The Manú National Park is located in the isolated region of Madre de Dios, is one of the most diverse areas in Peru and South America.
The Manu National Park is divided into three zones: the "core zone" which is only accessible for scientists and researchers, the "reserved zone" (tourism), which is only accessible for a limited number of tour operators and their tours, and the "cultural zone" which is more accessible and where local Amazonian peoples live in small communities. To enter the reserved zone, you must go with a tour operator on a multi-day trip which can be expensive; some of those operators are listed below.
The cultural zone is home to several native communities of Yine and Matsiguenka people who have initiated tourism projects. It is possible to go on your own to the cultural zone as long as you take proper precautions and make your own arrangements (more information below). When visiting the park, chances to see wildlife are highest in the reserved tourism zone but wildlife experiences are also available in the cultural zone. The cultural zone is the only place where you will be able to visit native communities, many of which still follow their traditional ways of life, such as hunter-gatherer traditions.
Manú National Park is the best well-preserved region of the Amazon on the planet today. The Manu Nature Reserve was established in 1968. Manu National Park was established by decree on 29 May 1973. In 1977, UNESCO recognized it as a Biosphere Reserve and in 1987, as a World Heritage Site.
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), caymans, turtles.
Birds are abundant, including macaws, herons, cormorants, hawks, storks and many more.
The climate is usually hot and humid. Bring light clothes, preferable with long sleeves to protect against mosquito bites.
There are two ways 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. From Cusco, go to the San Jeronimo Colectivos to Paucartambo and Pilcopata (tell in front of the Police Station at san Jeronimo in the south of city to your taxi driver). Collectivo taxis leave everyday at 11am for Salvación, which is the largest town in the Manú park reachable by bus. In Salvación you can stay the night then begin the journey by boat or bus the next day.
- By plane is not available currently
It is important to get permits in advanced to enter the reserved region of the park. INRENA is the Government office in charge of issuing permits. This can be done and paid for through the different official operators in the Manu park. To see the Petroglyphs of Pusharo in the community of Palotoa-Teparo, a permit is also required.
To visit the cultural zone, it is best way to contact the communities directly and make arrangements for your arrival.
The native communities operating tourism projects in the cultural zone are:
- Isla de los Valles a Yine community next to the town of Boca Manú. On their land, you can visit the Cocha Isla de los Valles, an oxbow lake that is home to giant river otters. The community's tourism committee runs tours to the lake at 5am and 5pm everyday by catamaran.
- Palotoa-Teparo a Matsiguenka community close to Salvacion. Attractions in this community include homestays, banana plantations, and the impressive Petroglyphs of Pusharo, which require a permit for a visit.
- Petroglyphs of Pusharo is important cultural monument located in the Manú National Park. The closest accessible community is Palotoa-Teparo, an indigenous Matsiguenka community, that also runs tours to the ruins through their ecotourism committee. The Petroglyphs of Pusharo constitute a unique and extensive ancient rock art site in southeast Peru's Manú National Park, a jungled expanse that still contains unexplored and little known areas. The site is made up of an array of deeply incised rock carvings, that cover up to a height of 9 feet (3m), a perpendicular rock face that is over 100 feet (30m) long and 75 feet high (23m). The petroglyphs by some researchers are thought to be mistico-religious or shamanic significance to those Amerindians of past centuries who must have been their creators. Others believe, that there are glyphs, that constitute the parts of Inca map. It is possible to visit the petroglyphs either on an organized tour or on your own with the permission from the closest native community Palotoa-Teparo, at least 3-5 days in advance, contact Josue Vincente, tel: +51 974 151 076. The petroglyphs are located 5 hour by boat ride from the community of Palotoa-Teparo and finaly be reachable on foot through the dry season. A permit from the Manú Park officials is required to enter the park and see the Petroglyphs.
- Shipetiari a community with a lodge, Albergue Pankotsi, that regularly receives tourists and large groups. Activities offered in this community include hikes, animal sightings, masato making, fishing, other cultural activities and Ayahuasca ceremonies. There is a lodge in the community, Albergue Pankotsi, where you can sleep.
- Birdwatching, Palotoa Amazon Travel Calle Plateros 358, Cusco 08002, ☎ +51 952 325 450, . It is a locally owned tour operator. They have English speaking native local guides. Their tours are not expensive, but offer good value. edit
- Expeditions, Expediciones Vilca. Cl Urubambilla B-2, Cusco 08000, ☎ +51 984 048 866, . It is 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). edit
- Photographing, Manu Tours Peru Urb. Santa Rosa V-8A, Calle 1ro de Junio, San Sebastián, Cusco 00000, ☎ +51 842 71620 ([email protected]), . It is a family run company. This natural paradise offer the best possibilities to take photos and to observe the live of the rainforest, thanks for the inborn ability that they can meet in this originally place of the Manu National Park. edit
- Trekking, Pantiacolla Calle Garcilaso 265, Cusco 08000, ☎ +51 842 38323, . Rather expensive tours guided by a dutch biologist. edit
- Volunteering projects. There will take care Palotoa-Teparo. edit
- Wild life watching, ☎ +51 964 422 262, . It offers a set of guided tours from 3 days to 10 days of wildlife, nature tour programs, rates are competitive, the tours along the Manu reserved zone are hosted at the casa matsiguenka lodge, managed by a local tribe in the most pristine region. edit
- Manu Wildlife Center, ☎ +51 120 35000. This is lodging place. Cabins are clean, with hot water, but no electricity. Food is very good. Also, there is possible to see a lot of birds, monkeys and other wildlife. 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. edit
- Treehouse Inn, ☎ +51 949 549 042. It is a locally owned tour company, who have their own treehouse lodge, deep inside the Manu Rainforest. All their crew are locals from Manu. edit
- It is possible to camp at the site of the petroglyphs, although there is slight danger of animals such as large jungle cats.
- Hidden Jungle Cusco, ☎ +51 923 289 231 ([email protected]), . Hotel La Casa Escondida with the jungle guided tours. edit
Be careful, booking your trip, try to book directly with one of the operators, as travel agencies will happily sell you the tickets, taking a massive commission. 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!