On the second day of our trip to Manu National Park we left the dirt roads and got into a motorized canoe with 2 boatmen to guide us down the rivers.
Our days often started before dawn. Aurelio perched in the front and gave directional signals to our driver, Jose.
When our canoe made a stop, we balanced on a wooden plank to get off. Fortunately, one of the crew was always there to give us a hand.
The rivers appeared challenging to navigate: shallow water in the dry season, tree branches caught in the rocks, fast-moving channels. One day, against a powerful current, Aurelio took out a saw, balanced himself on a tree branch in the river, and sawed off a branch that blocked our passage. We held our breaths until he was finished and back in the canoe.
We spent our time in the canoe watching wildlife and birds – and taking photos.
On the days when we started before dawn, there wasn’t the visibility to see anything. On those days we took watched the sun rise.
Our last day, we took a 2-hour boat trip south on the Manu River and then southwest down the Madre de Dios River to the tiny town of Boca Colorado.
Boca Colorado is well outside the park and a transportation hub since this is where the river meets the nearest road.
Taxis pulled onto the beach to take us by road to Puerto Carlos, where we hopped on a short ferry to cross the Inambari River, and then took another taxi to Puerto Maldonado’s airport for the flight back to Cusco. Total travel time this day: 9 hours.
We had spent long stretches of time over 7 days in the canoe. We saw caimans floating in the river water and stretched out on the beach; we saw monkeys dangling from the trees on shore; we saw so many species of birds and so often, that we could identify most by week’s end. We ate on the canoe, we napped, and my cousin even dried her still-damp pants in the fast-moving air.
We usually thought of small boats as pleasure craft. The notion of canoes as serious transport was a new experience for us.
Note: Before our visit to Peru, we did lots of research and chose Manu Expeditions’ 9-day “THE COMPLETE MANU BIOSPHERE RESERVE EXPERIENCE.”