El Centro de Investigación y Capacitación Río Los Amigos (CICRA)
The Los Amigos Biological Field Station is located on the banks of the Rio Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru. The Amazonian Conservation Association, or ACCA, runs three such stations in Peru: The Los Amigos (or CICRA), Villa Carmen, and Wayquecha. The Los Amigos River meets the Madre de Dios River at Boca Amigos, and at this confluence lies the Los Amigos Conservation Concession – nearly 360,000 ha of pristine rainforest.
CICRA was established in 2000, when an old gold-mining camp was converted to a biological field station with some help from the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation. Since then, it has been one of the most productive field stations in all of South America, producing more than 213 research projects and 223 publications, including biological inventories of more than 30 different plant and animal groups.
The site boasts 595 bird species, 11 primate species, 6 felid and one canid species. The forest was selectively logged and the larger mammals poached over a quarter century ago. Today, the difference is barely discernible, with a healthy population of both large predators and prey.
CICRA has five main buildings – a laboratory, a dining hall, two large dormitories and a classroom. Today, the buildings at CICRA are distributed across a 2-ha lawn shaded by fruit trees, criss-crossed by Brazil nut and bamboo trails, and visited by monkey troops. Water comes from a stream-fed reservoir behind camp, and is purified before use. Electricity is provided by solar-powered battery banks and a 3-kW generator that runs for three hours each night.
This building also houses the station’s >500-volume scientific library (click here for a list), as well as a well-stocked reader’s library.
CICRA offers a variety of housing options, from small rustic cabins with no electricity to large bungalows with private restrooms and solar-powered lighting. Most courses are housed in the dormitories, with bunk beds and shared bathrooms.
CICRA will provide each visitor with a room, a bed, a mosquito net, a pillow, and one set of sheets. They also cover such necessities as toilet paper, towels and blankets. They do not provide laundry facilities, however, so a second set of sheets is essential while one set is drying after a wash. Visitors must bring their own insect repellent, medications, headlamps, batteries, battery chargers, and detergent.
The 40-seat dining hall is the heart of the research station — a place where researchers and staff come together for meals, relaxation, and chats on the porch. CICRA’s cuisine is a mix of Andean and international dishes. Meals typically include soup, a main course of rice, chicken, beef, or fish, and vegetables. Vegetarian options are available upon request, but vegans will have a very hard time at the station. Snacks are available in the dining hall throughout the day, as are tea, coffee and drinking chocolate.
The food at CICRA is good, particularly in comparison to the meals researchers would make if they were in charge of all the cooking. They are not fancy, and fresh vegetables are not a staple item on the menu, which is due mainly to difficulties in refrigerating food that has to be brought in by boat every two weeks. This is not a hotel, but no one will go hungry.
Here are a few quick facts about CICRA’s facilities today:
Number of beds: 60
Distance to Puerto Maldonado: ~6 h upstream/4 h downstream by boat
Length of trails: ~64 km
Availability of cell phone signal: Sporadic but yes!
Availability of internet: Certain, but slow and prone to weather conflicts. Email is definitely possible, but uploading images kills the bandwidth. Facebook is a really tough deal, so be prepared to have no status updates!
The number of steps from the dock to the terrace: 251!
Note: For specific living arrangements, please contact us for alternate fees.
Traveling to CICRA requires a few steps – first, you must arrive in Lima, Peru, from which you will fly across the Andes to Puerto Maldonado ($200-300 roundtrip). From Puerto Maldonado, you take a taxi to the port of Laberinto, and a half-day boat ride upriver to the field station.
How close is CICRA to everything else? By air we have:
- CICRA to Puerto Maldonado, the closest large town: 100 km
- CICRA to Cusco, closest point to Machu Picchu: 231 km
- CICRA to the closest point of the Brazilian border: 168 km
- CICRA to the closest point of the Bolivian border: 138 km
- CICRA to Wayqecha Biological Station: 176 km
- CICRA to Cocha Cashu Biological Station: 162 km
- CICRA to the Tambopata Research Center: 83 km
For detailed travel instructions see here.
- Average annual temperature in the Los Amigos clearing since 2004: 24.2°C (75.6°F)
- Highest temperature recorded in the Los Amigos forest since 2000: 39.0°C (102.2°F)
- Lowest temperature recorded in the Los Amigos forest since 2000: 9°C (48.2°F)
The weather at CICRA is moderate, with a lot of rain in the months of December, January and February. However, since this is a tropical rainforest, it rains quite often the rest of the year too! In the winter months of June and July, cold fronts known as friajes sometimes sweep into camp accompanied by rain and wind storms. These can last from 1-7 days and temperatures have dropped to the 50s (in Fahrenheit, ~10 degrees Celsius). Thus, it is important to be prepared for warm and cold times.
The Madre de Dios Department follows US Eastern Standard Time, but does not observe daylight savings.
The average annual rainfall at Los Amigos since 2000 is 2,684 mm
The record number of times someone has gone up and down the stairs in 30 minutes is EIGHT
Cocha Cashu, the famous field station in Manu National Park, is ~ 2 days upriver from CICRA
Friajes, or cold-fronts that come from the Patagonian plains take everyone by surprise. You will actually need winter clothing at CICRA!
Number of species recorded to date: 4,338
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Data from Pitman, 2008 ((Pitman, N. (2008). An overview of the Los Amigos watershed, Madre de Dios, southeastern Peru. 1–56.))