The Manu Explorer
5 Days / 4 Nights
1: Cusco to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge
Our overland journey begins at 3,400m/11,150 ft, with an early departure from the highland city of Cusco. Todays destination is the lush cloud forest region where the Andes fall away to the Amazon basin. This is a day of scenic drama and striking contrasts. We first visit a mountain wetland habitat teeming with migrant and local waterfowl, before crossing two mountain ranges between the Cusco valley and the Paucartambo valley, to a maximum altitude of 3,900m/12,790ft. Finally we follow a sinuous ribbon of highway on its plunge through an extraordinary world of forested cliffs, waterfalls and gorges. We take leisurely stops to see mountain villages, a hilltop necropolis of chullpas (pre-Inca burial chambers), and the abrupt ridgetop of Ajanaco, which marks the final high point where the Andes begin their swoop into the Amazon basin. In clear weather we will see a breathtaking panorama of cloud forest and mountain giving way to the lowland rainforest plains far below us.
After a picnic lunch we descend through the startling and rapid environmental transformations characteristic of the tropical Andes, passing from grassland and stunted trees through elfin forest, until we wind through a lush and magical world of overhanging trees, giant ferns, monster begonias, countless orchids and bromeliads, and a diverse and teeming birdlife.
We make frequent spontaneous stops, perhaps spotting a brilliantly feathered quetzal, a trogon, or the wild turkey-like Guan. We reach the comfortable Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge in the late afternoon, the best hour to visit the nearby viewing platform for the display ground, or lek. This is usually the highlight of a long, full day, a chance to see Perus dazzling national bird, the Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruviana) in full, raucous courting display.
2: Manu Cloud forest to Boca Manu
Rising early, we have a second chance to view the the Cock-of-the-Rock display, and then scout for birds, and perhaps Brown Capuchin or Woolly monkeys along the nearby road. Or we can take a secluded nature walk on a short trail loop to the river and back. After breakfast we continue our drive, as mountains give way to low rolling hills and farmland. At Patria we visit a plantation of coca grown legitimately for the Peruvian coca leaf market. At midday we reach Atalaya, a tiny port where the Piñipiñi River meets the Alto Madre de Dios. Now the lowland rainforest part of our journey begins. Rivers are the highways of the rainforest, and henceforth we will travel in large, comfortable dugout canoes shaded by canopy roofs and driven by powerful outboard motors.
As we follow the rivers broad, rushing course past the last foothills of the Andes, our ever-changing route offers sightings of new birds -- terns, cormorants, White-winged Swallows, and flocks of nighthawks flushed from their daytime lairs by the sound of our engine.
Splashes of brilliant yellow, pink and red foliage dot the forest-clad slopes around us, and the breeze is laden with the heady perfumes of the tropical forest.
At our overnight lodge near Boca Manu, a new array of forest sounds awaits our ears. As night falls the whistling call-and-response of tinamous gives way to the loud shrill of cicadas.
3: Boca Manu to Manu Tented Camp
In the morning we may join other eco-guests arriving by air from Cusco. We make a short visit to the village of Boca Manu, riverside capital of the remote and sparsely populated Peruvian province of Fitzcarrald. The main activity here is building dugout boats for travelers on the river, and we see how these sturdy craft are made. Logging is prohibited here, so the resourceful villagers work entirely with lumber brought downriver by floodwaters.
Now we turn northward up the chocolate-brown waters of the Manu river into the lake-rich lower 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.
4: 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.
5: Manu Tented Camp to Boca Manu and Cusco
We leave very early to motor down the Manu river and reach 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.
|Departures from Cusco: Every Thursday (From May through November)|
- Bus and boat transportation
- Transfer from Cusco airport to hotel.
- Private bungalows with private bathrooms in Cock-of-theRock Lodge
- Accommodation at Boca Manu Lodge and Manu Wildlife tented camps with sharing facilities.
- All meals and snacks.
- Purified drinking water and juices
- Bilingual naturalist guide
- Entrance fee to the Manu National Park
Not included: International airfares, airfares Lima-Cusco- Puerto Maldonado and Puerto Maldonado-Cusco-Lima
|2012 Rates per person in US$: $1644 in double room. Single Supplement:$415|