5 Days / 4 Nights
1: Cusco to Boca Manu and Manu Tented Camp
An early morning transfer to Cusco airport will be followed by a 45-minute flight by turboprop aircraft to Boca Manu. Here we will join our other eco-guests for a motorized canoe trip up the Manu River, into the lake-rich lower Manu River of the Manu National Park. The pristine quality of the forest is instantly apparent, with abundant birdlife and no signs of outside development.
We check into the park at Limonal ranger station and then proceed upstream, as our boat driver steers skillfully through shallows and driftwood snags. Orinoco Geese and Horned Screamers strut on the beaches, Capped and White-necked Herons patrol the shoreline, and countless sunbathing turtles dive off their log perches as we approach.
After some six hours on the river we reach Inkanaturas Manu Tented Camp, a simple but comfortable, low-impact lodge nestled almost invisibly in the forest.
Time permitting, we will take a short walk before dinner to stretch our legs and enjoy our first encounter with virgin rainforest.
2: Two Lakes in the National Park
Today we visit two lakes near our camp. Park authorities determine the time of our visit to Cocha (Lake) Salvador; depending on this schedule, we will visit Cocha Otorongo earlier or later in the day.
Our trail to Cocha Otorongo begins some 30 minutes downstream from the camp. This brief river journey to the trailhead can always offer the chance of a thrilling wildlife sighting. Perhaps we will spot a family of capybaras, the worlds largest rodent, looking like giant Guinea Pigs as they browse on the riverbank, or if we are very lucky, a solitary jaguar might stalk slowly off an open beach into the forest, flicking its tail in annoyance at our intrusion.
On the short trail to the lake we may spy one or more of the parks 13 monkey species leaping through the canopy high above. And some of the trees which form that canopy -- such as kapok, ironwood and figs, will astound us with the vast size of their trunks and buttressed root systems.
These are oxbow lakes, formed when the river changed course, leaving a landlocked channel behind. The lakes are abundant in fish and wildlife, and provide optimum habitat for caimans and the Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), one of the Amazons most endangered mammal species.
This lake enjoys maximum protection, and boats are not allowed. However, it features two dock platforms and a 50ft tower from which to scan the trees and marshy shoreline for monkeys, kingfishers, Anhinga (a large, long-necked waterbird), and countless other species. We have a good chance of sighting the resident Giant Otter family as they dive for the 4Kg. of fish that each individual consumes daily.
3: Manu National Park to Manu Wildlife Center and Tapir Claylick
We set off downriver at dawn. At this hour chances of wildlife encounters are excellent. We return to the Limonal park station, to file our wildlife report before leaving the park. After reaching the turbulent union of the Alto Madre de Dios and Manu Rivers and then the village of Boca Manu, we may drop off some passengers returning to Cusco. After ninety more minutes downstream we arrive at Manu Wildlife Center -- the exciting final stop of our journey -- in time for lunch.
After an early afternoon rest we set off along the collpa trail, which will take us to the lodges famous Tapir Clay Lick. Here at the most active tapir lick known in all the Amazon, our research has identified from 8-12 individual 600-pound Tapirs who come to this lick to eat clay from under the tree roots around the edge. This unlikely snack absorbs and neutralizes toxins in the vegetarian diet of the Tapir, the largest land animal of Latin America. The lick features a roomy, elevated observation platform 5m/17ft above the forest floor. The platform is equipped with freshly-made-up mattresses with pillows. Each mattress is covered by a roomy mosquito net. The 50-m-long, elevated walkway to the platform is covered with sound-absorbing padding to prevent our footsteps from making noise. This Tapir Experience is unique and exciting because these normally very shy creatures are visible up close, and flash photography is not just permitted, but encouraged.
The hard part for modern city dwellers is to remain still and silent anywhere from 30 minutes to two or more hours. Many prefer to nap until the first Tapir arrives, at which point your guide gently awakens you to watch the Tapir 10-20m/33-66ft) away below the platform. Most people feel that the wait is well worth it in order to have such a high probability of observing the rare and elusive Tapir in its rainforest home.
4: Manu Wildlife Center: the Macaw Claylick & Cocha Blanco
Another early start (inevitable on wildlife expeditions), is followed by a short boat ride downstream. We take a 20-minute trail through palm plantations to a cut-off channel of the river, where we find the Blanquillo Macaw Lick. A spacious hide provided with individual chairs and a convenient place for cameras and binoculars is our ringside seat for what is usually a very spectacular show. We enjoy a full breakfast here while waiting for the main actors to arrive.
In groups of twos and threes the big Red-and-Green Macaws come flapping in, landing in the treetops as they eye the main stage below -- the eroded clay banks of the old channel. Meanwhile the supporting cast appears: these may included Blue-headed, Mealy, Yellow-crowned, and Orange-cheeked Parrots -- and the occasional villain, a menacing and unwelcome Great Black Hawk.
The drama plays out in first in tentative and then bolder approaches to the lick, until finally nearly all the macaws, parrots and parakeets form a colorful and noisy spectacle on the bare banks, squabbling as they scrape clay from the hard surface.
In the afternoon we visit Cocha Blanco, an old oxbow lake full of water lilies and sunken logs. As we circle the lake on our catamaran we might encounter the resident Giant Otter family on a fishing expedition, or troops of monkeys crashing noisily through the trees. Wattled Jacanas step lightly on the lily pads, dainty Sun Grebes paddle across the water, supple-necked Anhingas air-dry their wide, black wings, and perhaps an Osprey scans for fish from a high branch.
Amongt the bushes near the waterline, Hoatzins, which look like rust-colored, punk chickens, announces its presence with distinctive, bizarre wheezing and grunts. Woodpeckers, tanagers, macaws, toucans and parakeets all finally come swooping in to trees surrounding the lake. Many of them roost around the lake for the night.
5: Manu Wildlife Center to Cusco
After an early breakfast, we leave on the two-hour boat trip to the Boca Manu airfield, enjoying early morning wildlife activity as we go. From here we fly to Cusco, where our rainforest adventure ends with a pickup and transfer to our hotel.
Important note: Please note that the program may vary slightly so as to maximize your wildlife sightings, depending on the reports of our researchers and experienced naturalist guides based at the lodge.
|Departures from Cusco: Every saturday (From May through November)|
- Round trip transfers to and from the Cusco Airport.
- Round trip canoe transportation to the lodge and Manu Tented Camp
- Private bungalows with private bathrooms in Manu Wildlife Center
- Tented camp accommodation with sharing facilities at Manu National park
- All meals and snacks
- Purified drinking water and juices
- Bilingual naturalist guide
- Entrance fee to the Manu National Park
- Visits to macaw and tapir clay licks, oxbow lake, canopy platforms and trail hikes
Not included: International airfares, airfares Lima-Cusco-Puerto Maldonado and Puerto Maldonado-Cusco-Lima
|2012 Rates per person in US$: $1220 in double room. Single Supplement:$330|