Skip to main content

Heath River Wildlife Center


On this trip to Heath River and Sandoval Lake you’ll find pristine rainforest and the most comfortable wildlife lodges in the Upper Amazon Basin. They offer a combination of distance and accessibility by airport and then through the local river system.

Our two lodges are within the reserves of Tambopata and Madidi, between Peru and Bolivia. Madidi National Park in Bolivia has a total of 18,900 km² (7,297 mi²), while reserves adjacent, Candamo and Bahuaja Sonene across the border, account for more than 13,700 km² (5,290 mi²). Together they form the second largest area of nature conservation and are by far the most biologically diverse of all South America.

In the Heath River Wildlife Center we witness one of the most exciting sights of nature; a gathering of brightly colored macaws and parrots on a clay lick along the Heath River. The area offers numerous activities to occupy yourself during your visit. You can admire wildlife along the trails in this remote jungle, and perhaps view the mammal clay lick and the elusive Tapir, the largest mammal in the Amazon. There is an amazing diversity of environments that can be experienced in the short walk from the river to the Pampas of Heath; a trip that passes through a nesting place for the Blue and Yellow Macaw.

At Sandoval Lake you can enjoy a more relaxing experience with a short hike on the trails or a pleasant boat ride around the lake. The lake is extraordinarily beautiful and rich in wildlife; home to a family of giant otters, numerous monkey troops, and a variety of birds.


Location: Amazon, Peru


Our staff will welcome you at the airport in Puerto Maldonado and drive you through the city to the boat dock on the Tambopata River. Here we board a motorised canoe and head towards the nearby confluence of the mighty Madre de Dios River to the mouth of the Heath River; the natural border of Peru and Bolivia. In the haven of this important Amazonian tributary, we have a vision of the diversity of the riverside environment; cliffs of red earth with outreaching forest are interspersed with thick banks of Cecropia trees and huge grass. After brief formalities at border crossings, we take the boat through the narrow waters for a couple of hours, enjoying the intimacy of the mysterious forest on both sides. Occasional sightings of local children splashing along the banks punctuate long, silent stretches where we can locate herons, hawks, cormorants, Orinoco goose, and perhaps a family of Capybaras (the world’s largest rodent weighing up to 55kg). After this interesting trip we arrive at our simple, but comfortable accommodation of the Heath River Wildlife Center, just in time for dinner.

Puerto Maldonado to Heath River Wildlife Center

Today we start very early to visit the most spectacular attraction of this area: the parrot and macaw clay lick along the river. These colorful birds gather here to eat the clay in the cliffs on the riverbanks to neutralize certain toxins in their daily diet (poisonous berries and hallucinogenic plants). Sometimes they congregate in the hundreds, pushing and squabbling over the best place to eat. This noisy and unforgettable show can go on for two or three hours, and can gather many varieties of parrots, parakeets, Chestnut Fronted Macaws and their larger cousins, the Red and Green Macaw. This extraordinary display occurs in only a handful of places in the Upper Amazon Basin. Our floating platform provides us with comfort and is completely hidden, so here we will enjoy a full breakfast during the show.

We make land back down the river will walk back along a section of the extensive jungle trails. Here we will find huge Brazil nut trees, Kapok and fig trees; along with the dark strangler fig whose aim in life is as sinister as the name implies. Our guide will identify and explain the medicinal use/trade of dozens of plants and trees, while keeping eyes and ears open for birds or one of the eight species of monkeys found in this region. We could run into a small herd of the two species of wild pigs that are common in this area. In order to mark their territory, they use scent glands so powerful that they can be smelt long before being seen.

After lunch, we hike along the trail leading to the point where the forest abruptly gives way to the vast plains of the Pampas of Heath. This unique land is a result of poor soil and extreme climatic cycles of drought and flood. The largest intact tropical savanna in the Amazon, it is the habitat of endemic birds and mammals, such as the Fork-Tailed Hummingbird and the Maned Wolf. Just beyond the edge of the forest you can climb to an elevated platform that allows for a great view of this vast expanse of grasslands and shrubs, dotted with palm trees.

The palm tree Mauritia flexuosa produces nuts rich in palm oil and dry hollow stems that provide vital food and shelter for nesting pairs of Red Bellied Macaws and the rare Blue and Yellow Macaws. We aim to arrive around sunset, when the parrots are returning from their daily search for food to gather in this place.

