and 1769 several tribes were relocated to settlements known as “reductions” that were managed by Jesuit missionaries who took the tribes to determined points creating different communities. In 1767, the Jesuits were forced to withdraw from the Spanish colonies.
After the independence of Peru, during the government of Ramón Castilla, sailors and ships with pieces to install the “Factoría Naval”, that is located in what is currently the Tarapacá boardwalk, arrived. It became an important departure point to other regions.
Later, due to the rubber boom, a lot of Peruvians and foreigners arrived in the city to get rich with the extraction of this resource, exploiting a lot of the zone’s natives. In short time, the city’s architecture was built, and the city was provided with basic and public services such as electric lighting and railway. When the rubber commercialization fell, the city was abandoned leaving it in poverty again.
Until 1999, Iquitos became established as the first city of the Amazon. It has a modern international airport, river ports and a highway connecting to Nauta.
It is nowadays visited by thousands of tourists attracted to the landscapes, flora and fauna and rivers.
The name Peruvian Amazonia comes from the river that runs through its territory (the Amazon). This river runs through three countries: Peru, Colombia and Brazil. The Mismi mountain peak in Arequipa is the source of the Amazon River. It discharges into the Atlantic Ocean in Amapá, Brazil. The Amazon River is 7,062 km long and between 1.6 and 10 km wide during the dry season and up to 48 km wide or more during the rainy season which makes it the largest river in the world. The river discharges in a wide estuary that is 240 km wide.
Although the Amazon River has its source in Arequipa, it is generally known by that name downstream from the confluence of the Marañon and Ucayali rivers in the Nauta district in Loreto province and department.
The river generates a great economic benefit to Iquitos (Peru), Leticia (Colombia) Manaos and Belén (Brazil).
Iquitos is the capital of the Loreto department, it has an extension of 358.15 km2 and 413,556 inhabitants, it is located on the left margin of the Amazon River, northwest of Loreto and at the south end of the Maynas province. Iquitos’ geography is characterized by its position, surrounded by the Amazon, Itaya and Nanay rivers. The two latter are natural borders of the city’s physical expansion, which makes the city to grow south having a slight population density in the city’s center. Near the city we can find several lagoons or cochas.
The main attraction of Iquitos is its nature, flora and fauna. Several excursions depart from the city to take us through the Marañon river up to the crossing with the Ucayali river. Both join in the Amazon River. In this crossing we can see pink river dolphins or Amazon river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis), an endangered species. These excursions last from two to five days depending on the tourists’ preferences and time availability.
Another of the main activities is visiting the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve which is in the Loreto, Requena, Ucayali and Alto Amazonas provinces. It has an area of 2,080,000 hectares and its purpose is to preserve the representative ecosystems of the Peruvian lower rainforest and its genetic diversity, as well as protecting the Amazonia flora and fauna species such as the black caiman, the giant otter and the paiche.
Several communities (native and traditional, as well as relatively recent settler communities) inhabit the reserve. Its territory offers benefits to thousands of people in the zone and in neighboring cities and it also offers top-level tourism in the Peruvian Amazonia.
There are also 15 authorized camping zones in the 8 tourism areas, three shelters in the Yanacu-Pucate basin and two shelters in the San Martín de Tipishca community. The river circuits in the reserve’s borders, that last several days, are offered by companies that operate in the country.
It is also possible to visit the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve located in Maynas. It has an area of 58,069.9 hectares. Its purpose is to preserve the biological diversity and the habitats of the Varillal and Chamizal forests that are on the white sands of the Napo ecoregion, and also to preserve the habitats of the Nanay river basin’s neighboring floodable forests.
One of the circuits we can visit is in the Iquitos-Nauta highway between the kilometers 25 and 26 in private properties where we can visit a typical low humid Varillal forest. There, we can see several endemic birds.
It has been reported the presence of more than 1,025 vertebrate species, which represents a 27% of the diversity of these species in Peru and a 36% of the total vertebrate species registered in the Amazonia. It is home to important wild fauna species such as the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), the tucuxi ( Sotalia fluviatilis), the long-haired spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth), the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the cougar (Puma concolor), the South American tapir Tapirus terrestris), the jaguar (Panthera onca), the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), the collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), the red brocket (Mazama americana), the black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus), red howler monkey (Ateles paniscus) and the yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha). The presence of all these species is considered as an indicator of the good conditions of their territories.
The ornithological fauna comprises 449 species. The bird population related to aquatic environments stand out and they are also an excellent indicator of the state of conservation of the wetlands. Among these species we can find the great white egret (Egretta alba), the cocoi heron (Ardea cocoi), the rufescent tiger-heron (Tigrisoma lineatum), the neotropic cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus), and several other species.
Among the reptiles we can mention the South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa), the yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), the black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), and the spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodylus). The hydrobiological resources are the most important ones in the reserve, not only because of their role in the ecological processes, but also because they are the basis of the locals’ diet.
The main species for human consumption can be categorized in two types: large-sized such as the paiche (Arapaima gigas), the dorado (Brachyplatystoma rousseauxii), the tiger catfish (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum), the redtail catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus), and the medium and small-sized such as the blackfin paco (Colossoma macropomum), the blackfin brycon (Brycon melanopterus) the South American silver croaker (Plagioscion squamosissimus), black prochilodus (Prochilodus nigricans) and the silver dollar fish (Mylossoma duriventris) among other very valued species.
There is also a large number of ornamental fishes for export like the zúngaro tigre (Tigrinus peruvianus), the silver arawana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum), the South American freshwater stingray (Potamotrygon motoro), the bleeding-heart tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma) and dozens of other species.
Regarding plants, the reserve is home to 965 wild plant species and 59 cultivated plant species. Their value to the protection of the biological diversity is proven by the presence of vast areas of buriti palm forests and other palm species mixed forests.
Among the dishes that stand out we can mention:
The “tacacho con cecina”: a dish made of smashed and then fried plantains with a side of cecina (dried and smoked pork meat), palm heart’s (also called chonta or pona) salad, river fish ceviche, inchicapi: a hen broth with peanuts, coriander and yucca, the juane: prepared with rice, hen, egg, olives and other seasonings. All these dishes can be served with cocona (typical fruit of the zone) chili and a camu camu beverage.
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