Manú National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional del Manu) is a biosphere reserve located in Madre de Dios and Paucartambo, Cusco. Before becoming an area protected by the Peruvian government, the Manú National Park was conserved thanks to its inaccessibility. The park remains fairly inaccessible by road to this day. In 1977, UNESCOrecognised it as a Biosphere Reserve and in 1987, it was pronounced aWorld Heritage Site. It is the largest National Park in Peru, covering an area of 15,328 km². The Biosphere Reserve includes an additional 2,570 km², and a further 914 km² are included in a “Cultural Zone” (which also is afforded a level of protection), bringing the total area up to 18,811 km².
The park protects several ecological zones ranging from as low as 150meters above sea level in parts of the Southwest Amazon moist forests toPeruvian Yungas at middle elevations to Central Andean wet puna at altitudes of 4200 meters. Because of this topographical range, it has one of highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. Overall, more than 15,000 species of plants are found in Manú, and up to 250 varieties of trees have been found in a single hectare. The reserve is a destination for birdwatchers from all over the world, as it is home to over 1000 species of birds, more than the number of bird species found in the United States and Canada combined and almost 10% of the world’s total bird species. It is also acclaimed as having one of the highest abundances of land vertebrates ever found in Latin American tropical forests.
This trip constitutes an exceptional approach to observing the diversity of ecosystems present in the extremely vertical stratification of the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes: one can explore sections of highland, the transitional fringes descending into the vegetated zones, followed by the wide range multiplicity of the cloud forest and follow the seemingly constant environmental progression through the high and low Jungles in the area of Manu National Park. Enjoy gentle and enlightening adventure in the Easters slopes of the Andes and its natural and cultural features.
DAY 1 – Andean forest, Cloud forest
Crossing the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Today we travel south east of Cusco to the area known as the Sacred Valley. Our first stop along the way is designed so that we may appreciate the first of the many ecosystems we shall be encountering, as well as to sample some delicious and healthy Coca tea. This ecosystem consists of Andean grassy areas lying at an altitude of about 12500 feet above sea level.
As the name implies, “Graminaeae”, the prevalent flora of this level of environment is several varieties of native grasses, occasionally interspersed with some arboreal and bush-like species, such as the Colle “Buddleia Coriacea”, as well as the typical Kiswar “Buddleja Longifolio”, all are historic species that date from Inca and pre-Inca times.
This extensive pasture land is home to diverse members of the native Andean Camelids, domestic herds of Llamas and Alpacas, as well as their wild and less gregarious cousins, the Vicuña – known for the fineness of its fleece and fiber, as well as the seldom seen Guanaco, the proto-ancestor of the species and from which all other varieties where bred by Andean people more than ten thousand years ago.
Later we will visit an Alpaca and Llama breeding and fiber producing farm to see aspects of the carding, spinning and weaving process on both backstrap and treadle looms. We will also see the preparation and application of natural dyes.
After fully appreciating the impressive features of the pre-Hispanic Inca City and Sanctuary of P’isaq from a panoramic outlook, we proceed up to our first pass. From there we have the option to hike in this unique ecosystem or go by mountain bike down the hill.
The five hour drive that includes an optional 2 hour mountain bike ride takes us through a different and very distinctly special ecosystem, the Andean semi-dry forest, characterized by scrub brush, the increasing prevalence of a woody bush called Chilca “Pacharis Peruviana”, and the constant presence of the snow-capped peaks of the Cordilleras. When we arrive in Ajanaco, at 12500 feet, we will see groves of the gnarly Queñual trees called “Pollilepis Incana”, native to the Andes.
The trail inside the National Park Cultural Zone.
This trail is particularly special because it is the very beginning of the cloud forest or “pigmy forest” where small trees, shrubs and bushes abound. We have the option of hiking along a wide trail or going for mountain bike ride. There are breathtaking views all around. After 9.5 miles biking, gradually following the contoured slopes, we arrive to our first camp known as “Tres Cruces”, at an altitude of 12250 feet. It is a perfect spot from which to observe the Andean night sky and constellations. (L, D)
DAY 2 – Cloud forest, Jungle foot hills
If the weather is nice this morning we will get up and about very early to enjoy the sunrise because this is one of the most spectacular and unforgettable experiences in the Andes. In early times, a local popular legend told of the appearance of three suns rising during the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. As time passed and outsiders became aware of the site, it proved to be very real. This event is caused by the interplay of the warm, humid thermal currents rising from the jungle, several thousand feet below. As the air mixes with the still frosty, crystallized atmosphere of the surrounding glaciers, the interaction and conditions cause for visual effects. The spectra of the light beams of the rising sun separate and divide, providing an impressive and unique sight.
Later, after a good open-air breakfast, we continue on a trail called La Union, the “Union trail”, for about 6 hours. We gradually start descending from the “Andean Paramo” or highland plateau, into the heart of the Cloud Forest. We have excellent opportunities to observe arboreal species such as Aliso “Alnus Jorullensis” and some Amazonian Cecropia “Cecropia Engleriana” and the tree fern “Cyathea Caracasana”.
There is also ample opportunity to see wildlife, some noticeable avian species including the Gary Breasted Mountain Wren “Henicorhina Leucophys”. The Flora shows a promising change and some of the Orquidaceae family such as Ellenatus conifer, Prosthechea vespa, and Pleurotallis cordata begin to appear among other species of native flora and fauna.
