Encompassing forests, rivers, hills and valleys that are home to thousands of species each of plants and animals, the 6,627 sq. miles that make up the Manu Wilderness in Peru are an area ripe for adventure. The Manu National Park was established in May 1973, meaning that it has had over 40 years of established protection. It achieved recognition as a Biosphere Reserve in 1977 and was initiated into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1987.
Several tour companies offer adventure travel experiences of the Manu wilderness, and a chance to explore its flora, fauna and even meet the native population. The most popular mammal sights in Manu are the jaguars, pumas, giant armadillos, tapirs, two-toed sloths and tamarins. They are just a few of the more than 160 species that call the area home. Over 1,000 species of birds live her, too. They include the great tinamou, herons, macaws, vultures, condors and giant hummingbirds.
In the water, more than 150 kinds of amphibians share the water with over 130 species of reptiles. Caimans, boas, anacondas, river turtles and coral snakes abound. An astounding 1,300 species of butterflies, 650 species of beetles, 300 species of ants, as well as 300 and 200 specie respectively of ants and fish complete the amazing biodiversity of this tropical haven.
The vast expanse has been divided into four areas. The Restricted Zone is accessible only to researchers and contains pristine forests where indigenous populations reside, some of whom have chosen voluntary isolation. There is a Recuperation Zone which allows areas that have been damaged a chance to recover. The Cultural Zone is the location of human settlements. Finally, the reserved zone is where most of your adventure will take place – it is designated or both research and recreation. Licensed operators will also be able to take you to certain areas of the reserved zones.
Each adventure trip takes you into the wilderness for an authentic experience of life inside. Paths snake through the untouched forests and tall towers with viewing points interspersed along the treetop walkway give you a glimpse of the otherwise inaccessible canopy life. Get up close to caimans sunning themselves on sandy shores and beware of inquisitive tamarins, the world’s smallest monkeys who love to sneak up behind you! Fall asleep surrounded by the strange but beautiful sounds of the forest every night.
The Manu wilderness is generally wet and humid all year round. There are dry seasons, but rain may well fall during them, too! The stretch between July and September is the best to maximize your chances of seeing the most animals and birds while remaining dry.