Heath River Wildlife Centre is a 20-bed lodge located about 6 hours by boat from Puerto Maldonado on the east (or Bolivian) bank of the secluded Heath River. This river marks the remote Amazon-region border between Peru and Bolivia. The lodge is actually on the Bolivian bank and the spectacular macaw clay lick is on the opposite Peruvian bank. The lodge also borders two radically different ecosystems of rainforest and lowland savannah. Heath River runs through the heart of the Tambopata- Madidi reserve areas of Peru and Bolivia, a vast and largely inaccessible wilderness totalling more than 13,700 sq. km./5,290 sq. miles.
Heath River Wildlife Center is the only eco-lodge on this river. And it offers a spectacular large macaw clay lick which is incredible for a lodge that is reachable in six hours from a jet airport with daily connections to the outside world.
Only ten minutes by boat from the lodge, a comfortable floating hide just 30m/100ft from the lick allows you to witness one of nature’s most spectacular displays – a tumultuous gathering of brightly-coloured macaws and parrots. Visitors have seen up to 260 macaws there at one time, which makes it one of the top five of the world's 100 known licks. The red-and-green macaw is the predominent large macaw on the lick and there are also plenty of the smaller chestnut- fronted macaws. Macaws visit the clay lick throughout the year, but they are seen in largest numbers from July to September. A trail grid with mapped fruiting trees allows easier tracking of the wildlife which includes 6 monkey species and 480 bird species. There are also healthy populations of tapirs. These huge nocturnal animals are regularly seen in and around the river and nearby lake and also at the mammal clay licks which are sometimes visited at night. There are also jaguars here although these are seen a lot less frequently - you'd be very lucky to see one! Capybaras, the world's largest rodent (weighing up to 55 kilograms!), are frequently seen along the river, and giant river otters frequent nearby oxbow lakes.
There is a viewing platform built at the top of a huge tree which gives you an amazing view over the jungle canopy. Getting up to it is quite an adventure as you climb a vertical steel-and-cable ladder, complete with safety harness and hard hats.
A really unique feature of a visit to the lodge is the only lowland pampas accessible from Peru. This is a different ecosystem and a place where large blue-and-yellow macaws go to roost each evening.
Heath River lodge consists of 10 double bungalows built in the style of, and using the same materials as, the local indigenous communities. Local wood, bamboo and palm fronds for roofing are used. All materials used have been sustainably harvested or brought in from distant areas. For example, the wood used in the construction is collected from the river as, each rainy season, hundreds of trees are washed into the river as it cuts its everchanging course.
Each bungalow has good quality foam mattresses and all beds have cotton sheets and quilts (best for hot tropical conditions). All the rooms are screened with insect netting and beds are furnished with individual mosquito nets. All bungalows are private and separated from each other and have private toilets (flush) and hot showers. The dining area is separate from the other facilities but close to all bungalows and the nearby kitchen area. Food is good, not gourmet, and uses a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and meats in the menu. The cooks are used to providing for vegetarian diets. The centre does not have any electricity in the rooms, but a generator provides electricity to the main building at key times of day and is available to recharge cameras and batteries.
A stay at Heath River Wildlife Centre can be combined with a stay at Sandoval Lake Lodge.
Open: Open all year.
Location: The lodge is on the east bank of the secluded Heath River on the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Tambopata-Madidi region.
Rooms: Guests are accommodated in 10 double or triple cabins with en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers. The cabins have screened windows and mosquito nets.
Activities: Visit the floating hide to watch macaws and parrots, take guided walks through varied scenery and habitats including forest trails and walks to the open grasslands of the pampas, observe wildlife at the clay licks. Guests can also take canoe trips on the lake and boat trips on the river. The lodge has a double viewing platform, for viewing birds, monkeys and scenery. There are also nocturnal excursions and walks.
Facilities: The lodge has a spacious, high-ceilinged main area incorporating the dining room, lounge and bar. The main lodge has electricity for a few hours each day and it is possible to charge camera batteries, but there is no electricity in the cabins which are equipped with candles for lighting.
Dining: Meals are taken in the dining room, sitting at individual tables.
Children: Children of all ages are welcome.
Health: We recommend visitors take malaria prophylactics. You will also need a valid Yellow Fever certificate.
Communication: There is no mobile coverage, ‘phone, fax or internet access . The lodge communicates with Puerto Maldonado by radio.
Cusco and Machu Picchu plus the Peruvian Amazon. History, culture and nature.
This rainforest lodge on the border of Peru and Bolivia is 100%-owned by the Ese'eja Indians of Sonene. Since this is such a remote lodge, they are very careful with energy usage, and have strict waste policies. Timber extraction was practised here before the lodge began in 1999. The employment provided by the lodge has been very welcome, and the lodge gives $10 for each tourist into community development pots. In addition it arranges for a nurse to come when emergency medical treatment is needed for local people.
When the lodge was being constructed, a free course for those interesting in becoming a guide. Numerous community members participated in the training, and now several of the guides are members of the community. About half of all food at the lodge comes from local suppliers and much of it is organically grown.
"An amazing experience. We arrived at dusk after travelling 5 hours up river, taken to our bungalow lit by candle light. we were very well looked after by the firendly staff, we even had to ask for portion sizes to be reduced."