The Santa Elena Ecological Reserve is located near Rioja, about 10 minutes from the main road. Therefore, it is much more accessible than Tingana. It is perfect for a half-day detour on the road to Tarapoto or staying in Moyobamba, in the San Martin region of northern Peru.
Santa Elena – What is it?
Santa Elena is an ecological reserve that has its origine at the union of the waters of the Rio Mayo and Rio Romero in the area of Alto Mayo. This fragile ecosystem is home to a great variety of birds, insects and small animals like the black and white Machin monkeys, but also to flowers, orchids, bromeliads and trees.
We regularly cross the famous “walking tree“, which plants a root in the water to move further and further over the water.
The Association for conservation of water renacales of Rio Romero (ACARR in Spanish) currently composed of 26 members, is responsible for the maintenance of this large area of almost 1,000 hectares. The objective is to preserve natural resources and this exceptional biodiversity.
How is the visit to Santa Elena?
An entry fee of 1 sol per person is required. In the enclosure from the park, there are several open houses to relax and it is here as well that the ladies sell refreshments and chips.
You can choose from several tours :
- the little tour of 2 hours 30,
- a journey of more than 4 hours,
- the 6-hour tour
Of course, the more you enter the reserve, the greater are the chances of seeing monkeys.
The guide offers life jackets – but we didn’t want to use them: too hot, too heavy.
In the dry season, in August, we had to walk almost 15 minutes to retrieve the boat. In January, during the rainy season, the water level increased by at least 2 m. The path is underwater and we walk on pillars of bridges to embark on our small boat.
The incredible calm of this ecological reserve
Once in the boat, it is the engine that starts this trip. We find two ships that return. Its occupants are delighted: they saw monkeys just minutes away from boarding. We stop the engine and our two guides (one in front and the other behind) begin to paddle and guide us gently through the clear waters of the river.
I am still under the charm of calm and serenity that reigns in this place out of time. I really like this atmosphere to think, breathe and try to remove stress.
The fauna and flora of Santa Elena
We see different birds, including a beautiful kingfisher, butterflies of all kinds (blue Morphos, lemons, a transparent red).
Today, we did not see monkeys, unlike the last time. But we will return because it is definitely a very nice place.
The legend that is told
Passing close to a tree called Tangerana, our guide Nilson explains that this tree is the habitat of small ants that bite horribly.
The indigenous people of the region, the Awajuns, tortured their enemies by tying them to the tree. If it was only to punish them, they protected the openings (mouth, nose, ears) and removed them after a few hours. But there were also murders. Joined to the tree, the enemies were devoured alive.