Manu National Park, in the Amazon rainforest of Peru, was established in 1977 and in recognition of its uniqueness it was included in UNESCO´s “World Heritage Site” list ten years later. Manu is internationally acclaimed as one of the most bio diverse areas on Earth. Access to Manu is by road or air from Cusco, Peru.
Approximately half the area of Switzerland, the Manu Biosphere is a complete ecosystem with protected watershed embracing Andean montane cloud forest, tropical lowland forest and the Alto Madre de Dios and Manu river drainage systems. The biosphere itself is subdivided into national park and two adjacent zones, one for tourism and the other for cultural subsistence. It is home to over 1000 species of birds, 15,000 species of plants, over 200 species of mammals, and untold numbers of insects, and within its heart remain yet uncontacted peoples.
Manu retains healthy populations of jaguar, tapir, anteater, black caiman, giant otter, and among the 13 species of monkey we find the unique pigmy marmoset, the smallest monkey in the world, and the nocturnal night monkey. Because of Manu’s low human population and their continued use of traditional hunting techniques, the animals in the park show little fear of man and are more readily approachable than in many other rainforest locations. Manu, therefore, offers unparalleled animal watching opportunities.
Wildlife aside, however, the journey into the park itself is amazingly spectacular and not to be missed. Access to Manu is normally by road from Cusco, Peru. The two day trip from Cusco to the entrance of the Manu Reserved Zone carries you over the Peruvian Andes mountains to an elevation of 4000 m, past pre-inca ruins and down through the cloud forest on the eastern side of the Andes, and finally into lush, lowland rainforest. Roads remain largely unpaved and wind their way precariously past cascading waterfalls, deep gorges, and precipices. Manu is truly a complete experience.
||Cloud Forest-Cocha Machuhuasi-Pantiacolla Lodge
||Clay lick for parrots-Excursion to the Petroleo stream
||Hot springs-Cloud Forest
Manu is considered by many the finest ecotourism destination of the entire Amazon jungle. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the Earth´s most biodiverse nature park and, because of the absolute absence of hunting pressure, it is the best location for viewing large animals, such as giant otters, black caiman, harpy eagles, jaguars, giant anteaters, tapirs and 13 species of monkey.
Leaving Cusco early in the morning, we begin an 8-hour journey over the Andes by bus, stopping for breakfast at the beautiful colonial village of Paucartambo. Continuing, we climb to the highpoint of the Manu Biosphere at about 4000 m before descending to the cloud forest. In these mysterious surroundings we take a hike to the lek of the incredible cock-of-the-rock, to see the ‘performance’ of the males right under our eyes. We spend our first night in the rustic lodge Posada San Pedro (appr. 1,600 m).
Cloud Forest-Cocha Machuhuasi-Pantiacolla Lodge
At daybreak we continue by bus to tropical lowland rainforest. Here at the small village Atalaya at 650 m, we change into a motorized canoe to navigate some 2 hours down the turbulent Alto Madre de Dios River. From here we get great views of the Andes. We stop for a visit of one of the very view lakes on the Alto Madre de Dios River, where you can go around on small traditional rafts. For the next two nights we stay at the Pantiacolla lodge, right at the foot of the Pantiacolla Mountain Range. The forest of Pantiacolla Lodge is a very special rainforest: this is where the Andes and the lowland tropical rainforest meet and provides the visitor with a chance to see a good selection of birds and plants from bóth zones as well as endemics to the area. Your first hike will be on the lowland trails, at 400m above sea level. Also at night, we explore the forest by torchlight looking for insects, snakes and the uniquely nocturnal night-monkey or ‘douricouli’. We spend the night in Pantiacolla Lodge.
Clay lick for parrots – Monk Saki Trail
Early in the morning, around the same time the howler monkeys start their morning ritual of howling, the boat takes you to a nearby parrot lick: you can see at least seven species, among which the blue-headed and yellow crowned parrots, the white-eyed parakeet and the small blue-headed and chestnut fronted macaws. Their spectacle is both loud and busy! Afterwards we visit the trails of Pantiacolla to see more of its over 600 bird species, including the pale winged trumpeter, the piping guan, its eight monkey species, such as the dusky titi monkey or the elusive monk saki monky, and its other mammals such as the white lipped and collared peccaries, ocelots, squirrels, bats and red brocket deer. Here glasswing butterflies are common on the shady trails and Callicores and Panaceas at the open areas. With luck, one will meet the famous morpho butterfly with its iridescent blue wings. At night we visit Ranacocha, “Frog Lake”, to look for tree frogs, poison dart frogs and others. Overnight in Panctiacolla Lodge.
Hot springs-Cloud Forest
In the morning we walk on some of the many trails around the lodge, and hope to see more monkeys and maybe coatis or even a tayra hunting for small creatures in the trees. By now, we can start to distinguish some of the trees in the forest, such as the ceiba (kapok), the capirona (naked tree) and several palm species. After lunch, the boat takes us to the Hot Springs of Shintuya for a relaxing mineral bath, before continuing further up to Atalaya. From here we turn back up the Andes by bus. Along the way back to the cloud forest, we stop at an orchid garden, set up with much care and enthusiasm by a local inhabitant. The night is spent again at Pantiacolla Lodge.
Early in the morning we have another walk through the forest; as always it is teeming with life and by now many birds, monkeys, insects, trees and plants are familiar to us. We walk till our bus picks us up to take us to Cusco. We arrive in the late afternoon.
Photographs courtesy of the talented: José Maria Fdz. Diaz Formenti
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