What’s Manu?

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.

The park has 1,025 bird species (10% of the world’s species) within the park; 221 species of mammals; 1,307 species of butterflies; 8 species of wild cats; 15 species of primates – like this large-headed capuchin monkey (photo).

The park has 1,025 bird species (10% of the world’s species) within the park; 221 species of mammals; 1,307 species of butterflies; 8 species of wild cats; 15 species of primates – like this large-headed capuchin monkey (photo).

There’re also 650 species of beetles.

There’re also 650 species of beetles.

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.

Getting to the park required a long trip by vehicle from Cusco, much of it over rough, dirt roads. The van pulled over at a scenic spot, and the crew set out a hearty lunch for our group of 6.

Getting to the park required a long trip by vehicle from Cusco, much of it over rough, dirt roads. The van pulled over at a scenic spot, and the crew set out a hearty lunch for our group of 6.

On the second day the van pulled into Atalaya, where we boarded a motorized canoe that would be our transportation for the next seven days.

On the second day the van pulled into Atalaya, where we boarded a motorized canoe that would be our transportation for the next seven days.

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.

Permits had to be obtained at the ranger station to enter the park.

Permits had to be obtained at the ranger station to enter the park.

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.

At 6AM we boarded a floating raft with chairs. Alexander and Joe watched five members of an otter family swimming in the lake near the shore.

At the very early hour of 6AM we boarded a floating raft with chairs. Alexander and Joe watched, in the dim light, five members of an otter family swimming in the lake near the shore.

One otter cradled a huge fish in its paws. In a flash, a very large black caiman (related to an alligator) lunged at the otter and snatched the fish. A split second later the black caiman put his head up and the fish instantly disappeared down its throat.

One otter cradled a huge fish in its paws. In a flash, a very large black caiman (related to an alligator) lunged at the otter and snatched the fish. A split second later the black caiman put his head up and the fish instantly disappeared down its throat.

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.

 

July 2016

Note: Before our visit to Peru, we did lots of research and chose Manu Expeditions’ 9-day “THE COMPLETE MANU BIOSPHERE RESERVE EXPERIENCE.”   

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
This entry was posted in Peru, South America - 2016 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What’s Manu?

  1. Pingback: Our Best of the Best: wildlife, beaches, snorkeling | simpletravelourway

  2. Cliff Mail says:

    Looks like an amazing adventure.

  3. Wow! I remember you mentioning this. What an experience. So different from the city travels most of us do. Wonderful.

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