Manu Explorer - Cusco, Peru
Manu National Park
Manu National Park is internationally famous for its pristine rainforest. The Manu Biosphere Reserve was created from the National Park and two adjacent zones in 1977 and declared a World Heritage site in 1987. It covers 1,800,000 hectares of the Southwest region of the Amazon Basin and contains four distinct ecological zones: high altitude puna; cloud forest; montane forest; tropical rainforest.
Manu is a wilderness unspoilt by large amounts of river traffic (the river system is too small to be accessible by cruise ships) or people. Everything is on a small and intimate scale, even the grass landing strip at Bocu Manu. The biosphere is divided into the Cultural and Reserved zones. Both areas contain the full spectrum of wildlife typical of Manu. The difference is that the reserved zone receives much fewer visitors, and accommodation is by camping only. The undisturbed nature of the cultural zone means that you can start your enjoy pristine tropical rainforest anywhere on the river system.
Manu contains the richest diversity of fauna and flora anywhere on earth. Here you can find healthy populations of jaguar, tapir, anteater, black caiman and giant otter. There are thirteen species of monkey. These include the night monkey, Capuchins, Howlers, Titi, Spider, Woolly, Tamarinds, and pygmy marmosets. There are thousands of plants and millions of insects.
But, for many, it is the proliferation of iridescent birds, such as the Macaws, that is the ultimate attraction. Ohers, include eagles, hawks, vultures, buzzards, flycatchers, egrets, skimmers, terns, cormorants, jays, humming birds, parrots, parakeets, orioles, woodpeckers and macaws, to name only a few families. Not a single day will go by without encountering a host of new species. Photo opportunities range from trail walking to the camouflaged hides at the salt licks.
A salt lick is where animals come to gain much needed salts from exposed layers of mineral bearing rocks. There are licks in both the reserved and cultural zones. Here, five species of birds (including Parakeets, Parrots, and Macaws) feed, in sequence, from dawn onwards. But it is also possible to see Toucans, Jays, Tapir and monkeys.
There are also numerous ox bow lakes, created when the river changes its path and isolates large expanses of water. These are home to Caiman up to six metres in length, and giant otters. There are two groups of giant otters, one close to Blanquillo lodge and the other in the reserved zone. Other animals include Lizards, Tapir, and Peccaries (the New World pigs).
Visitors to Manu can learn about the multitude of trees and plants, some of which are used to maintain a youthful body (capirona), and even one that is used to treat the common cold. Along the riverfront, where the annual floods are always changing the course of the river, a successional forest is the norm. This consists of tessaria, caña brava and cecropia, interspersed with the radiant, red flowered, pisonay. Further into the forest you will find the largest tree known in the Peruvian rainforest, the Sabre.
Manu Explorer also provides respectful access to the people of the tropical rainforest to learn about their way of life. In the cultural zone you can visit the Diamante settlement of Piro Indians, and Shipiteari, home of Machigenka Indians. Hunting and fishing are still integral parts of their lives. Our cultural visits provide the opportunity to learn how the indigenous peoples manage their local resources, and the properties of local plants.
The local tipple is made from Yuca, a tropical root crop staple. The growing and use of coca leaves is normal in the tropical rainforest (selva). Chewing the leaves produces a very mild stimulant that helps people to cover long distances in an energy-sapping climate. If local people find you tired on a path they will often offer both encouragement and coca. Don’t be afraid, the unprocessed, simple, coca leaf is non addictive and harmless. There are also hallucinogenic plants, Ayahuasca and Toe, which are used by shamans in this region.
Near to Pilcapata, on the road journey into Manu, there are remarkable stone carvings. The petroglyphs are on two rocks, one of which is in the middle of the old river course, and are possibly related in form to ones found at Tipon in the Cusco valley. There are a second, larger, group of petroglyphs located between Atalaya and Bocu Manu on the Madre de Dios River. Both groups are best visited when arriving and/or leaving Manu by road.
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