Introducing Río Tambopata
The Río Tambopata is a major tributary of the Río Madre de Dios, joining it at Puerto Maldonado. Boats go up the river, past several good lodges, and into the Reserva Nacional Tambopata, an important protected area divided into the reserve itself and the zona de amortiguamiento (buffer zone). The park entrance fee needs to be paid at the Sernanp office in Puerto Maldonado unless (as is nearly always the case) you are on a guided tour, in which case you will pay at the relevant lodge office. An additional fee is required if you are heading into the reserve proper (such as to the Tambopata Research Center) rather than just the buffer zone.
Travelers heading up the Río Tambopata must register their passport numbers at Puesto Control El Torre (Guard Post) next to Explorer’s Inn and show their national-park entrance permits obtained in Puerto Maldonado. Visiting the reserve is only really possible if you book a guided stay at one of the lodges within it. One of the reserve’s highlights is the Colpa de Guacamayos (Macaw Clay Lick), one of the largest natural clay licks in the country. It attracts hundreds of birds and is a spectacular sight.
Also check out the association of Tambopata homestays: small-scale lodges usually in the homes of local families with whom you can stay (three days and two nights per person US$100 to US$350) at http://tambopataecotours.com. Several are located near the small community of Baltimore, just after the Refugio Amazonas lodge. The river is plied, as far as Baltimore, by twice-weekly passenger boat from Puerto Maldonado, or by bus and foot. Take any vehicle from Puerto Maldonado heading to Laberinto, and ask to get off at Km 37. From there, a footpath goes to Baltimore (two to three hours). No public transport exists to points further upriver.