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REIGN FOREST; TRAVEL; River otters, red howler monkeys, capybaras and caymans..it's the wonderful wildlife of the Amazon which makes it like nowhere else in the world.

Byline: BRIDGET MCGROUTHER

DO YOU KNOW A DESTINATION BRIDGET SHOULD FEATURE? CONTACT HER AT B.MCGROUTHER@ SUNDAYMAIL.CO.UK

Deepest, darkest Peru

My journey with the Rainforest Alliance took me deep into the heart of the Amazon Basin in search of the endangered giant web–footed river otter, which can grow up to 6ft long, and on a road to discover why this pristine corner of the world needs to be protected.

Amazing Amazon

Most tourists head to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. Yet within an hour's flight of Cusco lies Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to the Amazon. Madre de Dios is an area renowned for its incredible biodiversity, while sustainable tourism helps to support the indigenous communities, as well as protect the rainforest and its wildlife.

Plush and flush

You don't need to rough it in Rainforest Alliance–verified eco–lodges. They have comfy beds and flushing toilets. They didn't all have walls, however, which meant the odd inquisitive nocturnal visitor.

Tails of the Riverbanks

First stop was Refugio Amazonas in the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve. The dining room had a convivial atmosphere and lasagne was on the menu – rather than guinea pig. We saw capybaras, a large rodent, on a tour of the banks plus monkeys and birds.

Night fever

Tambopata Eco Lodge had a couple of rescued parrots who liked to chat. A night tour by boat on the river was exciting – we spotted caymans and other nocturnal animals by the red reflection of their eyes.

Otter see them

Our visit to Lake Sandoval was our chance to see the very rare giant otters in the wild. It was noon – when most animals hide – yet we even came across a troop of red howler monkeys during the hour's walk through the forest. On boarding a raft, we didn't have to wait long for a family of giant otters to pop up, fishing and swimming all around us. It was captivating.

Hang around

For the best chance to see the otters, it was worth spending a night or two at Sandoval Lake Lodge, close to the water's edge.

Delicious food and the day hammocks and comfortable rooms looked inviting.

On a high

The Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica is a very luxurious lodge. There is also a fun canopy walk to get a bird's eye view of the treetops. We stayed at the brand new sister property the Hacienda Concepcion.

Driven nuts

We visited Brazil nut farms to learn how supporting the indigenous communities to harvest Fair Trade crops helped to protect the rainforest. I was also shocked to see with my own eyes some very real environmental threats such as gold mining, deforestation, oil extraction, poaching and the new highway to Brazil cutting a corridor through the trees.

Peru for you

For eco–accommodation, visit rainforest–alliance.org. For eco–lodge room rates, visit sustainabletrip.org. KLM (klm.com, 0871 231 0000) flies to Lima via Amsterdam. Fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado with LAN Peru (LAN.com)

Departures

Tenerife

4* Isla Bonita, AI, Feb and Mar, 7 nights, from Glasgow, from PS399

Costa Brava

3* Santa Susanna, AI, May, 7 nights, from Prestwick, from PS309 (free car parking)

Palma Nova

3* Don Bigote, HB, May/June, 7 nights, from Prestwick, from PS269 (free car parking)

Marmaris

3* Kaan, SC, June 3/10/17/24, 10 nights from Glasgow, PS369

www.holidayandflightcentre.com or tel 01698 425 444.

Fuerteventura

3* Costa Caleta,AI, Feb 26, 7 nights from Glasgow PS399

Tunisia

4* Sentido Rosa Beach, AI, March 19, 7 nights, from Glasgow, PS329

Gran Canaria

3* Altamar, AI, April 24, 7 nights, from Glasgow, PS389

Costa Brava

3* Santa Susanna Resort, AI, May 25, 7 nights, from Glasgow, PS399

Lanzarote

3* THB Flora SC, June 6, 10 nights, from Prestwick, PS349

www.barrheadtravel.co.uk or tel 0141 222 2223

Last minute choice

A new holiday complex has just been opened by Pierre & Vacances in the ski resort of Andorra. Conveniently located next to Grandvalira's main lift, Andorra El Tarter boasts 50 holiday apartments, all with the added luxury of hotel services. Prices for a winter skiing break start from PS1032 for a week in a one–bedroom apartment that sleeps up to four. Visit www.pierreetvacances.co.uk or call 0870 0267 145.

CAPTION(S):

BRIGHT Scarlet macaws by the river

UNDER THREAT Lake Sandoval in Peru
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 12, 2014
Words:744
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