Fixed departures: SATURDAY
6 days/5 nights
This journey combines a spectacular descent through mountainous cloud forest from Andes to Amazon, with lodge visits in the cloud forest and along the wild Alto Madre de Dios river, culminating in a lowland rainforest experience amidst the comfortable yet wildlife-rich surroundings of the famous Manu Wildlife Center.
Our overland route crosses an extraordinary range of life zones from highlands to lowlands, taking us through an array of ecosystems found nowhere else on the planet in such close proximity. We see high altitude farming valleys and traverse stark highland puna, plunge through layers of grassland, elfin forest, layers of lush, ever-changing cloud forest, and then lowland tropical valleys where farmers cultivate coca and exotic fruits. All the way we traverse the habitat of innumerable bird species.
Then our journey winds its way by river through lowland rainforest, pausing for a rewarding visit to an upriver lodge, and then downriver to the Amazon's finest rainforest lodge, Manu Wildlife Center. Tapirs are nightly visitors to the lodge's mud wallow, and each morning the nearby claylick teems with parrots and macaws. A network of trails, two towers for forest canopy viewing, and two adjacent pristine lakes round out the perfect rainforest experience.
After a journey by boat and van we will return to Cusco or Lima aboard in a commercial flight from Puerto Maldonado.
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 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 picinic lunch near here 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 Peru's dazzling national bird, the Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruviana) in full, raucous courting display. (Box Lunch, Dinner)
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.
During normal river conditions we arrive at our lodge in time for exploration and wildlife viewing - which may include toucans, kingfishers, a rare endemic hummingbird, the endangered Monk Saki Monkey, and a multitude of butterflies -- along one of its many forest trails. (Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner)
There is time for another short morning hike on the lodge trails before leaving early for Manu Wildlife Center.
As we follow the broad, rushing course of the Alto Madre de Dios river 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 pause during our journey to stretch our legs and visit an indigenous Piro Indian village where we may buy forest handcrafts such as bracelets, necklaces, bags and baskets. Later we pass the mouth of the Manu river, the gateway to the reserved zone of the Manu National Park. Taking another break at Boca Manu, the village a short way downriver, we visit the boatyards where local people build the dugout boats so essential to life on the river.
After a boat journey of approximately 6 hours, we arrive at Manu Wildlife Center, one of the world's top ten wildlife lodges. After a reception and orientation we move into our private bungalow and rest to escape the midday heat.
Later, we make our first acquaintance with the lowland rainforest, learning about the plants and forest ecology as we explore some of the 30 miles of trails that surround the lodge. We have an excellent chance of encountering some of the 12 species of monkeys, including the Monk Saki and Emperor Tamarin, which inhabit the surrounding forest.
(Breakfast, Box Lunch, Dinner)
Another early start (inevitable on wildlife expeditions), is followed by a short boat ride downstream. We take a 20-minute trail through palm plantations to a cut-off channel of the river, where we find the Blanquillo Macaw Lick. A spacious hide provided with individual chairs and a convenient place for cameras and binoculars is our ringside seat for what is usually a very spectacular show. We enjoy a full breakfast here while waiting for the main actors to arrive.
In groups of twos and threes the big Red-and-Green Macaws come flapping in, landing in the treetops as they eye the main stage below -- the eroded clay banks of the old channel. Meanwhile the supporting cast appears: these may included Blue-headed, Mealy, Yellow-crowned, and Orange-cheeked Parrots -- and the occasional villain, a menacing and unwelcome Great Black Hawk.
The drama plays out in first in tentative and then bolder approaches to the lick, until finally nearly all the macaws, parrots and parakeets form a colorful and noisy spectacle on the bare banks, squabbling as they scrape clay from the hard surface.
(Please note that the clay lick is most active from August to October and less so during the months of May and June.)
We return to the lodge for lunch, and then 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.
Later 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 all the 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 50-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. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
We set off early for Cocha Blanco, an old oxbow lake full of water lilies and sunken logs. As we circle the lake on our catamaran we might encounter the resident Giant Otter family on a fishing expedition, or troops of monkeys crashing noisily through the trees. Wattled Jacanas step lightly on the lily pads, dainty Sun Grebes paddle across the water, supple-necked Anhingas air-dry their wide, black wings, and perhaps an Osprey scans for fish from a high branch.
Among the bushes near the waterline, Hoatzins, which look like rust-colored, punk chickens, announce their presence with distinctive, bizarre wheezing and grunts. Woodpeckers, tanagers, macaws, toucans and parakeets all finally come swooping in to trees surrounding the lake. Many of them roost around the lake for the night.
After lunch at the lodge our guide is available to lead us on freewheeling expeditions in search of further wildlife encounters, or we may take one of the lodge's many trails on private and personal excursions to commune with the spirits of the rainforest.
This evening, from late afternoon until after dinner, we can take a boat ride in search of caiman (alligator-like reptiles), and other nocturnal wildlife along the riverbank. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
We leave our lodge very early on the three-hour return boat trip downstream to the Colorado Village, the breakfast will be serve on the boat while you enjoying early morning wildlife activity as we go, of course this is a perfect time to take advantage of valuable early morning wildlife activity along the river, in aditions 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 Maldonado. A van or bus will drive us to the airport in Puerto Maldonado, in approximately four-hours more, From here you fly to Cusco, with a pickup and transfer assistant to your hotel your jungle adventure ends.. (B)
Manu programs operate May through October
|Price per person||Sing. Supp.||Start - Return|
|US$2413||US$435||Saturday - Thursday|
Minimum number of participants: 2
Rates may fluctuate in accordance with current exchange rates.
Important Note: Please note that the program may vary slightly so as to maximize your wildlife sightings, depending on the reports of our researchers and experienced naturalist guides based at the lodge.
For further information and booking inquiries, please contact Sacred Earth Travel