We’d never heard of Manu, and maybe you haven’t either. We stumbled upon a description of the park – very remote and one of the most bio-diverse places in the world – and we were hooked: we had to go there. Peru’s Manu National Park (the Reserved Zone and its bordering Cultural Zone) is a huge tract of land -18,811 square km – half the size of the Netherlands.
Unlike other National Parks we’ve been to, the Reserved Zone is not a park “open” for visitors. The park has no roads and it’s difficult to access. The only people who reside in the National Park are indigenous Amazonian tribes, including the Matsigenga, who are protected from outsiders. However, a small area along the Manu River, named the “Tourism and Recreation Zone”, is open to tour operators and their visitors.
After 2 days in the boat, first on the Alto Madre de Dios River and then the Manu River, we entered the park’s Reserved Zone.
It takes a lot of effort to get to Manu, and even we wondered was it all going to be worth it? We soon found out on an outing to one of the largest oxbow lakes in the park, Cocha Salvador, home to several families of the threatened giant otters.
It had all happened so quickly. We thought the giant otters would swim away, but they stood their ground. One giant otter stayed in front of the black caiman, the other four swam around to the caiman’s backside and starting biting its tail. The black caiman seemed to be confused. This went on for a few minutes before the agitated caiman departed. The giant otters stayed close together and didn’t leave their territory.
We were all left with true appreciation for what we’d just seen. Where else could we see giant otters (a threatened species) battling with a black caiman (which one of us had never heard of before the trip) in a truly pristine Amazonian Basin environment? And all of this viewed from a comfortable floating raft on an oxbow lake? Manu National Park is a unique place and for the few visitors who have the opportunity to get there, an unforgettable experience.
Note: Before our visit to Peru, we did lots of research and chose Manu Expeditions’ 9-day “THE COMPLETE MANU BIOSPHERE RESERVE EXPERIENCE.”