The Amazon rainforest is one of the must see destinations on any aspiring traveller’s list, especially if you’re an animal or plant lover. The sheer complexity of the ecosystem is astounding and seeing the plentiful wildlife and lush greenery makes for lifelong memories. But while heading into the jungles of darkest Peru might seem daunting and risky for little ones, there is actually a very easy and fuss-free way to do the Amazon with kids.
Peru with kids sounds pretty intrepid, but imagine being able to take them to see all the fascinating life in the Amazon – yet still be safe, comfortable and with barely a commute. That’s what Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción offers.
Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción is a self-contained accommodation and jungle experience and is home to a rich and varied ecosystem comprising lush plants and an abundance of wildlife located within 17,380 hectares of a private ecological reserve. It forms part of the Amazon Basin and is only a short 25-minute flight from Cusco, Peru’s major airport. The lodge will organise everything for you so you can be based in the one spot and do day trips to see the rainforest returning whenever it suits you.
The whole family will love the activities on offer. There is slow boat journey through the privately-owned dam on the door step of the lodge. You are guaranteed to see a vast variety of birdlife; an abundance of turtles and monkeys in the treetops. There are some fantastic ecological walks where you can see and learn about the natural remedies growing from the plantations, including sampling them yourself! There are many other walks on offer too where you can see more monkeys (and hear them), insects, super-sized rodents, sloths and some guests have been lucky to spot a panther, tapir and a tarantula. There was also a very rare and recent spotting of an anaconda on one of the lake excursions from Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción. Guides are very experienced and there is no imminent danger or risk to guests associated with the wildlife.
One of the biggest highlights is the jungle tree top canopy walk comprising six, long Indiana Jones-style bridges. To be that high up in the trees will be a thrill for children of any age, even a two year old!
There is a fun chocolate-making excursion for the family where you can even pick your own cocoa beans to start the process and an exciting night time boat ride with an almost guaranteed spotting of the caimans (alligators). There is also a treasure hunt activity run by the lodge (depending on the age of your children).
The eco lodge is part of the main lodge and has an educational setting where the children can also explore preserved wildlife including snakes, beetles, lizards and the skeletons of larger species found in the area. This is a nice indoor option in inclement and unpredictable weather.
Having a private guide is ideal for families with young children. Whilst this is a little more expensive, it allows for the flexibility of departing for excursions when it is convenient for the kids as well as being able to return when the tiny tots are tired. Alternatively (and for less cost), you can join into the larger group excursions that are run at set times. Some of these can be half day excursions and the time they take will be dependent on the age and ability of the other members of the group. Because you are hostage to the larger group, there may be some waiting around and early departures.
Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción offer inclusive packages for the convenience of a fuss-free stay. The packages range from 2 night/3 days up to 5 nights/6 days. This includes all meals and your excursions. A two-night inclusive package is an ideal option for a family with small children mostly due to the heat and humidity and the fact that you may want to give your skin a break from heavy repellent. Older children may be able to stick it out a bit longer.
The lodge itself is pristine and luxurious. All the windows are covered with mosquito mesh which allows the sound of the jungle without the bugs. The main lodge houses the beautiful restaurant and bar area with an upstairs lounge where the children can play and relax.
However, it goes without saying that the outside cabanas will be the highlight of your stay. These are private huts away from the main lodge accommodation which are a short stroll through the tropical gardens. The cabana huts ooze with seclusion and relaxation and are equipped with luxury bedding, hot showers and living areas. The mosquito net windows allow you to feel as though you are literally sleeping in the rainforest and the sounds of the jungle at night time form part of a truly magical experience. When staying with young children it is wise to ask for a cabana that is a perhaps more isolated from the others; this helps with getting kids to sleep and or (depending on your circumstances) not waking your neighbours up.
Guests are met on arrival at Puerto Maldonado airport and taken to the Inkaterra Lounge, otherwise known as the butterfly lodge. This is a five-minute drive from the airport and whilst you are completing the check in process and paper work, the children can enter and wander through the beautiful butterfly house at reception and be mesmerised by their first experience of wildlife. Once the check in process is complete, you will head to the river port where you will take a journey on a motorised canoe down the majestic Madre de Dios River to Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción.
Whilst there are a number of beautiful lodges along the river, they vary greatly in distance and time travel. Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción is a short 8-kilometre journey which is an exciting yet not overwhelming nor tiring boat journey for children. It is also a reassurance to parents that you can make your way back out quickly in an emergency, as the boat is the only way into the lodge. This adds to the uniqueness and authenticity of the experience. [For insurance pack a medical emergency travel kit with you. To find out what it should contain, read the suitcases&strollers story here.]
The Amazon is seasonal so you need to be aware that each season can present different experiences. There is a dry season and a rainy season and each have their advantages and disadvantages. The jungle can be very hot, so a visit during the rainy season will be an experience of more comfortable temperatures for children ranging from 23°Centigrade (73°Farenheit) to 30°Centigrade (86°Farenheit) with frequent rain predicted. The rain however, can be exciting, as well as a welcome relief from the heat. The dry season runs from July to December where temperature range from 26°Centigrade (78°Farenheit) to 40°Centigrade (104°Farenheit). It is suggested that more wildlife can be seen during the dry season; however one advantage of the wet season is that the fruit and seeds drop from the trees attracting monkeys, the larger rodents and lizards. This consequently attracts the larger predators to the area.
The Puerto Maldonado region is considered a malaria-risk zone, however, according to The World Health Organisation, there are minimal reports of malaria. Malaria prevention medication is dependent on the age of the children travelling and medical advice should be sought before travelling to the jungle with children. [For more information on malarial-prevention measures, read the suitcases&strollers story Medical FAQs for Travel With Kids.] Generally, however, all guests are recommended to wear long trousers, socks, shoes and long-sleeved shirts to prevent any bites. All the accommodation including eating areas and the bedrooms are heavily dressed in mosquito nets, which adds to the adventure of sleeping in the jungle.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry back to many countries so check with your doctor before departure.
The water is not safe to drink and bottled water is provided free of charge to your room on a daily basis or over the bar. The lodge is a package arrangement which includes breakfast and lunch (both buffet) and dinner (a la carte). All the meals are made from local produce and the set menu includes a wide choice of cuisine. As the meals tend to based around set times, make sure you ask the friendly chefs to prepare your children’s meals at a time that suits you. They are more than happy to have a special meal ready for your children at a time that is suitable taking into account day sleeps and bedtime.
The jungle is not suitable for strollers. A day pack per person is all that is required to enter the jungle. All luggage and strollers can be left conveniently and securely at the butterfly lodge upon check in. A light weight baby carrier back pack is a good idea for children under 3 years. The terrain can be muddy and they tire easily from walking. The lodge provides gum boots/wellies for adults and children of all sizes which are great for walking on and around the tracks. This way, you don’t have to worry about what footwear to bring! Umbrellas are also provided for getting out and about in the rain.
Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción is not ideal for babies due to the fact
that if babies are not sleeping well, it would be easy to keep other guests
awake as sound travels fast in the jungle. There are also no life jackets that
are of a suitable size for babies for the boat journey to the lodge and any other
water activities. Toddlers (2 years and up), however, will enjoy this
experience and even remember some of it.
The jungle is ecological reserve so don’t come expecting to have access to wifi or television for entertainment. Sure, bring along your tablets with downloaded movies and games, but encourage the kids to be outdoors, finding lizards, catching butterflies, finding monkeys and simply learning, listening and appreciating this fabulous setting that they will never forget!
For more travel tips on visiting developing countries with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.
By Fiona Devlin