Peru is one of the world’s 10 mega-diverse countries, for its huge variety of ecosystems, species, genetic resources and culture. And Northern Peru, with its generous share of Pacific coast, dry forest, Andean mountains and Amazon Basin, can boast an overwhelming percentage of these.
Peru hosts about 25,000 plant species (10% of the world total) with 30% endemism. Of these, 4,400 species have known useful properties.
In terms of fauna, Peru is first in number of fish species (close to 2,000 species, 10% of the world total); second in bird fauna (1,736 species); third in amphibians (332 species); third in mammals (460 species); and fifth in reptiles (365 species). Bear in mind that new species are being discovered all the time, and that there are about 5,528 plant species and 760 animal species endemic to Peru.
There are a total of 222 endangered species of which, 31 are facing extinction, 89 are classified as vulnerable, 22 are rare species and 80 have an indefinite status.
Moreover, Peru also has very high cultural diversity with 14 linguistic families, and 44 distinct ethnic groups, of which 42 are found in the Amazon.
With these statistics in mind, Northern Peru offers an astonishingly rewarding and diverse offering for naturalists of all kinds - from the casual enthusiast or photographer, to the serious birder or zoological researcher.
You could spend time studying the sonar behaviour of pink dolphins at a lodge in the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve; or join a biological research cruise - measuring caiman dimensions, for example - in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve.
Alternatively, keen birders can spend up to three weeks, in the company of expert guides, on the Northern Peru Birding Route, enjoying the different types of forest and wetland found between the high jungle of Tarapoto and the Pacific coastal desert, home to endemics such as the White-winged Guan and Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird.
The region is home to a number of mammals, including iconic Amazon felines, such as the jaguar, but these are elusive and rarely spotted. However, sightings of the famous Spectacled Bear, in the wild, are a possibility in the Chaparrí Ecological Reserve, while the diminutive Silky Anteater is often seen in the Huallaga Valley.
Even if you don't have a particular species on your wish list, any holiday in Northern Peru will be sure to include memorable natural encounters: perhaps with giant, floating Victoria Regia waterlilies - that are said to be large enough to hold the weight of a baby - in an Amazon lake; perhaps watching a Humpback Whale breaching or swimming with Green Sea Turtles off the coast of Piura; or perhaps spotting a Cock of the Rock in the cloud forests around Kuelap Fortress.