Manu National Park located in the Amazon basin in Peru is one of South America’s most biodiverse natural destinations. With vast stretches of pristine rainforest that house hundreds of wildlife species, a visit here is nothing short of travelling back through time to experience nature in its purest form. And not just that, you also get to visit indigenous communities that reside within the park’s premises and observe their culture that has remained untouched by modernity.
You can reach the park by air or by a long but scenic journey on land. From the city of Cusco, the gateway to the park, you have to take a bus and cross the towns of Pilcopata, Atalaya, Salvacíon, Shintuya and Itahuania. There is no road beyond Itahuania and you will have to travel by boat to the village of Boca Manu, after which lies the park’s entrance. There is also a 40-minute flight from Cusco to the airstrip at Boca Manu.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season – June to November.
The park is divided into four zones that have different access restrictions. The core zone with pristine forests and native communities is only accessible by researchers and scientists; the reserved zone can be accessed only by tour operators and their tours; the cultural zone, the most easily accessible zone, is home to native Amazonian tribes; the recuperation zone which is a recovery area.
It is advisable to visit the park by booking with one of the authorised tour operators, to ensure a safe wildlife experience and better access to the park.
Cocha Salvador (Lake Salvador) is located in the reserved zone and is the most beautiful lake that is accessible to tourists. The area surrounding the lake is home to diverse wildlife and you can be sure to spot monkeys, capybaras, river turtles and caiman. Numerous camping sites and hiking trails are found near the lake.
Horseshoe-shaped Cocha Otorongo (Lake Otorongo) is located a little further away from Lake Salvador. There is an observation tower here from where you can enjoy wildlife and bird spotting.
Cocha Juárez (Lake Juárez) and Cocha Brashco (Lake Brashco) are other popular lakes in the park and are known for giant river otters.
The most popular inhabitants of the park include jaguars, giant river otters, armadillo, puma, Brazilian tapir, capybara and different species of monkeys like spider monkeys, red howlers, capuchins and wooly monkeys.
Among the hundreds of bird species found here, macaws, herons, hummingbirds, harpy eagles, hawks, storks and cormorants are abundant. This is one of the best birdwatching spots in the world, with at least 1000 species recorded, so make sure to bring those binoculars!
There are several indigenous tribe settlements located in the park’s cultural zone. You can visit these villages and experience their traditional lifestyle that still remains intact and strictly followed to date. Yora, Mashco-Piro, Harakmbut, Yine, Huachipaeri and Matsiguenka are some of the communities, and they each have their own dialect, lifestyle and culture.
On your visit to any community here, you will be put up with a host family or a lodge in the village and you can learn more about their daily life that includes the hunting, gathering and harvesting techniques they use for survival.
While visiting the Matsiguenka community in Palo Toa-Teparo, you can see the mysterious petroglyphs of Pusharo, which are extensive ancient rock carvings.
One of the best ways to make the most of the park is to take a river boat tour as it offers plenty of wildlife watching opportunities. Whitewater rafting, camping and hiking are other adventure activities that you can enjoy. You can also enjoy a bird’s eye view of the park, by taking a canopy walk. You will be able to spot birds like macaws, parrots and toucans, as well as different species of monkeys.
For those who love thrilling adventures, a night walk through the jungle is highly recommended. You can see nocturnal animals including various species of insects and birds with your flashlights. Navigating through the thick Amazon jungle, listening to the sounds of wildlife, with only the moon and your torches to guide you, is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
The park is located remote from civilization and it might be quite tedious to reach here. But the immense beauty and natural wealth it offers make the trip here completely worth it. Not only does the park house a large collection of native and exotic wildlife, but it also contains virgin rainforests that have remained untouched by humans. This gives a great opportunity to observe the pristine ecosystem of the Amazon basin and truly experience the wilderness. For all lovers of nature, this park is sure to be a paradise.
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