We break for lunch and refreshments and then continue for another 2 hours, eventually reaching San Pedro at 4500 feet where we will lodge for the night. At the end of the day, there is time to relax, enjoy a shower, and have good dinner. There are easy walks near the lodge for additional wildlife observation in the evening. (D,L,D) plus Lodge.
DAY 3 – Jungle foot hills, Rain forest
In the morning we walk to a special site known as called Lek , which is named after a Swiss biologist who studied it. Here we will see the beautiful courtship behavior of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock “Rupicola Peruvianis”, which is the national bird of Peru. They come together at every mating season in certain sites. If the time is right, it is very likely that we will witness an incredible display of pageantry and color from these attractive birds.
After a light breakfast we can continue our trip on bicycle, condition permitting. The trail is wide enough and appropriately graded as we go down into the beautiful forest. This trail is rated as easy to moderate. If you want to, you can have little walk in the forest and look for wildlife and birds.
In preparation for our white water excursion, we will receive the necessary briefings and sort out our equipment. This easy white water excursion will last for about 2 to 3 hours, during which we float down the Madre de Dios River through class I and II rapids, and perhaps a class III. This is a great way to see the forest from the river, the forest as an art gallery exhibition! We will arrive at the lodge in the afternoon.
After some time for rest, we will go on a hike for about one and a half hours on trails near the Lodge. We may see some monkeys such as the Common Woolly Monkeys “Lagothrix Lagothricha” and Squirrel Monkey “Saimiri Sciureus” and the Dusky Titi Monkey “Callicebus Moloch”. Here we will connect with the true essence of the rain forest, its flora and fauna. There will be a hike after dinner for 1 hour. (B, L, D) plus lodge.
DAY 4 – Jungle foot hills, Rain forest
Up early again today to board a motorboat and travel for about 30 minutes down river. We are going to visit the beehive-like cliffs overhanging the river where a variety of members of the great family of Psittaciformes such as Parrots, Parakeets and Macaws live. We may see where the Chestnut Fronted Macaw “Ara Severa” congregate in the so-called “licks” to consume the salty clay present in these formations. The birds consume this clay to obtain essential salts for their nutrition and contribute to neutralizing the poison from seeds that they eat. After a wonderful and loud avian display, we return to the lodge for breakfast and some rest. Afterwards we leave for a 3-hour walk in the rain forest, watching for mammals, monkeys, birds such as Shihuanhuaco “Dipterix Micranta”, the medicinal fig “Ficus Insipida” and plants like Ginger “Costus Lima”.
After lunch and nap we prepare for another boat ride across the river, where we begin a small hike of about 45 minutes to reach a relatively small lagoon ideally suited for the observation of a variety of aquatic birds, such as the Ciiconiform Family of Herons and Egrets. We will look for the famous Hoazin bird, known locally as Chancho “Opisthocomus Hoazin”, the only representative of the Ophistocomidae family in the Galliform Order that is native to this forest. We will look for Capibara, the biggest rodent in the world “Hidroecharis”.
Late afternoon we will break for tea and appetizers. With the first light of the moon we will wander into the forest to look for nocturnal animals and to enjoy the sounds of the rain forest at night. (B, L, D) plus lodge.
DAY 5 – Andean forest, Cloud forest, Rain forest
An early rise again today so we can spend two hours visiting the forest and looking for wild life. Upon our return to camp, we will swim in the river, have breakfast and then pile aboard the raft to continue down stream to see the rain forest and river bird life for 3 to 4 hours as far as the small River Port , where our small and trusty bus awaits to take the group back to Cusco, about a 7-hour drive.
During the drive back to Cusco, we stop for lunch and a short walk in the Cloud Forest where we will look for the Quetzal “Pharomachrus Auricepsm” and the “Violaceous Trogon”. Later we will stop near a waterfall for pictures and final glimpses of fauna before driving the rest of the way to Cusco.
Note: We recommend adding this tour to your program of Machu Picchu. We also recommend combining this trip with the Apurimac River or the Vilcanota River trips plus a one-day Inca Trail hike..
Also we recommend adding the Cusco city tour,one day rafting,sacred valley one day hikes and Machu picchu two days hikes and tours.
We Provide and Include: Licensed, Bilingual, history, naturalist and Class V Rafting and Tour Guides-radio phone- Rafting and optional Biking Expedition Equipment, Safety Procedures and Orientation,Knee and elbow protection, paddles, helmets, life jackets, windbreaker jackets Bus Transportation and Transfers- First Aid kit- Optional Expedition grade tents and air matrasses and sleeping bags only in the dry season- All Itinerary Meals, including vegetarian & some snacks- Dining tent, Cook & Services- Ecological, portable toilets- Manú Entrance and Site Fees, Macaw ,Parrots and Parakeet Lick- Camping along the river,optional lodge in the Park /Transfers in Cusco & Manu- optional Airline Reservation assistance and Confirmation- Additional Tour Arrangements.
For adjusting to tour altitude, we suggest one day tours like the Sacred Valley, River Rafting and the City Tour of Cusco. As Guides we offer 100% Gauranteed Information, for your sensibilities – about the best specific hotel rooms and services around Peru, like extra windows and other amenities.