What is ayahuasca? Is it safe? What other plants are used? Who are the Shipibo? How does the healing work?
Questions like these are addressed on our page, Shipibo Plant Medicine and Ayahuasca.
What makes Aya Madre unique?
Aya Madre is the only ayahuasca retreat center that is 100% owned and operated by a female Shipibo shaman. In a tradition dominated by men, the powerful healing capacities of women are often overlooked and disregarded. At Aya Madre, Maestra Estela and her family offer a wide-range of holistic treatments and a truly unique “motherly” care. Maestra Estela is involved and available throughout the duration of each guest's healing process. As she herself says, she feels like the “mother of all,” and truly wants to help, guide, and care for anyone looking to heal. Maestra Estela practices the traditional form of Shipibo plant medicine, but one which is uniquely tailored to modern life, modern ailments, and the international community.
What are the fees for Aya Madre retreats?
For guests staying for three weeks or less, the all-inclusive fee is $120/day, with an additional $50 processing fee. We also ask that guests cover their $15 moto-taxi ride out of the center. For dieteros (dieters) wanting to stay for four weeks or more, our fee is $3,000/month in addition to the processing fee and departure transportation. Refer to our Retreat Services page for a description of services offered with these fees. Please note that discounts are not available for short retreats, and we ask all guests to stay a minimum of one week.
How many people participate in each ayahuasca ceremony?
We are a small center, and run Ayahuasca and Shamburi ceremonies generally three times a week (usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Generally there may be anywhere from 5-15 people in each ceremony.
Why do you also work with San Pedro and Mushrooms?
Even though San Pedro (the psychoactive Huachuma cactus) and Mushrooms are not part of the Shipibo tradition, Maestra Estela has found that they compliment Ayahuasca and Shipibo medicine very well. In addition, they are both medicines with deep shamanic heritages and Maestra Estela desires to incorporate all of the medicinal plant world into her practice. San Pedro is a medicine of light and helps clean out our souls, open our hearts, and connect us to the universe and ourselves in a multitude of ways, while Mushrooms, when taken at ceremonial dosages, provide guests with a profound, sacred journey into the spirit world. These ceremonies are generally held on Fridays, beginning at 9am.
How many guests are at the center at any one time? Will I have to share a room?
There may be anywhere from 5-15 guests at the center along with you. Some may be staying for longer periods, and some may be on special plant dietas and not participating in ceremonies. Unless you arrive with a partner or friend whom you request to share with, we do not share tambos. There is no reduced fee for sharing a tambo.
What is the center like? Who lives there? Are there animals, swimming holes, mosquitoes? Is there rain?
The center is fairly small, with a handful of wooden huts and buildings in a large clearing. There is ample property and paths to explore the deep jungle and open spaces of white sand. Maestra Estela and her family live on the land, and she is often available and around. The family has one dog, but other dogs from nearby are often visiting. They are gentle and friendly. English-speaking staff members also live on the property, and are available for translation when needed. A short walk from the center is a lovely creek for swimming and bathing. The rainy season is generally from November-April, which brings heavy rains but also periods of abundant sunshine. This is when there are the most mosquitoes, but guests have found it manageable. Bring long-sleeve clothing and repellent to protect yourself.
Is there electricity? What about internet?
There is very, very limited wifi at the center (Iquitos has the poorest internet in Perú, and it is barely present in the jungle), and limited phone reception. An electric generator, in addition to solar panels, are available to provide power to any electronic devices guests may want to charge. Bring back-up batteries and/or external chargers for any phones or cameras (other electronics are not necessary). Make sure you have either a headlamp or other source of light for evenings and ceremonies. In case of emergencies, staff have access to a phone line to call for transportation.
Should I bring my own bedding, mosquito net, or water?
The center will provide basic bedding (mattress, pillow and sheets) and a mosquito net for the bed (as well as netting around your tambo), and filtered or rain water. We recommend bringing a towel (not provided), travel blanket and a water bottle.
Are there volunteer or other work-exchange opportunities available?
How does arrival work? Where do I fly to? Do I get picked up?
Please visit the travel page of our website for more information. In short, travel to the International Airport in Iquitos, Peru and you will be picked up by a staff member. Complementary transportation to the center is provided on Saturday or Sunday between 10:00am-2:00pm.
Should I bring any items to donate or for gifts?
Yes! Gifts are always welcome and donations are very useful for the center. You can make a direct donation via PayPal here. Please see the full list of recommended donations/gifts on our Donate page. If you are feeling particularly generous, the center could really use a used truck.
How does payment work?
Once your application is received and reviewed, a staff member will be in touch. We ask for a 50% deposit upfront (or at least 3-4 weeks before arrival). The 50% deposit can be sent via PayPal, deposited directly if you are in Perú, or via bank to bank transfer (details made available upon request). The other 50% should be paid in cash (Peruvian Soles, Euros or USD) upon arrival to the center or via PayPal or via bank to bank transfer one week before. There are several ATMs in the Iquitos airport and most banks allow you to withdraw the maximum several times in one day (400 -700 Peruvian Soles or $200 depending on the bank). A complete walk through of our reservation process can be found here.