Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and Animal Orphanage Outside Iquitos

August 7th, 2015

After having returned from my amazing 5 day trip deep into the heart of the Amazon at Tapiche Reserve, 5 days of constant activity and not much sleeping, and drinking rain water seems to get to me, and I need  few days to recuperate at Green Track Hostel (owned by Tapiche), but as time passes I decide I have to do something.  So I head out with Avshi and Noam on their last day in Iquitos looking to visit the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and Animal Orphanage not far away from the city.

The first step getting there is to take a moto taxi to the Bellavista Nanay port just a few kilometres from the city centre.  It shouldn’t cost more than 4 or 5 soles.  From there you can hire a private boat (We were quoted a price of 20 soles per person return voyage)   Or you can take a public boat which usually costs 2 or 3 soles but can involve some waiting.  Either way your destination is the village of Padre Cocha, or for a little more you can go straight to the farm with a private boat (but the village is very nice and just a short walk to the farm.)

We take the public boat but find we’re the only three people there, luckily the captain tells us if we pay 10 soles total he’ll take us straight away.  So we’re off puttering over to one of the many charming gas stations on the way before heading further up the river towards Padre Cocha.  I snap lots of pictures of the life we pass by and try to relax in the boat which putters along pleasantly enough, but I’m not feeling good.

We climb out at the port and hike up the small hill towards the top, and I suddenly find myself nauseous, weak, and very dizzy, after a very simple walk, which worries me.

Avshi and Noam are incredibly patient as we continue through the village towards the butterfly farm, even though it’s a simple flat walk, the mix of heat and sickness make me need to stop every few hundred meters and strongly consider going back the way I’ve come.

I end up nearly passed out in the shade of a water tower to the confusion of several locals who pass by me asking if i’m okay.  I smile and nod as best I can and assure them that I will be fine, and eventually even catch up to Avshi and Noam who are buying souvenirs and delicious popsicles at a small stand near the farm itself.

As we leave the paved road behind we pass another smaller butterfly farm started by former employees of Pilpintuwasi, and while it also looks interesting, and the animosity between the two is vastly overstated, we head on to our main attraction, mainly because at Pilpintuwasi it’s not just butterflies.

We enter the jungle and I’m forced to take another sit down, insisting my Israeli friends continue.  As I sit there fighting a bout of dizzy nausea some monkeys rustle in the trees not far from me, and a single beautiful blue butterfly lands nearby.

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I force myself up and continue on the final stretch of the enclosed path to the reception, where I pay my fee (10 Soles adults, 5 Soles for students)  to a friendly British volunteer and go to wait in the shade for the english tour to begin.  I’m at  point with my Spanish where Spanish tours are no problem, I’ve even acted as translator in some cases, but feeling as sick and awful as I am, the english is welcome.

As we wait for the tour though we spot a pair of macaws in the jungle, before a group of 4 red faced huakari monkeys coming storming down the path and climbing all over the fences which keep the path separate from the jungle.  They look terrifying, picture gollum with fur and a bald skeletal looking red face.  Still they are playful and amazing to watch, not to mention quite endangered.

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It’s worth mentioning that many of the animals in Pilpintuwasi are in cages, to separate them from other species and to keep them safe and healthy.  That said all of these animals are rescues brought to the shelter after being found being trafficked or mistreated in Peru. Their lives here are undoubtedly better.  In fact the Austrian born owner did not even intend to have animals here, it was purely a butterfly farm, but locals knew she cared about animals and so would bring them to her and she saw no choice but to expand.

We’re taken through a maze of paths past enclosures holding cappuchin monkeys, toucans, and some tiny pygmy marmosets (the smallest monkey in the world.), one of which i saw in Ecuador in the wild.  Only the Macaws (who already had their wings clipped prior to arriving here) and the huakari monkeys are allowed to roam without enclosures, but this has resulted in something quite special, the first ever huakari monkey conceived and born in some form of captivity.  She’s a curious little scamp and quickly joins our tour, climbing all over the guide and a few of us and snatching a few treats while she’s at it.  Cheeky Monkey.

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We then head down the hill past a boa constrictor, a sleepy Ocelot, and a mostly hidden jaguar in the back of his enclosure, before meeting a more social young Tapir who proves very eager to lick our hands.  By this point I unfortunately feel like dying, and am finding a place to collapse at each enclosure, so when they go into the butterfly far section of the tour, and I’m told there won’t be anywhere to sit down, I have to give up and go back to the waiting area, almost passing out on the firm wooden floor, watching the inquisitive red faced monkeys climb around and stare at me just outside the small open air room.

We hitch a ride on a private boat back straight from the reserve for 5 soles each and then I hurry to catch a collectivo back to green track hostel to collapse into bed for the rest of the day and try to get better before my upcoming flight to Tarapoto.

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There’s several other things I want to do in and around Iquitos, but sadly my health just won’t come back and I’m left spending most of my days at the hostel until my flight.  Still for those in Iquitos, I feel safe recommending both a visit to Belen Market, as well as a trip to what is known as monkey Island.  Oh and for the golf enthusiasts Iquitos has a course which includes club rental for 25 USD.  It’s supposedly in terrible condition but would have been a cool thing to do.

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