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In the trees

Howler monkey

Sacha Lodge Red Howler Monkey

Monkeys are a common species to spot in the jungle, unsurprising since there are so many of them! Scientists are continually discovering new species in remote corners of the Amazon.

You’ll probably spot a number of monkey species since they travel in large groups, aren’t shy and tend to make a lot of noise. None more so than that howler monkeys though, whose territorial screeches can be heard up to three miles away!

Sloth

Despite moving slowly, sloths can be remarkably hard to spot in the jungle foliage. Since they generally don’t move very fast, they rely on camouflage instead (although one interview with a scientist reports a sloth moving “at the speed of a cat running across a room”!). As a result, when you do spot them, it can feel rewarding.

Macaw

blue and gold macaw Amazon jungle Peru Llama Travel

Macaws are not tricky to spot in the Amazon, but thanks to their bright colours, they are definitely a favourite amongst visitors. An Amazon highlight for many is to see hundreds of the birds converging at a clay lick, where they cling to the clay wall on the banks of the river, gathering clay which they later eat. To this day scientists are unsure of why they do those, although most theories revolve around them lacking certain nutrients in the plant-based diet.

The Tambopata Research Centre in Peru is one of the best places to visit a Macaw clay lick.

Toucan

Toucan Ramphastos dicolorus Amazon rainforest animals Llama Travel

Toucans are another iconic jungle sight, thanks to their colourful, oversized beaks. Their bills may look disproportionately large to be carrying around, but in reality they are more like a shell of bone, than a solid mass of beak.

While mating is said to come into it, the main use for such a large beak is to help them reach food (berries, insects, lizards and eggs), either reaching deep into crevices or eating from branches that are too flimsy to hold their weight.

In the water

Amazon River dolphin

River dolphins Amazon rainforest Anavilhanas Lodge Brazil Llama Travel

One of only three species of dolphin found in freshwater, the pink river dolphin (as it’s also known) is considered endangered. Their habitat is at risk due to irrigation projects, and pollution caused by the petroleum industry.

While they are at risk now, traditionally native people to the area have revered the dolphins as they are thought to have special powers.  However, these days they are often seen as a threat to fishermen’s fish stocks.

Caiman

Caiman Amazon rainforest Llama Travel

The Amazon jungle is home to 6 species of caiman, ranging from the large, and often aggressive black caiman, to the smaller, and mostly harmless smooth-fronted caiman. Depending on the species, they fit into the food chain as either apex predators eating fish and small animals, with no natural predators, or as prey (a fate which befalls the smaller species when a hungry jaguar pounces).   

River turtle

Turtles Amazon Jungle Ecuador Llama Travel

River turtles are yet another threatened species inhabiting the Amazon jungle. Their double layered shells and pointy snouts are distinct, and their nests are easy as pie to spot. Speaking of pies, river turtle meat has long been used as a source of protein for the indigenous people’s diet, and their eggs are seen as a delicacy.

The exotic pet trade and the demand for their eggs sees them floundering in the wild, a shame as they play a vital part in the Amazon’s ecosystem. Eating dead matter, they help to keep the river water clean, as well as being a food source for multiple predators.

Giant river otter

Giant Otters Amazon jungle Llama Travel

Among their claims to fame, Giant river otters are born completely covered in fur, and are one of few carnivore species that have a furry nose. They are social creatures which can often be spotted swimming in large groups. They are curious - and cheeky too – making them an entertaining species to encounter on a jungle excursion.

Capybara

Capybara Amazon jungle Llama Travel

If ever there was strange animal it is the capybara. The largest rodent species in existence, they are pretty odd looking - somewhere between a large guinea pig and an actual pig. They have spindly legs, and large clunky snouts.

The good news is that these creatures are not endangered! They are adept at grazing even the shortest grass and although they are apparently built for water (many rituals, including mating, take place in water), they are quite capable of surviving out of the water too.

If you're lucky...

Jaguar

Jaguar Amazon jungle Llama Travel

The jaguar is the largest cat-species in the Americas, and were once found as far afield as the southern United States and central Argentina. Today they are concentrated within the Amazon rainforest and Pantanal Wetlands. Jaguars live near water (lakes, rivers and wetlands) and, unusually for cats, are not averse to taking a dip in the name of dinner. 

Despite their large size and striking appearance, these cats are extremely elusive, and while they are top of the list for many visitors, few get to see them in person.

If you're not sure which wildlife destination will suit you best, read this blog post. And if you want to book an Amazon trip, you can see all our Peru jungle holidays here

Bolivia's Beautiful Highlands

Written by  Catherine

Looking out at the lake, the surrounding mountains were perfectly mirrored in the glassy water. The air was nippy - frescito, as the locals would say – and each breath in gave me a little jolt of energy. I sat on the remains of an adobe wall, now little more than a haphazard pile of bricks, and took in the scenery.

Peru is as diverse as it is beautfiul and like many destinations, the people you meet are as much a part of the experience as the sights. The Peruvian highlands, which encompass Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca (and more) are home to indigenous people who keep their traditions alive, providing an important insight into how highland communities live. 

The majority of our travellers to Peru opt to visit the Sacred Valley – its appeal is well-established. There is rich Inca history, indigenous local culture, striking scenery and a relaxing ambience.  Whether you should go or not hardly warrants the question. How long you should go for – that’s a different thing. 

