Savannah Grace

Sunrise over the Peruvian Jungle

Nocturnal creatures were still active in their shenanigans as the rest of the world slept on. We peeled ourselves out of bed at 3:30am to meet Jair in Refugio Lodge’s common area. Slipping into our gum boots at the front entrance, too tired to check for nested critters, we ventured into the dark with flashlights in hand.

Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

Each of the three Rainforest Expedition lodges has a view tower canopy. The one at Refugio has a steep winding staircase that reaches 32m into the sky and the tiny platform sits just above the rainforest, the perfect spot to catch the sunrise.

Because Kees is the best person I know for breaking the ice with strangers, our relationship with Jair grew quickly and we were already cracking jokes. When we’d met Jair in the morning he was taken aback, “Oh wow! Very nice socks.” The first joke was on me, with my pink fuzzy socks and I quickly became famous in the rainforest.

Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

Being the only three people trudging in the rainforest so early, we couldn’t resist turning off our flashlights and embracing the full darkness. The overhead foliage was so dense that even the stars and moon didn’t shine through, leaving us in an are-my-eyes-open-or-closed kind of darkness. It was about a 30 minute walk before we reached the creaking, wet canopy tower. We climbed the wooden steps, holding the wet metal railing and sat for 30+ minutes on the platform above the treetops.

Tambopata National Reserve, Peru Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

The small surface area we were sitting on seemed barely sturdy enough to support the three of us. I was slightly wary when Jair said the limit was 7 people. As we waited, bundled up at the top of the rickety platform in our muddy boots, both Kees and Jair set up their cameras, ready to capture the first glimpse of the sun’s arrival. I really appreciated Jair’s shared enthusiasm.

Tambopata National Reserve, Peru Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

Despite having worked for years in the rainforest, he still acted as if it was going to be the first time he ever set eyes on the sun. His passion and knowledge of the area was what made him such a memorable guide.

Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

As the sun crept up, changing the sky from black to red to blue, the sounds of excited night crawlers transformed into spooky ghost-like roars of howler monkeys in the distance to pretty birds chirping their morning songs.

Tambopata National Reserve, Peru - Savannah Grace, Kees Book

I felt we really lucked out when we decided to head back to the lodge and felt the canopy tower rocking and swaying. Other tourists had just arrived and wanted to see the view.

Tambopata National Reserve, Peru Tambopata National Reserve, Peru Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

After grabbing a quick breakfast when we got back, Jair told us to go take a little rest before our next activity started in just under two hours.

I didn’t want to believe him when he told us our itinerary at dinner the night before. I didn’t want to believe him even more at 6 o’clock in the morning. This is how the day would play out.

3:30 – Wake up 4:00 – 20 mins walk to and up canopy for sunrise 6:30 – Breakfast 9:00 – 3 hour venture into the jungle to clay lick 13:00 – Lunch 15:30 – Cross river in canoe to do farm walk 7:00 – Dinner 8:00 – Caiman search by boat 9:00 – Return and SLEEP as soon as possible!

It quickly dawned on me that we had signed up for jungle bootcamp.

  Tambopata National Reserve, Peru - Savannah Grace Tambopata National Reserve, Peru - Kees Book


While we were up there on the canopy tower at 4 o’clock in the morning, Kees Book created his first time lapse video. Please watch it here and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.

8 replies »

  1. Looks like an amazing experience! We have found that usually the best experiences come at some sort of price like waking up super early, making yourself stay awake when all you want to do is sleep, or even actual boot camp-we both served in the military. Just started reading through your blog & thoroughly enjoying it. Safe travels!
    Angela @ http:\\

    • Hi Angela! Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Yes, I completely agree with you. Oddly enough, you have to leave your comfort zone in order to get the most out of life. My brother was a US Marine and served three tours in Iraq. The stories he tells from bootcamp make me realize I would never make it! Respect. I hope you get a chance to read my travel memoirs “Sihpromatum”. Keep in touch 🙂

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