The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve will celebrate, this February 25, its 51st anniversary as a natural area protected by the State, being the second largest in Peru. Why is it considered one of the places with the greatest biodiversity in the world and why is it called the “Jungle of Mirrors”? Next, we will answer both questions.
Located in the Loreto region and with an area of 2 million 80,000 hectares, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is one of the most notable Amazonian tourist destinations in Peru thanks to its dazzling landscape beauty and because it preserves a vast biodiversity unparalleled on the planet.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve was officially established on February 25, 1972, by Supreme Decree No. 06-72-PE, with the objective of conserving enormous and exceptional flora and fauna resources, as well as the characteristic scenic beauty of the humid tropical forest. Amazonian.
This protected natural area includes part of the provinces of Loreto, Requena, Alto Amazonas and Ucayali, in the department of Loreto. It is located in the Ucamara depression, where the confluence of the great Ucayali and Marañón rivers occurs, which form its natural limits. The southwestern part is delimited by a strip of low hills that forms the watershed with the Huallaga River.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is called the “Jungle of Mirrors” because it protects the largest area of flooded forest in the Amazon. These large concentrations of vital liquid, known as “water mirrors”, have led to it being called that way.
The gigantic wetland that makes up the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve led to its designation as one of the first Ramsar sites in Peru, in 1992.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is home to high biological diversity and an important human population that takes advantage of its natural resources. It includes in its interior the basins of the Pacaya, Samiria and Yanayacu-Pucate rivers. Although it is mostly a plain of low alluvial and flood-prone jungle, it has some low hills at the headwaters of the Pacaya.
It also protects the largest area of flooded forest in the Amazon. This gigantic wetland led to its designation as one of the first Ramsar sites in Peru, in 1992.
Numerous indigenous communities live in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, both native and traditional and relatively recent settlers. Its territory offers benefits to thousands of people in the area and in neighboring cities, as well as the possibility of first-class tourism to get to know the Peruvian Amazon.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve has been recognized as a must-see attraction on the continent at the International Tourism Fair (Fitur). Likewise, it is one of the protected areas of Peru that seek to be crowned as sustainable tourism stories 2023.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve plays a key role in mitigating the effects of climate change, given that its forests and wetlands store around 40% of the carbon retained in Peruvian territory.
The presence of more than 1,025 species of vertebrates has been reported, which represents 27% of the diversity of these species in Peru and 36% of the total recorded for the Amazon.
It is home to important species of wildlife considered to be indicators of the good state of conservation of its territories, such as the sea cow or manatee, the pink dolphin, the gray dolphin, the yellow-fronted macaw, and the river otter.
Likewise, the puma, the otorongo or jaguar, the sachavaca, the huangana, the sajino, the red deer, the maquisapa, the coto mono and the woolly monkey.
The ornithological fauna is made up of 449 species, where the populations of birds related to aquatic environments stand out, which are also excellent indicators of the state of conservation of the wetlands. Among them, the white heron, the ash heron, the puma heron, the cushuri and other species stand out.
Among the reptiles, the charapa turtle, the taricaya, the black lizard and the white lizard stand out. Hydrobiological resources are the most important in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, both for their role in ecological processes and for their economic value, and they are the basis of the diet of local residents.
The main species for human consumption can be categorized into two types: those of large size such as the paiche, the dorado, the maiden and the tower fish; and those of medium and small size such as the gamitana, the sábalo, the croaker, the boquichico, the palometa, among other highly appreciated species.
Also noteworthy is the presence of a large number of ornamental fish for export, such as the tiger zúngaro, the arahuana, the stingray, the tetra and dozens of other species.
Regarding flora, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is home to 965 species of wild plants and 59 of cultivated plants. Its value for the protection of biological diversity is amply justified by the presence of immense extensions of aguajales or aguaje forests and mixed forests of other palm trees.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve has four information rooms at the Nauta Caño, Yanayacu, Samiria and Tibilo Pastococha surveillance posts. In addition, there are 19 surveillance posts and 21 communal surveillance posts.
There are also 15 authorized camping areas in the 8 areas for tourist use, three refuges in the Yanayacu-Pucate basin and two refuges in the community of San Martín de Tipishca. River circuits lasting several days within the limits of the reserve are offered by companies that operate in Iquitos and Lima.
Being such a large area, there are several routes and activities offered. Thus, there are eight areas permitted for tourist use: Tibilo Pastococha; Pinchi-Yanayacu Grande; Lower and middle Samiria; Yanayacu Pucate-El Dorado; Nauta Caño; Yanallpa Iricahua; Under Pacaya; Punga lakes.
There are also three main tourist circuits: the Yanayacu-Pucate basin, from the Veinte de Enero community, near Nauta, to the famous El Dorado lake. It is the area where the largest number of shelters and camping areas are located along the river. El Dorado lagoon is considered the heart of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and one of the places with the highest concentration of fauna.
In the lower and middle basin of the Samiria River, visit the Yarina, Fortuna and Ungurahui lakes. Furthermore, in San Martín de Tipishca, at the beginning of the basin, you can live with the inhabitants of the Kukama Kukamilla native community, who also offer several circuits to explore, both on foot and in canoes. In the lower basin of the Pacaya, lakes abound and the forest remains flooded for much of the year.
The average annual temperature ranges between 20°C and 33°C. The average annual rainfall fluctuates between 2,000 and 3,000 millimeters. In the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, high temperatures can be recorded at any time of the year, but they are more frequent during the dry season (July to September). The best season to visit the national reserve is from May to January.
To get to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve you have to take a commercial flight to the city of Iquitos, which from Lima takes around one hour and 45 minutes. Two hours away by road is the town of Nauta, one of the entrances to the protected natural area. The other option is to enter through Requena, a city 48 hours away by boat from Iquitos. There is a payment for the right of entry.
The route through the reserve is strictly through the rivers and it is possible to stay in tourist lodges located on the banks.