Manú National Park
The Manu National Park is divided into three zones: the "core zone" which is only accessible for scientists and researchers, the "reserved zone" which is only accessible for a limited number of tour operators and their tours and the "cultural zone" which is openly accessible and where local people live in small villages. When choosing a trip to Manu National Park, keep in mind that chances to see exotic wildlife are by far higher in the reserved zone than in the cultural zone.
Flora and fauna
There is a lot of tropical wildlife to be seen in the National Park, including jaguars, giant otters, several species of monkeys (red howler, black spider, capuchin, squirrel,... monkeys), caymans, turtles.
Birds are abundant, including macaws, herons, cormorants, hawks, storks and many more.
The climate is usually hot and humid. Bring light clothes, preferably with long sleeves to protect against mosquito bites.
There are two way to get to Manu:
- It is possible to enter by a combination by bus and boat and leave through the same boat/bus combination. This option can be a long trip.
- By plane from Cusco arriving directly to the jungle lowlands It will take about 40 to 45 minutes. InkaNatura is offering flights five times per week using a Cessna Grand Caravan.
It is also possible to use the combination of travelling one way by bus/boat and the other by plane.
It is important to get permits in advanced to enter to the park. INRENA is the Government office in charge of issuing permits. This can be done and paid for through the 8 different official operators in the Manu park.
There are a only 8 tour operators who have the licence to take tourists into the reserved zone. Tours start from Cusco and usually take between 4 and 10 days. Prices range between 500 USD and 1800 USD depending on the length of the trip and the operator. All tours are guided by studied biologists (this is a rule by the park administration).
Be careful when booking your trip and try to book directly with one of the operators, as travel agencies will happily sell you the tickets, take a massive commission and just book you on a tour with an operator you don't know in advance. Make sure to ask about all the tour details before you book (accommodation, extra fees, English-speaking guide if needed, food, jungle walks, other activities). Also try to bargain about the price!
Tour operators that offer tours into the reserved zone:
- SAS Travel
- Expediciones Vilca. With a price of (around) 700 USD for an 8-day tour one of the cheaper operators. Nonetheless reliable and excellent value (we had an awesome tour with a great guide, a fantastic cook and lots of animal sightings)
- Pantiacolla. Rather expensive tours guided by a dutch biologist.
Manu Wildlife Center is an awesome place to see lots of birds, monkeys and other wildlife. Cabins are clean, with hot water, but no electricity. Food is very good. Various trips are available from canopy stands to one of only a few known Macaws clay licks, where hundreds of Macaws come every morning to eat bits of clay which aids their digestion.