We return to the lodge at night using headlamps and flashlights, perhaps stopping here and there in total darkness to listen to the ever-changing sounds of frogs, insects, and other animals; the magic of the jungle at night. We may run into frogs the size of small rabbits, homes of hairy tarantulas or night monkeys hanging from the tree. There is a huge and unpredictable collection of nocturnal creatures in the night. After dinner, some guests may choose to visit the lick of mammals, with the hope of seeing the Lowland Tapir, the largest mammal in the jungle.

Heath River Wildlife Center

On our second full day in at the lodge we can choose from a wide range of activities available in this diverse and unique tropical environment. Many people choose to make a second visit to the macaw clay lick or spend more time on the trails.
Later we can take a canoe tour around the Cocha Guacamayo, an oxbow lake that is home of a family of giant otters. The lake is located inside the Bahuaja Sonene National Park, a short distance by boat from the lodge.

We return by boat after dusk looking for caimans; a crocodile cousin that lives in the Amazon. This region is home to the Black Caiman, which is endangered, and almost always distinguishable along the river’s edge with its glowing orange eyes.

Heath River Wildlife Center

We leave at dawn for the return journey downstream. The mornings are the peak of wildlife activity, so keep a sharp eye on the banks of the river where we may see families of Capybaras and maybe be rewarded with a rare glimpse of Jaguar or Tapir swimming through the stream.

We arrive at Port Sandoval where we will walk to Sandoval Lake, which is protected by Tambopata National Reserve. Along the trail there are birds and butterflies and after 3km (2 mi) the trail leads to a narrow canal lined boats. This flooded forest leads to the open waters of Sandoval Lake. In the golden light of afternoon our crew will row the boats across to the lodge (motors are banned here). We can see the appearance of turbid lake while a huge Paiche breaks the surface (an Amazonian fish that can weigh up to 100kg). You may also hear strange and unsettling screams and see heads peering from the surface of the lake, which will mark our encounter with Pteronura brasiliensis, the Giant Otter of the Amazon. After dinner we can finish the day with a short night walk, spotting some nocturnal creatures along one of the trails near the lodge.

Heath River Wildlife Center to Sandoval Lake Lodge

After breakfast at dawn we cross the lake, perhaps finding a family of macaws leaving their roost or a troop of monkeys waking in the morning light. We will walk back to the river where our motorized canoe quickly leads upstream to the boat dock in Puerto Maldonado, and then on to the airport.

Sandoval Lake to Airport


  • Personalise your itinerary
  • Access to great flight deals
  • Choose your accomodation
  • Tailored travel insurance options
  • Choose your preferred dates
  • Cater to your travel needs

Pricing & date

Travel Style Departing Duration PRICE FROM
Enquire Now

Important Information

  • All meals during your stay

    Activities as per itinerary

    Transport as per itinerary

  • Available upon request

  • Please note all itineraries may vary slightly to maximise wildlife viewing. This will depend on the reports of our researchers and experienced naturalist guides. The lodge is located on the Bolivian side of the Heath River so passports will be required to pass Bolivian security checks. Please contact us for more details.



  • Season and availability


We believe that appropriate accommodation should add to the authentic travel experience, as well as providing utmost enjoyment. For that reason our accommodation is scrutinised by our staff on the ground frequently, ensuring the properties adhere to our high standards. This key will help you understand the levels of accommodation available on this tour.


Talk to one of our Destination Specialists to plan your South American adventure and turn your dream into a reality. With exceptional knowledge and first hand experience, our consultants will assist in every way possible to make your journey the most memorable it can be, matching not only the itinerary, but the accommodation and activities to suit your style of travel and budget.


Chimu Adventures undertakes a number of sustainability measures within its operations including:

1) Only using local guides and office staff to both maximise local employment opportunities and minimise carbon footprints. Local guides also ensure you benefit from the intimate knowledge, passion and culture of the country you’re visiting.

2) Where possible, using locally owned and operated boutique hotels to maximise the return to the local community.

3) Chimu’s “Pass it on” programme has provided funding to hundreds of local community projects in Latin America. Our aim is to empower local communities, helping them to develop their own infrastructure for the future. Since 2006, we have been working with Kiva (a well-known Non-Governmental Organisation), providing hundreds of loans to local businesses all over South America.
4) In our pre tour information we provide a range of tips and advice on how to minimise your impact on both local environments and communities.

5) Chimu Adventures’ offices also take a number of sustainability measures including carbon offsets for company vehicles and most staff travel. Chimu Adventure’s internal processes are also structures to create a paperless office and to reduce waste. There are also internal programmes to help staff minimise their carbon footprint such as our staff bike purchase assistance plan which encourages office staff to commute to work via bicycle. Currently almost half of our office based staff commute to work via bicycle.