With its matchless biological diversity in the form of countless species of fauna and flora, the Amazon basin is a photographer’s dream. But at the same time, it can be a nightmare for photography enthusiasts unfamiliar with environmental conditions that could hardly be worse when it comes to taking care of sensitive and expensive camera equipment.
Weather conditions in forests like those protected by Tambopata National Reserve and our own Tambopata Ecolodge Private Conservation Area vary across the year. The rainiest months anywhere in the Amazon basin, Tambopata included, are January and February. But, of course, it can rain at any time of year in a rainforest. And during the driest months, from June to August, forest trails tend to be much less muddy and easier to hike, but at the same time it is much hotter in the forest.
The biggest hurdle to successful photography in the Amazon basin is the teeming environment that attracts travelers from all over the world to this primeval world that has been around for at least 125 million years. High temperatures and extremely high humidity are damaging to camera gear.
Photographers are advised to bring waterproof casings for all their photography equipment. Protect your cameras, binoculars and any other essential gear that could be damaged by moisture in any form. While hunting for examples of wild fauna and flora to capture with your lens, you will find yourself walking on muddy trails, embarking and disembarking from boats, and therefore dealing with the constant threat of moisture and water damage to your gear. Even the insect repellent you will be wearing can be harmful to the plastic components of your camera gear. Be sure to wrap equipment in plastic bags, use silica gel sachets, and only take out your camera when you are actually going to be using it. A slip, trip, or splash by you or a companion could do damage to your camera equipment you will regret for the rest of your vacation.
And of course, the other big obstacle to wildlife photography in the Amazon basin is the wildlife itself. Photographers, and visitors in general, should not come to Peru’s or any other primary rainforest habitat expecting the wildlife density of the African savannah. Major species of Amazon fauna are difficult to spot, and a combination of time, patience and luck will be required for travelers to be blessed with the sight of a jaguar in its natural habitat.
Those travelers who come to the forests of South America in the hope of photographing its fauna and flora will need 300 mm lenses or above, and a flash may be needed for macrophotography. And at the macaw and parrot clay licks within Tambopata National Reserve, you’ll need a tripod and 500 mm to 1000 mm lenses in order to achieve the best results.
Finally, when roaming the tropical forests of Tambopata, even in the company of the most experienced naturalist guides, photographers should remember that they may not be able to capture astonishing images like those they have seen on the BBC or Discovery Channel. Great wildlife photography involves more than technical skill: it requires painstaking preparation, often over periods of weeks or months, as well as enormous patience and a not inconsiderable slice of good luck.