Manu Explorer - Cusco, Peru
Fauna and Flora
This is what the majority of people come for; some viewing is guaranteed (e.g. iridescent Macaws at salt licks), others require patience and more work (e.g. monkeys). The 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 (Parakeets, Parrots, and Macaws) feed, in sequence, from dawn onwards. But it is also known for Toucans, Jays and even monkeys to put in an appearance. Viewing is from a camouflaged catamaran whilst you are served breakfast.
There are 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. Caiman are viewed at night from the water whilst your intrepid guide tries to temporarily capture a small one for your inspection.
The New World Monkeys are very interesting from an evolutionary point of view, especially for their variations on the themes of colour and night vision. Manu is home to thirteen species of monkey. These include Capuchins, Howlers, Titi, Spider, Woolly, Tamarinds, Marmosets, and Night Monkeys. These primates are more elusive than the birds of Manu, but the patient and careful observer is likely to encounter all of them during a longer visit.
Other animals include Lizards, Tapir, and Peccaries (the New World pigs). But the greatest treasures of Manu are the birds, of every form and size. These 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.
Many trees, insects and birds have symbiotic relationships in Manu. For example, woodpeckers hollow out nests in the pona palm, which are later enlarged by macaws. For this reason the pona palm trees are always left standing wherever possible. Wasps build nests amongst orioles, happily co-existing. The butterflies are absolutely beautiful and come in every shape and size. Along the riverbank you will see hundreds of them dancing around a central focus looking for all-the-world like a group of fairies.
There are many other 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 jungle, the Sabre. On the branches of many trees are found orchids and other exotic flowers.
The main things to avoid unplanned encounters with are large ants and snakes. Some ants can put you into a fever for several days. But these inhabit the forest floor and are avoidable. The green tree snake, lancehead and featherlance serpents are three examples of venomous snakes. However, in the normal observation areas around Blanquillo lodge snakes are not often seen. But snake lovers can also be accommodated with visits to other locations in either of Manu’s zones.
Further up the road from Pilcapata, away from the rainforest and towards the sacred mountain of Apu Kañahuay, are two purpose built viewing lodges. These are used to see the magnificent rupicola peruviana whose home is the cloud forest. This is otherwise known as Gallito de las Rocas (the cock of the rock), so named because it makes its nest in the steep-faced canyon walls of the Queros river. This is the national representative bird of Peru with its flaming red plumage and crest. Also to be found in the cloud forest is the spectacled bear, the only representative of this genus in South America, and further up the mountain lives the Andean Fox, nocturnal in its habits.
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