Manu Tapirs & Macaw Licks 7d/6n
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Then our journey winds its way by river through lowland rainforest, taking us to a remote jungle village, then to a tented camp in the heart of Manu, the Upper Amazon basin’s greatest national park, In Manu we navigate the waters of an isolated oxbow lake, home to giant otters, caimans, monkeys and an endless variety of birds. Our trip ends downriver with the Amazon’s finest wildlife viewing opportunities, at Manu Wildlife Center. This lodge offers the finest Tapir viewing in the entire Amazon, as Tapirs are nightly visitors to the lodge’s mud wallow. The mornings feature macaw clay lick project and fruiting trees teeming with macaws. The network of trails, tower for forest canopy viewing, and two adjacent pristine lakes round out the perfect rainforest experience.
Our overland journey begins at 3,400m/11,150 ft, with an early departure from the highland city of Cusco. Today’s 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 ridge top 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 lunch, we descend through the startling and rapid environmental transformations characteristic of the tropical Andes, passing from grassland and stunted trees through an 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”, we have a chance to see Peru’s dazzling national bird, the Cock‐of‐ the‐Rock (Rupicola peruvianus). (Box Lunch,D)
Rising early, we could 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 river’s 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.
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 to our overnight at Romero Lodge; 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. (B,Box Lunch,D)
In the morning, we continue our trip to the Manu Tented Camp, 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 four hours on the river, we reach the Manu Park Wildlife Center, 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. (B,Box Lunch,D)
Today we visit two lakes near our Manu Park Wildlife Center. 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 Manu Park Wildlife Center. 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 world’s largest rodent, browsing 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 park’s 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 Amazon’s most endangered mammal species.
This lake enjoys maximum protection, and boats are not allowed. However, it features a dock platform and a 50ft tower from which to scan the trees and marshy shoreline for monkeys, kingfishers, Anhinga (a large, long‐necked water bird), 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. Cocha Salvador is the largest of the area’s lakes, at 3.5 Km, or some two miles long. It is also home to a family of Giant Otters.
We cruise the lake on a floating catamaran platform, which offers superb new perspectives of lake and forest. The lakeside trees are often alive with monkeys; Scarlet, Chesnut‐fronted and Blue‐and‐gold macaws beat a path overhead; a variety of herons and egrets scout the water’s edge; and the reptilian eyes and snouts of caimans, motionless as logs, maybe spied beneath the branches. Somewhere on the open water or in among toppled bankside trees, we may spot the sleek heads of the shy Giant Otters. These social animals play and fish together, and we may see them sprawled on a fallen tree trunk, dozing or gnawing on a fish. (B,L,D)
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 we will be near the village of Boca Manu. 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 lodge’s famous Tapir Clay Lick. Here at the most active tapir lick known in the entire 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 10‐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. (B,L,D)
Another early start (inevitable on wildlife expeditions), after a delicious breakfast we walk through the forest for some minutes, where we find the Macaw Lick project. The hide provided with individual chairs and a convenient place for cameras and binoculars to a distance of 15 meters. In groups of two and three, the scarlet Macaws come flapping in, landing in the treetops as they eye the main stage below. After this we continue walking and exploring the network of trails surrounding the lodge then we return to the lodge for lunch. Later, we continue to explore and discover the rainforest, its lore, and plant life, on the network of trails surrounding the lodge, arriving in the late afternoon at our 34m/112ft Canopy Tower. On its platform, we witness the frantic rush‐ hour activity of twilight in the rainforest canopy, before night closes in. This evening, from the late afternoon until after Dinner, we offer an opportunity to search for caiman and other nocturnal life along the riverbank by boat, if the level of river allows it. (B/L/D)
We leave our lodge very early on the two‐hour and a half return boat trip downstream to the Colorado Village. Depending upon the time we must be in Puerto Maldonado, the breakfast will be served at the lodge or on the boat, of course this is a perfect time to take advantage of valuable early morning wildlife activity along the river, in additions this journey allows us to see several lowland native settlements and gold miners digging and panning gold along the banks of the Madre de Dios River. We will stop in the far‐west type gold‐mining town of Colorado to start our overland journey to Puerto Carlos for 45 minutes, then you will cross the Inambari River for 10 minutes’ boat trip to Santa Rosa, finally a van or bus will drive us in approximately two‐hours and a half to the airport in Puerto Maldonado City, here you fly by a commercial airplane to Cusco or Lima, with this assistance your jungle adventure ends… (B)
- Land transport from Cusco to Cock of the Rock Lodge and then to Atalaya
- River transportation.
- Accommodation in the following lodges
1 night Cock of the Rock Lodge
1 nights Romero Lodge
2 nights Manu Park Wildlife Center
2 nights Manu Wildlife Center
- Meals during the trip (beginning with lunch on day 1 and ending with breakfast on day 7)
- Air tickets.
- Personal expenses such as beverages, telephone call, tips, etc.
- Extras not mentioned in the itinerary
Please note that itineraries may vary slightly to maximize wildlife viewing, depending on the reports of our local researchers and experienced naturalist guides.
The jungle is not a place to show off expensive jewelry or delicate clothes. Please arrive in clothes that you do not mind getting slightly dirty or wet, and please make sure to wear footwear that is suitable for walking on a (possibly muddy) rainforest trail.
Rainfall in the Tambopata Reserve is around 2500 – 3500 millimeters per year, with most rainfall occurring in the rainy season months from November to April. The average temperature in the National Reserve is 28° C (82° F), with daily highs of 34° C (94° F) and nightly lows of 22° C (72° F). During the dry season, cold fronts from the South Atlantic (friajes) occur every month or so, with daily temperatures dropping as low as 16° C (59° F) and nightly temperatures to 13° C (55° F). Best season to travel: Late March through December.
Yellow fever vaccinations are no longer mandatory in Tambopata, however, they are highly recommended. Please check with the CDC for current health information. Dengue Fever and Leishmaniasis are present in the region. Prevention is the best medicine: wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a hat and cover exposed areas with effective bug repellent (deet content at least 20%).
- Good binoculars
- Camera gear
- Two or three pairs of long pants (including at least one pair that you don’t mind getting dirty. Fast drying type is recommended.)
- Four pairs of absorbent cotton socks
- Rain suit or long poncho (100% waterproof – test before you leave home)
- Three or four long-sleeved cotton shirts
- Two or three T-shirts
- A bottle or canteen to carry water on outings
- Sunscreen lotion (high factor)
- A hat that will not come off in windy boat-rides
- One pair of shorts
- A pair of sneakers or hiking boots (with good gripping soles) and sandals
- Insect repellent (Skin-so-soft for the river, and 20% or more deet for forest)
- A photocopy of your passport
- A large, bright flashlight
- Personal toiletries and medications
- Rubber Boots for the rainy season from November to April.
- Cash for souvenirs at the lodge stand, alcoholic beverages, etc