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" (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.
The native communities operating tourism projects in the cultural zone are:
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 recognised 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,... 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, preferrably with long sleeves to protect against mosquito bites.
There are two way to get to Manu:
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 8 different official operators in the Manu park.
To visit the cultural zone, it is best to contact the communities directly and make arrangements for your arrival. Starting with Albergue Pankotsi in Shipetiari is a good idea.
To visit the reserved zone, there are a only 8 tour operators who have the licence to take tourists in. 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 (accomodation, 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:
Isla de los Valles: a native community that has on its land the Cocha Isla de los Valles, an oxbow lake that is home to a family of giant river otters and an assortment of other birds and animals.
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.
Wild Watch Peru; a local tour operator based in Cusco, the tours are well organized and guided by Hebert who is one of the finest guide in the region
There are several lodges and camps in the Manu area.
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.