Sacred Earth Travel - Sustainable Nature and Adventure Travel


Bird watching in Manu

Introduction to the area:
Eastern Andes Slope

Cloud Forest Manu - home of the Cock of the RockIn the 1980’s, after an extensive scientific search of the Andean slope forests, it was found that the parts included in the Manu Biosphere Reserve are best preserved, maybe for all of South America, with large areas under private conservation. Fertile soil is only an extremely thin cap on top of the Andean rocks and vegetation exists in delicate balance, due to harsh erosion from many rains, extreme solar radiation and temperature conditions. Any human intrusion, from farming to logging or even just trail-making leaves the fertile layer open to the elements and soon nothing is left, leaving only bare rocks.

At appr. 1600 m, Pantiacolla built a comfortable, permanent campsite. An avian-rich altitude, which provides the opportunity to travel back up and further down, without sacrificing the comfort of restful nights in the little huts. Trails are under construction, but always keeping the delicacy of this habitat in mind: special methods are used so that that the vegetation doesn't have to be cut back too hard. And just next to the lodge is the lek of that strange-looking bird, the Peruvian Cock-of-the-Rock. A platform has been constructed for observation and admittance is controlled so as to ensure that the birds will not feel disturbed and continue to use this site, which, incredibly, is situated only a few meters from the road.

Pantiacolla Mountains

Some decades ago, a member of the extended Moscoso Family got the title to almost 1000 ha of land in the Pantiacolla Mountains in Manu’s Cultural Zone. These mountains, located in the Andean foothill and therefore a ‘frontier area’ held the promise of high biodiversity: in 1998 Pantiacolla sent two ornithologists out to investigate. The results exceeded even our expectations. Within one month they found a dazzling record of appr. 500 species! A starting list that can already compete with over 20 year old lists of other top-locations in Manu and Tambopata.

Many of the species are endemic to the area, extremely rare, or found at altitudes different from their normal range. To make it possible for you to really see the birds, Pantiacolla is now constructing a network of trails covering at least eight different habitats, including to the small oxbow lake near the Petroleo Stream, as well as observation platforms in the trees, hides near the Round-tailed Manakin lek and the only clay lick ever found for the range-restricted Blue-hooded Macaw, an observation tower near a huge fig tree and benches at the miradors, and a platform on the first Pantiacolla summit (appr. 950 m).


8 days/7 nights, in and out by bus
with extension: 12 days/11 nights, in by bus out by plane

This tour can start any Sunday, Monday, Wednesday or Friday, all year round.
The extension program only operates from mid April - end of December.

The Program

We designed a program combining two avian rich areas: the eastern Andean slope and the Pantiacolla Mountains. Furthermore, at the end of your trip you will have observed birds from the 4000m to the 450m zone, including many rare and endemic species!

DAY 1: Cusco-Huacarpay-Paucartambo-San Pedro

You leave Cusco early in the morning (appr. 05:30 am) by private transportation to travel the famous “Manu Road”. Lake Huacarpay is reached after 40 minutes, where we spend time to observe highland lake with marsh birds and butterflies. We look for the Plumbeous Rail, which is not as elusive here as rails normally are, the Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant and two endemics, the Rusty-fronted Canastero and the spectacular hummingbird, the Bearded Mountaineer. This site should also provide our first Peruvian butterflies with Gulf Fritillary and Brazilian Painted Lady amongst the target species.  In the early afternoon you arrive at the Ajanaco pass at 3530 m and the beginning of our descent of the eastern Andes. This is also the beginning of the Manu National Park, where the slope forests, unlike at other parts of the eastern Andes, are almost completely untouched. In between the clouds we look for flocks of many different tanager species. Also the Andean Guan, Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan, White-collared Jay, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker and the endemic Puna Thistletail belong to this altitude. Butterflies here include Clouded Yellows and various Skippers.  Overnight at Posada San Pedro, where we will be able to run a moth lamp for the two nights we are staying here.

DAY 2,3: San Pedro

During these two days we will explore the different altitudes along the Manu Road. One day we go higher up to the temperate and upper subtropical zone, where we hope to meet Blue-banded Toucanet, Golden-headed Quetzal, Marcapata Spinetail, Red-and-white Antpitta, Barred Fruiteater, Fulvous Wren and many more. At dusk we will search for Lyre-tailed Nightjar and Owl butterflies.

