Capybaras have conquered the internet with their undeniable charm, making them one of the most beloved and recognizable creatures worldwide. Who could resist their gentle giant status, measuring up to 4 feet in length and up to 1 and a half feet —pure adorableness in every inch?
These lovable rodents, whose name means ¨water pig¨, have secured their spot as the reigning darlings of the animal kingdom. People from every corner of the globe are willing to journey great distances for the chance to see a capybara in the flesh. Yet, despite their skyrocketing popularity, these ¨capytivating¨ creatures (get it?) are found in just a handful of locations worldwide, all confined to the lush jungles of South America.
Peru, a treasure trove of biodiversity, offers one of the world’s most promising landscapes for capybara fans. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll reveal where these charming creatures call home, how to reach them, the perfect time to visit, essential items to pack, and much more.
So, if you’re a devoted capybara aficionado, eagerly seeking that once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness these amazing animals with your very own eyes, this is the guide that will make your dreams a reality.
Where is it?
Situated in the department (state) of Madre de Dios is Puerto Maldonado, a well-kept secret awaiting exploration by wildlife enthusiasts. This medium-sized amazonic city is a haven for those seeking the thrill of the wild and the serenity of pristine nature. Situated amidst meandering rivers, dense jungles, and lush green expanses stretching as far as the eye can see, Puerto Maldonado is an tropical oasis awaiting your discovery.
Despite its abundant natural treasures, Puerto Maldonado often remains overshadowed by more well-known Peruvian destinations. However, it’s time for this amazing place to take its well-deserved place in the spotlight, especially for avid wildlife lovers. Most importantly, It’s one of the rare places on Earth where encountering Capybaras in their natural habitat is possible.
Where can I see Capybaras in Puerto Maldonado?
Manu National Park
Puerto Maldonado will serve as your base to reach three different tourist sights where you can begin your search. The first is Manu National Park – a massive ecological reserve covering over million hectors of land. Manu reserve is one of the most biodiverse regions on the face of the earth, and with the help of an expert guide you could very well spot a Capybara there.
Tambopata & Madre de Dios Rivers
The second and third sights are the Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers, the later taking its name from the very department in which it is located. This rivers can be navigated is small, canoe-like motors boats with a guide. Capybaras are semi-aquatic creature’s, and therefore they are often spotted along jungle riverbanks before splashing in for a quick swim!
How to get there
From the capital Lima, the best way to get to Puerto Maldonado is by flying. One can fly directly without any layovers directly to the city, making it a quick and enjoyable areal journey with a duration of about 2 hours. The average price of two-way trip from Lima to Puerto Maldonado is ridiculously affordable, costing only around 300 soles (about $80).
If you happen to find yourself in the Imperial City of Peru, you have two options to get to Puerto Maldonado. The most convenient way is of course to fly. Currently, there exist both direct flights and flights with one layover in Lima heading to this destination from Cusco, however direct flights do not leave daily. If you manage to get a direct flight from Cusco, you can expect a travel time of 1 hour and a two-way ticket for 275 soles (about $75). A flight with a layover in Lima could cost up to 600 soles (about $160).
The more economic option for those on a tighter budget would be via bus. In the Terminal Terrestre de Cusco, there are a wide array of different transportation businesses selling trips to numerous other cities. Buses can range from economic to luxurious, with two-way tickets costing anywhere between 40 and 150 soles ($10-$40). Keep in mind that, although this is the cheaper option, you will have to sit through the approximately 12-hour-long bus-ride. However, your trip could be made longer by any of the following inconveniences.
- Popped tires
- Long police checkpoints
- Poor road conditions
- Highway construction
Heads-up!: All travelers who take buses from the Terminal Terrestre de Cusco have to pay a land transportation tax (known as TAME) before boarding their bus. This tax is currently at 1.40 soles (about 40 cents). Below is an interactable map to find your way there.
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When is the best time to visit?
The dry season in Puerto Maldonado occurs between the months of May and November.
- The ground is dryer, less muddy, and therefore less slippery.
- It rains a lot loss, on average only about 2.36 inches of rain per month, so it’s easier to spend the day out.
- The temperature is a lot hotter, causing many animals to hide and seek shade during the day. This could make it less likely to spot your favorite animals.
- The air is dryer and, due to the lack of rainfall, plants typically have less vibrant colors.
The wet season in Puerto Maldonado occurs between the months of November and April.
- The temperature is a lot cooler, so jungle animals could become easier to spot as they are no longer seeking shade or shelter.
- Increased rainfall makes the color of plants more vibrant and beautiful.
- The ground is wetter, muddier, and therefore more slippery.
- It rains a lot more, on average of 6 inches of rain per month, sometimes raining nonstop for several days.
What should I pack?
The official 2023 packing-list
- Raincoat or ponchos (for wet season)
- Waterproof cellphone bag
- Binoculars (for spotting capybaras and other fascinating animals on river banks from your boat)
- Power bank
- Headlamp or flashlight (for nighttime excursions, 1000 lumens recommended)
- Long sleeve shirts (even during hotter temperatures long sleeve shirts significantly reduce mosquito bites).
- Pants or jeans (shorts are not recommended due to inferior protection from mosquitos)
- Mosquito repellent (with at least 30% DEET)
- Biodegradable soap and shampoo
- Closed toed shoes/hiking boots
- Rain boots (for wet season)
- Plenty of snacks and drinks (for long bus ride)
- Waterproof disposable camera
Related blog post you might like: https://inkaperutravel.com/the-most-instagrammable-cusco-itinerary/