Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve is located in the southeast of the country, wedged between the Madre de Dios and Puno regions, around 70 kilometers from the jungle town of Puerto Maldonado, which can be reached from the city of Cusco via a half-hour scheduled flight. From the airport, it is a further three hours by bus and boat to the heart of this protected natural area bordered to the east and southeast by Brazil and Bolivia.
The National Reserve gets it name from the Tambopata River, a 400 kilometer long waterway that emerges from the highlands on the Peru-Bolivia border, at an altitude of 3900 meters (12,790 feet), to flow down through a cloud forest habitat as far as the lowland forests of the Amazon basin. By the time it reaches Tambopata National Reserve, it has become a broad, gently flowing, meandering river. It is at the town of Puerto Maldonado that it flows into the Madre de Dios River, which after more than one thousand kilometers flows into the Beni, in the Bolivian Amazon region.
Together with the adjacent Bahuaja Sonene National Park, Tambopata National Reserve forms part of an immense protected area totaling more than 3,000,000 acres of sub-tropical rainforest.
The original Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone was created by a Peruvian ministerial resolution in January 1990 as a first step towards a larger policy of land management in the area and to protect the forests while they were properly surveyed. The status of Reserved Zone gave the area a greater degree of protection while the process of deciding how best to conserve this part of the Amazon basin in the long term continued.
Eventually, those who had long called for the establishment of a national park won the day. In August 1996 National Park status was granted to 133,500 acres of the Reserved Zone. This decision was a blessing for nature, as Peruvian law restricts human activity in such areas, except under very special circumstances.
On September 10th 2000, Tambopata National Reserve and Bahuaja Sonene National Park were created simultaneously, becoming part of a cross border park system, together with Madidi National Park in Bolivia, which is now the largest protected area of tropical forest on the continent of South America.