The other day we stay close to our campsite in the transition zone between the sub-tropical and upper-tropical habitat, at around 1500 metres. First we pay an early morning visit to a nearby Cock of the Rock lek before exploring the rest of the cloud forest. This avian-rich zone is home to many species of tanagers and hummingbirds but we also have the change to encounter the splendid Versicoloured Barbet, Highland Motmot, Green Jay and Cock-of-the-Rock amongst others. It is also a great area for butterflies in the families of Skippers, Daggerwings, Adelphas and Sulphurs which often gather to imbibe moisture from seepages and rocky pools along the river and in the vicinity of small waterfalls. The moths in this sort of habitat are no less stunning than the butterflies and birds in both their sheer number and variety, although identifying them is more of a challenge.

Zopilote - King Vulture - Manu National Park, Peru, Birding Program (28K)

DAY 4: San Pedro-Atalaya-Pantiacolla Lodge

We leave early to be able to look for the birds of between 1500 and 1000m in the good hours of the day. We will start to see more tropical birds like Russet-backed - &mps; Crested Oropendolas, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Stripe-chested Antwren, Long-tailed Tyrant, vultures and kites. Some of the specials are the Amazonian Umbrellabird and Black-banded Tody-Tyrant. In Atalaya we change into a motorized canoe. We navigate down the Alto Madre de Dios: a relaxed way of observing birds, such as the Capped Heron and the Fasciated Tiger-Heron, vultures, possibly King Vulture, and overflying macaws. If river conditions are suitable, we will look out for butterflies imbibing moisture from sandbanks. Sometimes these aggregations can run into many hundreds of individuals – an incredible sight. In the afternoon we are welcomed at Pantiacolla Lodge (450 m). At dusk we sit near the river and enjoy the Sand-coloured Night-hawks.

DAY 5, 6: Pantiacolla Lodge

Hikes on the well designed trails around Pantiacolla Lodge take you through at least eight different habitat types with many rare and endemic species of bird. The many different tinamous, antbirds and manakins are only a fraction of the already 600 species of bird found until this day. On the more shady trails, Glasswing butterflies are commonplace, all very similar in appearance but several different species. In the more open areas, it is the brightly coloured Callicores and Panaceas that catch the eye, with their metallic upper side markings contrasting with their brilliantly marked undersides. With luck, we should also see our first Morphos as they flap through the jungle with their iridescent blue wings. As always in between the tangling leaves of primary rainforests, one has to work hard to see wildlife, but it is certainly worth the effort. For variation, one can sit in the garden of the lodge and wait for a passing mixed-species bird flock, while enjoying the ever-present hummingbirds. The longest trail takes you up the Pantiacolla Mountains, to one of its miradors, at 920 m, with an incredible view over the vast Amazonian expanse. The mirador is located in an isolated patch of cloud forest at 900 m altitude. This area is one of the most likely sites to encounter the extremely rare Black Tinamou. We start this hike before dawn, still being able to hear the sounds of the Great- and the Long-tailed Potoo, while diurnal birds just start their daily activities.

Pantiacolla Lodge has eight different recorded monkey species, and both white-lipped and collared peccaries are commonly see. One of the mornings we visit a nearby clay lick for parrots and the Military- and Blue-headed Macaw, Manu's two rarest macaws.

DAY 7: to Amazonia Lodge

Nichtibus griseus, Manu BirdingGoing back now upstream the same river as on day 4 we arrive at at Amazonia Lodge at 9 a.m. While the staff is bringing our luggage to the lodge we walk the 2 km long so-called Jeep-trail. Tinamous, Trogons, Purple-throated Cotinga, Long-tailed Tyrant and different parrots are some of the possibilities. The lodge has a very nice garden where you will see 6-10 different species of hummingbirds with the male Rufous-crested Coquette and Wire-crested Thorntail as being the most attractive ones. Amazonia is also a good place to see one of more of the 3 species of Potoos. A small oxbow lake close to the lodge gives us the possibility to see Hoatzin, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Rufescent Tiger-heron, all species that you normally donīt see at Pantiacolla.

DAY 8: back to Cusco

After a last walk at the grounds of Amazonia the boat takes us to the other side of the river, where our car is waiting to bring us back to Cusco. It is a long drive of 8-9 hours with some breaks for birding, coffee and lunch.

(photos courtesy of José Maria Fdz. Diaz -Formenti)

Starts any day.


Not included:

For further information and booking inquiries please send us and e-mail.

pantilodge (10K)EXTENSION: Into Manu's Reserved Zone

As an extension you can join a fixed departure wildlife watching tour to Manu's Reserved Zone. This area is very good for observation of monkeys and other big mammals. The guides for the fixed departure tours are excellent naturalists, however not all are specialized in birds.

For further information and booking inquiries please send us and e-mail.

Minimum number of participants: 2

Included in extension program:

Not Included:

For further information and booking inquiries please send us and e-mail.