Matses National Reserve

PeruNorth is delighted to be able to announce the opportunity to visit the remote Matses National Reserve on a remarkable 12-day journey, during which adventurous clients will be able to catch a glimpse of the unique lifestyle of the private Matses indigenous people, as well as enjoy the bountiful flora and fauna of this unspoilt corner of Amazonia.

The Matses Reserve covers an area of 4,206 km² (420,735 hectares) in Peru's Loreto province, and forms part of a cross-border biological corridor with the Sierra del Divisor National Park in Peru and the Serra do Divisor, Alto Jurua and Alto Tarauaca reserves in Brazil.  

One of the stated objectives of the Reserve is to allow the indigenous people - the Matses - to continue to live in their traditional manner, adapted to the jungle environment they have called home for centuries and exploiting its resources in a sustainable manner. 

The Matses, who are also known as the 'Jaguar People', on account of their cat-like facial decoration, only made contact with Westerners in the 1960s. This soon led to conflict, as they attacked the newcomers with bows and arrows, and kidnapped their women, as was traditional practice in Matse warfare, in order to assimilate them into their tribe. 

The response of the Peruvian government was to bomb their villages with napalm, and send the army to 'pacify' the area, forcing the Matses to move nearer and over the Brazilian border. 

Relations gradually improved, with the acceptance by the Matse of two SIL International missionaries who learned the language - with a view to translating the Bible - and encouraged them to desist from the practice of kidnapping women.  

The area where the Matses lived was declared a 'communal reserve' in 1998. But pressure from oil companies, keen to drill in the area, continued. In 2007, the Matses leaders rejected an advance from PetroPeru to explore their territory, threatening to refuse entry, with violence if necessary, to their personnel. 

This was the catalyst for the establishment of the national reserve, which was signed into law in 2009. But pressures from oil companies, loggers and farmers continue. 

The hope is that small-scale tourism to the Matses National Reserve will offer the inhabitants a less destructive source of income, assisting with the maintenance of the rainforest.