The Secret Drug Cartel Airstrip

May 27 (Day 9)

Our last day in Amazon starts like every other day with an early morning wake-up call.  Edouard was determined to show us the Giant River Otters and we were off to the oxbow lake for a third attempt (minus the German couple, who elected to grab some extra zzz's instead).  As we approached the lake's dock, we heard some splashing and sure enough, there they were, giggling at us, like otters like to do.  
We jumped into the catamaran to "follow" the otters as they swam away.  This was a comical yet much appreciated gesture as Edouard could have just said, "Well  my friends, there you have your Giant River Otters. Now let's head back and grab the Germans to catch our flight" but we ventured out onto the lake.  I say comical because otters are pretty much the equivalent of furry dolphins. They're playful and fast in the water and the idea that we could "follow" and "catch up to them" with our catamaran was totally unrealistic.  That said, we did come across otters enjoying their fresh catch while others were jumping out of the water and swimming across the lake. Thanks Edouard!
After our two-hour catamaran ride ended, we headed back to the lodge to pick up the Germans and ate breakfast before heading on our 5-hour canoe ride to the airport.  As we made our way back down the Manu River, we continued to see more wildlife including this massive caiman only a few metres from our canoe... luckily, it seemed to be more afraid of us than us of him as he turned away from us and proceeded to the shoreline instead of towards us.
We continued on our way until out of nowhere, Edouard shouts out, "Jaguar, Jaguar!". Yeah right, Edouard. Funny, funny.  You said all along our journey through the Amazon that jaguars are elusive creatures and are rarely seen yet sure enough, we came across a wild juvenile jaguar in the Amazon!  Jaguar: Check!  Our Amazon wildlife list is complete!
After a brief stop in Boca Manu village to drop off our shy, Peruvian government official (who was suspiciously thoughtful enough to avoid being photographed), we made our way to the nearby grass runway "formerly used" by the drug cartel to ship their goods.  The Boca Manu Airstrip is pretty much that. A grass airstrip in the middle of the jungle.  Getting out of the boat and climbing the steep mud slope, we didn't know what to expect when we started our walk in the jungle yet soon enough, the airport appeared in the opening with first, its restaurant and washroom
and then the actual airport terminal...
The flights from and to Boca Manu are operated with small airplanes (Twin Otter and Grand Caravan) and the schedule reportedly varies according to flight demand and thus is not very exact.  After checking in and paying a $15 USD per person (one-way) tax for Boca Manu's airstrip, each of us had our luggage weighed.  The luggage limit on the plane is 10 kg per person with a fee of $3 USD per extra kilo. And then get this, they weighed us!
Which is understandable, considering we were about to aboard this little 18-seat airplane.
We boarded the plane and soon enough, we were airborne...

to make our way back to Cusco in about 45 minutes.


  1. The cat in the picture is an Ocelot - not a juvenile Jaguar!

  2. I never even heard of an Ocelot until you mentioned it!

    The images on Wikipedia appear to confirm your observation. It looks like our guide misidentified it.

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


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