To the east of Cusco lies Madre de Dios, one of the most biodiverse regions of Peru. Here’s what to expect when visiting the Manu National Park.
Read on to discover what a 7-day trip to the Madre de Dios region of Peru looks like. It is a great addition to a planned trip to Cusco.
How to get to Manu from Cusco
Visitors can opt to go to the Tambopata National Reserve, via Puerto Maldonado (the flight time from Cusco’s airport to Puerto Maldonado is just under an hour), or head to the Manu National Park by road. This journey will allow you to see the Andes disappear and make way for the Amazon basin.
You will also have the great opportunity to observe the local fauna on this day-long ride. You will stay at a comfortable lodge on your first night. At dusk, go in search of Cock-of-the-rocks (Rupicola peruvianus) and enjoy observing the bustling cortege of Peru’s national bird.
In search of fauna in their native habitat
Day two will be dedicated to observing the various endemic birds and the Capuchin monkey on the trail to Atalaya, a small river port where the Piñi-Piñi River joins the Alto Madre de Dios. Along the way you’ll visit the town of Patria to see the coca plantation, legally grown for the Peruvian market.
You will then continue going north to the waters of the Manu River, entering the deepest and richest part of the Manu National Park. End the night at a lodge where you’ll have tinamou birds, perched on cicadas trees, singing you to sleep.
On day three, you will travel by boat to the Manu Park Wildlife Center, well-camouflaged lodge with low impact to the environment and almost invisible in the Manu forest. You’ll take it easy before embarking on the next day’s adventures.
The lakes of Manu
On day four you will visit two lakes near the camp: Lago (Cocha) Salvador and Lago (Cocha) Otorongo. The Cochas or oxbow lakes are meander lakes that form when the rivers change their course, leaving behind the bend or an isolated channel.
Cocha Salvador is the largest lake in the reserve, with a length of 3.5 km, about 2 miles. It is also the habitat of a resident family of giant otters. We surround the lake in a catamaran, which offers a new perspective of the lake and its connection with the jungle. The trees on the banks come alive with monkeys, macaws, herons, alligators, and more wild and beautiful species that inhabit them.
The South American tapir
On day five you will begin your trip downstream through the Manu River at dawn. You will then arrive at the Manu Wildlife Center, where you will witness the frenetic activity of the jungle canopy from the observation tower (34 m or 112 ft. above ground).
Then continue to the famous Tapir de Collpa. Collpa is a Quechua word meaning salted land, and it refers to land across the Amaazon that is abundant in clay which animals use as feed. This unusual meal absorbs and neutralizes the toxins of the vegetarian diet of the South American tapir, the largest surviving native terrestrial mammal in the Amazon.
Macaws of the Amazon
On day six you will meet the macaws when visiting their hideaway, the Macaw Collpa Project. You will spend the morning observing them flapping their wings and landing on treetops. Lunch will be served by a lake nearby where you’ll find plenty of fish, birds and mammals that live in the area. A boat ride will take you back to the Manu Wildlife Center, where you should keep an eye out for alligators and other nightlife along the riverbank.
The seventh and last day will take you down the Madre de Dios River for two and a half hours by boat toward the town of Boca Colorado. Take advantage of this time to observe the spectacular activity of the fauna along the river. You will end your trip soaking in the beautiful natural scenes of the lower jungle.
Cover photo: Patty Ho/Flickr
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