Field Stations, Rivers and Fleet
MT Amazon Expeditions has an exclusive agreement for the use of the field stations and fleet of Project Amazonas, a joint American-Peruvian non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the Peruvian Rain Forest and its people through conservation, research, education, medical assistance and sustainable development in the Amazon. Project Amazonas maintains two field stations: Madre Selva, on the Orosa River, and Santa Cruz Forest Preserve, on the Mazan River, as well as boats for excursions and medical service. All profits from MT Amazon Expeditions are invested back into Project Amazonas, and play a critical role in maintaining and expanding the field station lands and facilities, and for maintaining the boats. Traveling with us means that you too, are directly contributing to the protection of this wonderful world treasure.
Madre Selva Forest Preserve (MS)
Founded in 1994 as the first of Project Amazonas’ protected forest areas, the Madre Selva site maintains 192 hectares (about 480 acres) of land, and through an agreement with the neighboring Yagua indigenous community of Comandancia, Project Amazonas manages an additional area of community property of about 400 hectares (1000 acres) for use by researchers and other station users. Madre Selva provides access to a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and due to its distance from Iquitos, also neighbors more traditional indigenous and campesino cultures.
Madre Selva is located 150 river km (90 river miles) east of Iquitos on the south bank of the Rio Orosa, (3,37'2"S, 72,14'8"W) with facilities overlooking Tunche Caño (Ghost Creek), a tributary of the Rio Orosa, a black-water river. This lower portion of the Rio Orosa is an ancient channel of the Amazon, and during high water, Amazon River water enters the Orosa at several points up- and down-stream from Madre Selva, imparting a strong seasonal white-water influence to this otherwise black-water river. Land near the Orosa River and along Tunche Caño is seasonally flooded (varzea and/or igapo forest), while further inland the terrain is a mixture of low rolling hills and fairly steep ravines. Across the Rio Orosa from the field station is an extensive area of seasonally flooded swamp forest and floodplain lakes, and at moderate to high water there is easy access to the sandbars, mud-flats, floating meadows and river islands of the Amazon River itself. Local communities cultivate corn, yuca (manioc) and camu camu (a native fruit) on the floodplain of the Orosa River upstream and across the river from the field station. In upland areas behind communities, plantains, dry-land rice and other crops are also cultivated. Small scale cattle and water buffalo husbandry have also started in some nearby communities.
The station can house up to 30 persons. A large screened "dorm" building with raised wooden floor and irapay palm thatch roof can house up to 16 persons, while 6 smaller shelters (tambos) with raised wooden floors and tarp roofs can house 2-3 persons each in large dome tents (10' x 10'). Either dome tents or mosquito nets are provided for protection from insects and for privacy, and beds, mattresses, linens, and towels are included. Modern flush toilets and showers (four each) are linked to a septic drain field. A dining hall with fully equipped kitchen seats 35-40 comfortably, and doubles as an "assembly hall." A classroom/laboratory building with storage area in the rear is used by educational groups and researchers for various projects. Approximately 25 km of trails provide access to primary and secondary forest of varying ages. One long trail leads directly into the extensive unbroken forest that lies between the Rio Orosa and the Rio Yavari on the Brazilian frontier, approximately 75 km distant. Concrete paths link the main buildings, and the station clearing area is planted useful fruit trees as well as with ornamental native plants and native orchids. At the time of this writing (October 2016), electricity is provided by a generator in the mornings and evenings. Work is underway to provide 24/7 electrical supply in the future with solar panels.
Santa Cruz Forest Preserve (SCFR)
Located on the Mazan River upriver from its junction with the Napo River, the forest preserve at Santa Cruz contains the closest expanse of protected old growth forest to the city of Iquitos. A reserve at the site was envisioned in 2007, when construction began on a highway linking Iquitos at the Nanay River to Mazan. The entirety of the road quickly cut, most of it slicing through virgin forest, previously nearly inaccessible. Since landowners are permitted to harvest their land up to 1 km from a river or road, we foresaw immediate and widespread forest destruction. With the help of generous donations, Project Amazonas was able to purchase several lots on the road.
Luckily the road project quickly flopped, a failure of mismanagement, poor planning, and no maintenance. The road became overgrown and the site is landlocked again. Again, through fundraising efforts and generous contributions from MT Amazon Expeditions clients, PA was able to purchase riverfront lots providing a new protected corridor from primary rainforest to the river - extremely rare, and unique for an area so close to a highly populated city. This model quickly proved itself: in January 2015, a rare frog (Pristimantis orphnolaemus), previously seen only in primary forest in Ecuador was found for the first time in Perú at the Santa Cruz site - just a dozen meters from the river, and on land that had been previously burned and used for agriculture.
The 600-acre preserve consists of a house on the river (sleeps 6), affectionately called "The Taj", and facilities for accommodating large groups for rainforest enthusiasts and in the heart of the forest. Over the last few years, we have been working to make the facilities energy friendly; already the Taj has a zero carbon imprint using solar panels and a rainwater filtration system, and the forest station is on the way.
In 2010, a serious reforestation program was established to return degraded land on the riverfront back to a viable forest, currently planting more than 500 seedlings per year, and expecting to increase the number significantly. At the same time, a living museum was begun on the site: an arboretum sampler of Amazon trees of traditional, medicinal or commercial value, already at over 100 species.
From Iquitos, travel to the SCFR brings you 45 minutes down the Amazon by speedboat, transferring overland from the small port of Tumicurilo to the town of Mazan, where the Mazan River meets the Napo, then up the Mazan River another 40 minutes, passing the community center of Santa Cruz.