I have now made the journey between Cusco and Puno by coach, on the PeruRail Titicaca train and the Belmond Andean Explorer train. Whilst I have enjoyed all the trips, I found the Belmond Andean Explorer to be by far the most enjoyable, combining glamour, romance, luxury and service. It is not cheap, but it is very special.

On visiting Machu Picchu, some people are content to wander amongst the ruins, while others are keen to get a different perspective on them. Climbing Huayna Picchu, the sugarloaf mountain which rises above the ruins, is a favoured challenge when it comes to seeking out an elevated vantage point. Becky, our  Australia sales manager did the climb on a backpacking trip a few years ago, and here she reminisces  on the experience.

The main area of Machu Picchu is quite compact and a three-hour tour of the site allows plenty of time to explore this. However, Machu Picchu is much more than just the main ruins, and there are several other visits that can be made in the area. My favourite of all of these is the climb up Machu Picchu Mountain. This is hard work, but immensely rewarding, with the best views in the area.

Over here at the Llama Travel offices, we often use the term “flexible group tours”, although what does this actually mean for you? Well it means that you get to pick and choose the places you want to visit, without being limited by a rigid itinerary. Unlike a traditional tailor-made holiday though, you pay group tour prices.

How does that work?

The Sol y Luna is a fabulous hotel by anyone's standards. Located in Peru's Sacred Valley, surrounded by the Andes, and Relais & Chateaux accredited, you know it's going to be a good experience before you get there. What you may not know though is that this isn't just any upmarket hotel. Set up by an intrepid and big-hearted French woman, it exists to support an education project in the valley, and to help improve the lives of the people who live there. Below is an interview with Petit (as she is known), the driving force behind the Sol y Luna Association.

Rediscovering Lima, Peru

Written by  Mari

Our Sales Supervisor, Mari, is a Peru native, born and bred in Lima. She returned recently for a holiday and was pleasantly surprised by how the city has changed

Returning to Lima after 3 and a half years and seeing how much it has improved and grown was mind blowing. To many people Lima is just another city but to me it is a place that holds many great memories with family and friends. Some people think there isn´t much to do there, but Lima has well preserved archaeological sites and museums, not to mention a great gastronomic offering with many Michelin Star restaurants. In fact, Lima’s Central restaurant was voted 4th in the World’s 50 Top Restaurants in 2016.

Recently back from Peru having successfully completed the Salkantay Trek (read the day by day account here), Graham has a few tips for those planning on trekking in Peru.

Reaching the famous Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, on foot is high up on many travellers’ bucket-lists. Whilst the accomplishment brings a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction it is an extremely challenging endeavour. Here are some tips to help you prepare for one of the most famous trekking expeditions in the world.

Graham, a member of the Llama Travel sales team was lucky enough to be sent on the 4 day Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu, a popular alternative to the renowned Inca Trail. This is his account of a magnificent four days.

During my four days of hiking the Salkantay Trail – the lesser known, but none-the-less stunning route to the fabled ancient city of the Incas, Machu Picchu – I was struck by the sheer beauty and diversity of the environment. We ascended ancient Inca paths guarded by majestic snow-capped peaks; navigated our way down rocky mountainous dirt paths in a throng of mule packs, and traipsed along valley paths enveloped in tropical foliage. This is a blow by blow account of the trail.

7 Reasons to Fall in Love with Peru

Written by  Catherine

Latin America is a special part of the world, and each country offers its own gems. As the original Llama Travel destination though, Peru will always hold a special place in our hearts. Furthermore, as one of our most popular destinations, it is clear that our high opinion of Peru is widely shared. If you are wondering what all the fuss is about, read on for the reasons everybody loves Peru.

Just about everyone who visits Peru goes to Machu Picchu and loves it. You can visit on a day trip from Cusco or the Sacred Valley, and this is fabulous. It’s a long day (the Llama Travel excursion starts before 6am and you get back to Cusco around 9pm), but very satisfying. This includes a beautiful train journey, an in-depth guided tour of Machu Picchu and a great lunch in the restaurant next to the ruins. As Machu Picchu is quite a compact site, you visit most of the important parts of the ruins on the guided visit. So, given that you can visit Machu Picchu and see many of the significant sites in on a day trip, why would you want to spend a night there? Well, lots of reasons…

Llama Travel’s Sales Manager Graeme has always been a fan of travelling in comfort and style. For his latest blog he has reviewed some of his favourite superior hotels in Peru, from location and facilities to dining and atmosphere, and why in his opinion they are worth every pound of their upgrade supplement!

“I like my comforts when I travel. I always have. When I check in to my hotel, I like to know a very comfortable bed is waiting for me, the minibar is stocked, room service is a phone call away and most importantly a bathroom with a fantastic shower and soft white bathrobe will make the long flight dwindle away and energise me for my holiday ahead.

I’ve written about some of our choice superior hotels for those of you, who like me, like a little bit extra.

Next week sees the release of Paddington, a film adaptation of the classic children’s book series about a speckled bear who journeys from “darkest Peru” to England, and throws himself and everyone around him into a whirlwind of adventures.

Here at Llama Travel, we do the reverse; whisking people away from their cosy firesides in good old Blighty and off to the teeming jungles, vast lakes, soaring mountains and faraway cities of Peru and the rest of the Americas. Someone who took the reverse Paddington journey with us quite recently is Llama Travel’s own Sales Manager Graeme, and he found it hard to imagine why anyone, bear in a duffle coat or otherwise, would ever want to leave Peru!

Check out the below for Graeme’s top 5 list of what in darkest Peru is worth shining a spotlight on…