The National Park of Manu, a World Cultural Heritage Site, is one of the areas with greatest biodiversity on the planet. It is located in the departments of Cusco (Paucartambo province, Kosñipata district) and Madre de Dios (Manu province, Fitzcarrald and Manu districts), including the entire basin of the River Manu. Located in the south of Peru, in the eastern sector of the Andes mountain range and bordering the Amazon basin, it is the only park in Latin America to cover the full range of environments, from low, tropical jungle to cold, high grassland over 4,000 masl.
The park was created on 29 May 1973, covers an area of 1,716,295.22 hectares and is one of the best destinations for nature tourism. The low basin of the River Manu is marked by the exuberance of the Amazon plain. Five zones are recommended for tourism, each with a high diversity of flora and fauna: Salvador, Otorongo, Juárez, Pakitza and Limonal. All offer navigable circuits through the lakes and swamps, where visitors can see seals and black caimans.
One of the main attractions of the park are the clay licks, regularly visited by flocks of macaws as well as other species of fauna, who come here looking for food. The park contains some 221 species of mammal, including the otorongo (jaguar), black panther tapir, collared peccary, deer, capybara, spider monkey, etc. In terms of birds, highlights include the harpy eagle, jabiru, roseate spoonbill, jungle goose and the cock of the rock. Inside the park there is a metal tower 18 meters high and an elevated walkway with a platform that makes it easier to spot birds and to grasp the immensity of the forest from the treetops.
For a spectacular view visitors can climb to the Tres Cruces lookout point and enjoy both the sunset and two contrasting landscapes: the Andes and the rainforest. The best time to go is between May and August when the sky is clear and it is possible to see the sun come up twice during the same dawn, due to a natural phenomenon.
El Manu has one of the most renowned research centers in Amazonia: the biological station of Cocha Cashu. It also has an interpretation center at the guard post of Limonal.
A large part of the park is indigenous territory: 30 peasant communities that live here speak Quechua as their first language and there are various native Amazonian tribes in the region, including the Matsiguenka, Amahuaca, Yine, Amarakaeri, Huashipaire and Nahua people. There are also other indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. The cultural wealth of the area is demonstrated by the archaeological sites that have not yet been studied.
Services inside the park: hostels, interpretation center, toilet facilities, park rangers and radio.
Services outside the park: boat/launch hire, police station, medical station.
Activities: Observation of birds, flora, fauna and scenery, walking, camping, research studies, photography and filming.
Weather: The lower zones enjoy an average temperature of 35º C during the day and 25º C at night. However, during the year the temperature can drop due to prolonged periods of heavy rain. At these times the maximum temperature during the day is 18º C and the minimum temperature is 10º C at night. The rainy season runs from January to March, but there is a chance of rain all the year round. The best time to visit is between April and December.
Access by Land: 224 km from the city of Cusco via the Cusco-Paucartambo highway (10 hours 30 minutes in 4x4 vehicle) takes you to the town of Atalaya, and the journey continues by boat on the River Alto Madre de Dios to the Limonal Control Post, the entrance to the National Park (7 hours by boat). The route then follows along the River Manu into the park. It is also possible to fly to Boca Manu in a small plane from Cusco (40 minutes).
Note: Authorizations to enter the National Park of Manu for tourism purposes are awarded to tour operators, who then offer a range of services and packages within the park. It is not possible to enter as an individual. Photography and filming is charged at 10% of the taxation unit.
Entry fee: River Manu lower basin: S/. 150.00 Sector Acjanaco: S/. 10.00 (prices subject to change).