Situated roughly six hours drive northeast of Cusco, Manu National Park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in recognition of its status as one of the world’s most important tropical parks.
The park’s most southerly point, Acjanaco, lies at 3,500 metres above sea level and is described as tropical alpine grassland. It has short, scrubby vegetation and the weather is often cold. Lower down, elfin forest is characterised by low trees, cold humid air and highly diverse fauna, including a rare species of high-altitude toucan.
Still further down, between 1,000 and 2,500 metres above sea level, the cloud forest begins. This unique ecosystem receives high rainfall and is home to a large number of endemic species such as the spectacled bear and the cock-of-the-rock, as well as numerous iridescent hummingbirds.
Lower still lies the high forest zone, which occupies the niche between cloud forest and the Amazon Basin, a diverse landscape rich in fauna, and home to many indigenous tribes. Finally the lowland Amazon Basin lies at around 350 metres above sea level. No other national park compares with Manu in terms of the sheer variety of life forms; for example it boasts no fewer than 13 species of monkey and one of the world's rarest mammals: the giant river otter.
The cloud forest is created where the warm, moist air of the Amazon Basin meets the cold bulk of the Andes Mountains. Here the air cools, condenses, and cloaks the mountainsides between 2,500 and 3,500 metres altitude in a perpetual shroud of mist. In this unique environment almost 50% of the plants are endemic i.e. are found nowhere else on earth! The perpetual humidity of the cloud forest ensures there is a huge variety of butterflies, giant ferns, bromeliads and orchids.
Ideal for viewing: woolly monkey, jaguar, blue-headed macaw, giant river otter, Andean cock-of-the-rock
Where: Madre de Dios, Peru
is featured in the following itineraries:
Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth and is the jewel in the crown of Amazon wildlife viewing experiences. Discover its secrets with wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt on a journey through highland Andean cloud forest and lowland Amazon rainforest.
When to go: Sep
Duration inc. flights: 20 days
Price inc. flights: From £7,495 pp
Explore Cusco, the City of Gold, and the prolific Manu National Park and assess the importance of regenerating tropical forest for jaguar and woolly monkey conservation in Manu. You identify factors that allow both species to recolonize, and assess the impacts of human behaviour on their populations.
When to go: Jun-Oct
Duration inc. flights: 17 days
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
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Opened in 1997, this lodge is named after the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana), Peru’s conspicuously brilliant red-and-black national bird. Each morning and evening the males stage a colourful, noisy mating display at a nearby lek (display site) nearby, which you can watch from a hide.
This lodge was specifically designed to accommodate visitors who have come to explore the surrounding cloud forest, but at the same time functions as a high-level research station. It offers comfort, a strategic location, and bears the Rainforest Alliance stamp of approval.
Manu Park Wildlife Centre offers comfortable accommodation near Cocha (Lake) Salvador, the largest and most beautiful of the 13 oxbow lakes within Manu National Park. Situated in a prime wildlife-viewing location, the lodge - although simple - provides the best chance to see Manu’s unique birds and mammals.
This lodge is located in the remote wilderness of southeastern Peru, in what is possibly the single best wildlife destination in the Amazon region. Here, at the foot of the Andes, the density and diversity of animal and plant species reach a peak amidst spectacular rainforest and fantastic scenery
This lodge is located on the banks of the Manu River surrounded by beautiful primary rainforest in Manu National Park. Romero offers Manu’s very first premium experience, with rooms with en suite bathrooms and hot showers, as well as spacious areas for dining and relaxing.