Welcome to the Amazon: Monkey Island

Welcome to the Amazon: Monkey Island

September 13, 2022 · 11 min. readThis article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

During my recent trip to Peru, I had the opportunity to spend three days in the Amazon Rainforest.

This was the first trip of the program so the majority of people decided to opt-out and stay back in Lima. I understand that, as Lima is a beautiful city and most of us had just flown into it less than a week ago, but I wasn't willing to miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime. Although granted, the entire month was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Because only a few of us were on this trip, I ended up being the only male. I mention this because there was a bit of a mixup with the rooms and I was supposed to share a room with a woman. She wasn't totally cool with that, so I was upgraded to a single room. If you plan to make this trip, I recommend the single room over a shared room since the rooms are pretty small. (More on that later.)

There were only six of us on this trip. Neither Francisco nor Susana, the two Remote Year masterminds behind our Peru experience, joined us on this trip, and instead handed us off to Amazon Wonder Expeditions, a family-run business based out of Iquitos. Our guides were Luis and Allen Rodriguez, a father-son duo. They handled everything for us while we were in the Amazon, from where to eat, where to sleep, our schedule, and our transportation in and out of the lungs of the Earth.

Although I travelled there in August, during South American winter, I still found it very hot. The temperature was somewhere around 32 degrees with 99% humidity. It was so bad that walking off the plane in Iquitos felt like walking into a sauna.

After disembarking, we met Allen and Luis at the airport and then took a quick trip through Iquitos to get some water, food, money, and essentials. Once we got onto the river, we were told, there was no coming back. 

Shopping in Iquitos Shopping in Iquitos Shopping in Iquitos

We spent three days and two nights in the Amazon Rainforest, sleeping at The Dolphin Lodge. The Dolphin Lodge was nice, and the food was amazing, but the rooms were a little rustic. But, this didn't come as a surprise, as we were in the middle of a jungle on the banks of the mighty Amazon River. However, we didn't spend much time in the rooms anway, except to sleep. 

Walkway to The Dolphin Lodge Walkway to The Dolphin Lodge Dolphin Lodge from outside Dolphin Lodge from above

But, there are two things to note about The Dolphin Lodge if you are planning on staying there:

First, the showers were frigid. After all, why would you need to bathe in warm water when you're already sweating? This makes sense, but the showers were so cold it nearly brought me to tears the first morning. Some of the other remotes said they turned the water off between lathering up just to get a break from the cold water. It was so cold that the showers were almost always the "pit" experience of the day. 

Second, the lodge only has power from about 9 am to 9 pm. This is partly because it is powered by diesel generators and solar panels, but also because there is a myriad of insects that come out at night and they are looking for an excuse to bite you. We got to meet some of these fun little critters on our second night there. 

But during our first day, our one and only destination was La Isla de Los Monos or The Island of the Monkeys.

Welcome sign to the Island of the Monkeys

La Isla de Los Monos is a rescue, rehabilitation, and release island where 30-odd monkeys are kept and raised, and 350-odd monkeys live in the nearby jungle. But why would such a place need to exist? Is it like a zoo? No, not exactly. Instead, it's a place for young monkeys to grow up in safety until they are able to be relocated elsewhere by the government.

Why is this needed? Well, Peru has a problem with animal trafficking, and 40,000 primates are illegally sold each year. Of those, 36,000 will die during the abduction or sale process. While this is absolutely horrible for the monkeys, it's also been documented that there are 17 types of viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can transfer from monkeys to humans, which can cause serious health problems (eg: HIV and monkeypox, for example). However, for some people, these risks outweigh the benefits as animal trafficking generates between $50 - $150 billion annually. La Isla de Los Monos does what it can to help these monkeys and give them a chance against an industry that is literally soaked in blood money.

Monkey sitting on the ground Two monkeys and Craig Two monkeys being silly on Craig

La Isla de Los Monos was an absolutely magical place to visit, and it was amazing to meet the volunteers and the many different monkeys that live there. I expected it to be like a zoo, where you see monkeys inside cages, swinging sadly from tires, but instead these monkeys are free-range, and will happily jump onto your head or climb up your legs. They will also throw little apples down on you if you aren't careful (ow!). The monkeys are just as curious about you as you are them, but they can feel your anxiety. We were told to be firm, but kind, and not to scream when a monkey jumps on us – as that happened quite often.

A monkey sitting on Anna's head while she is laughing Catalina with her monkey Lisa pretending there isn't another monkey behind her Hannah being surprised by her monkey

If you have a soft spot in your heart for these furry little critters, La Isla de Los Monos could also really use your help. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away much of the island's tourism and they are looking for ways to support the rehabilitation of their monkeys. They have an "Adopt a Monkey" program where you can help little sweethearts like Paulina, a woolly monkey for only $20 USD a month.

I would have liked to stay at La Isla de Los Monos longer, but the sun sets at 6 pm and the monkeys still had to be fed supper and go to bed. Once we were done, we said farewell to our monkey friends, followed Allen and Luis back to the boat, and got back onto the Amazon River. 

On our way back to The Dolphin Lodge, we would spot a few pods of dolphins swimming in the river. At first, we only saw grey dolphins, and then later we saw some pink dolphins too. Pink dolphins look very different than grey ones, with a longer snout, and a more triangular and sharp back fin. They were too quick for me to take a picture or video of, so instead, I just watched them as they splashed out of the water around us. 

Pink dolphin watching on the Amazon River A boat crossing the sunset on the Amazon River

Allen would tell us later that pink dolphins are a sign of good luck. He also said that in some cultures, pink dolphins are said to come ashore and pretend to be single men looking for a bride. If they find a single woman, they will attempt to seduce them and take them back to the river. It kind of sounds like The Little Mermaid, except instead of mermaids, they are (kind of ugly) dolphins. Allen didn't mention if Ursala was involved in it, though. 

Once we were done on the water, we went back to The Dolphin Lodge, washed up the best we could, and had supper. We had about two hours of power left so we went back to our rooms and settled in for the night.

With no wifi and no access to the outside world, I plugged in my devices and went to sleep. It was a long day getting from Lima to Iquitos, and then Iquitos to The Dolphin Lodge, so I was exhausted. I wasn't even awake when the power went out, but others were still awake, and they said how it went from bright to suddenly very, very dark.  

The next day we would learn what creepy crawlers come out at night, but for now, I slept in ignorant bliss to conclude my first day at the Amazon.

Check out Part 2: Welcome to the Amazon: Watch Your Step!

Also, if you're thinking about visiting the Amazon, please check out Amazon Wonder Expeditions. Allen and Luis are amazing and could really use your business!

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