You Should Visit the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm When Visiting Iquitos Peru
By Gart van Gennip
The official name is the Amazon Animal Orphanage and Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm, which is appropriate enough, but the locals know it as Pilpintuwasi, which means “home of the butterfly”.
The Butterfly Farm is one of the favorite day trip destinations in Iquitos, but it isn’t actually located in the city.
I took a mototaxi to Nanay Bellavista, which is worth a visit in itself! I found a lively, colourful market on the banks of the Nanay River, right at the point where it joins the Amazon. What a beautiful view! I arrived during the “high water” season, which is mistakenly believed to be a “rainy” season. It is not. It merely means that the water level of the rivers is high and it actually offers much better river travel possibilities than during the “low water” season.
A short boat ride took me to Padre Cocha, a small river community on the Nanay River. Despite the many unsolicited offers of private boat rides, which can cost up to 10 dollars, I travelled by “colectivo”, which is public transportation. It took up to 20 minutes before the boat left. It’s just a matter of economics; they were waiting for enough passengers to make the trip worthwhile. So I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery of the harbor and checked out the locals who slowly filled the boat to capacity. After all, the trip only cost 1 sol.
Upon arrival in Padre Cocha I soon discovered that this friendly village offered the peace and quiet that Iquitos often lacks. No traffic here; just narrow walkways and wooden bridges, and small wooden houses whose owners sell groceries, fruits and vegetables, as well as some souvenirs and remarkable pottery.
The Butterfly Farm is just beyond the village, a 10-minute walk from the harbour. The locals pointed me in the right direction, but I decided to ask one of the children to show me the way, for an appropriate tip, of course! A small, bright-eyed eight year old volunteered to be my guide and led me through this quaint little town that immediately stole my heart.
Arriving at Pilpintuwasi, I noticed that the owners cheerfully discriminate against foreigners. Gringos pay a $5 dollar entry fee, while the locals just pay S/ 5 soles, which is only about one third. I found out that this is not to take advantage of the rich gringos, but merely to allow more locals to come and visit as well. The local community had protested the “high” entry fee, because it simply wasn’t affordable for most people.
I said goodbye to my young guide and continued on my own. Walking into this peaceful place, I got my first impression of what the rainforest must feel like, with the hot, heavy, humid air below the canopy, the sounds and the smells of the jungle, the cries of monkeys and birds in the distance. I stopped for a moment on a narrow walking bridge, taking it all in. What a beautiful place. It still took quite a walk before I reached a small pond, where I encountered a few parrots and lo and behold, was greeted by a small but loud group of monkeys!
I had already heard that one must take care of one’s belongings and the welcome signs at Pilpintuwasi warn you of the same. The monkeys are friendly, curious, funny and delightful, but with their tiny hands they will empty your pockets and your bag in an instant. Even though I thought I was well prepared, one of them got a hold of my repellent and ran up a tree with it. I didn’t feel too silly; another one grabbed the cell phone of one of the caretakers and threw it into the pond. Now they should know better!
I was startled by a deep, growling roar, which seemed a little too close for comfort. Then I heard two of them at the same time. What a booming sound! I was surprised to see that it was a pair of howler monkeys that produced this noise. They seemed far too small to warrant such a disturbance!
I met Gudrun Sperrer, an Austrian zoologist, and her partner Roblar Moreno. They started the butterfly farm years ago and made it what it is today. Apart from being the home of the butterfly, it became a refuge for abandoned animals. Living with the monkeys and parrots I had already met, there were several caiman, water and land turtles, a tapir, an ant-eater, a sloth and –OMG!- a jaguar named Pedro Bello. No worries; Pedro does not run around free. He lives in a very large enclosed area, reserved just for him. Rumour has it that there is a manatee in Pilpintuwasi, but I didn’t get to see it. River cows are very shy.
Gudrun was kind enough to show me around and she gave me a tour of the butterfly ‘flight area’ and the adjacent breeding area, where you can see the entire life cycle of various types of butterflies. Although Pilpintuwasi breeds over 40 species, usually only twelve species are on display at any given time. There is still so much to learn about the 200 different sorts that live in the wild. Most butterflies depend on just one particular plant for their survival.
My favourite was a giant moth with little windows in its wings. The poor thing only lives for four days. If it’s lucky! But mating takes 24 hours, which comes down to a quarter of its life. So maybe it’s worth it!
Back to Iquitos after a morning well spent. I decided I would come back for a second visit and take more time to get to know Padre Cocha as well. After all, you can also walk to the Bora and Yagua communities from there, as well as a small, hidden village called San Andres. Don’t forget to tip your jungle guide!
You Would Enjoy the Butterfly Farm When Visiting Iquitos Peru
Gart van Gennip is also the publisher of Ikitos.com Tu Comunidad Virtual
If you found this article to be interesting, you might also enjoy reading Our Amazon Tour to the Butterfly Farm, Iquitos Peru, and Butterfly Farm, Iquitos Peru
For more articles by Gart van Gennip click the links below;