We leave Cusco early in the morning in our specialized overland vehicles. Around mid-morning we visit the interesting Pre-Inca tombs of Ninamarca, commonly known as "Chullpas". We continue to Paucartambo, a picturesque spanish colonial town, and then to the Acjanacu pass, which marks the beginning of the Cultural Zone of Manu Biosphere Reserve. Here, a thick cloak of clouds provides perpetual humidity and makes an ideal habitat for epiphytic plants such as bromeliads. This varied and fascinating world is home of the Cock of the Rock, Spectacled Bear, Orchids, Tree Ferns (one of the oldest living plants), mosses and lichens. This cloud forest exists between 2000 and 3500 meters above sea level and at least 50% of the plant species found here are endemic to this region. Overnight stay in Orquideas de San Pedro lodge.
Today we wake up very early to observe the Cock-of-the-Rock, Peru's national bird. At about 5am as many as several dozen males come together for an exhibition of a ritual mating dance. The males display their crest, showing off and posturing for the females. The females, fewer in number, watch to select the most suitable males. We observe this fascinating behavior from an observation platform called a "Lek". After breakfast we continue by overland transport down the narrow road between waterfalls and canyons towa rd Pilcopata town (*1) for 2 hours approximately. We then take a 30 minutes bus ride to the port of Atalaya (*2) From here, we board our covered boat and head down the Alto Madre de Dios River for approximately 30 minutes toward our private reserve of "Erika Lodge", where we will spend the next two nights. On arrival you will have a short tour of the area surrounding the lodge.
(*1) Optional: We walk through the trail that leads us to the observation platform located 15 feet above the mammal lick itself where we wait for the lumbering peccaries to arrive, we observe and photograph them in action. Important: the observation depends on luck, availability and weather conditions.
(*2) Optional: Here we have the option to do an hour's river rafting (class I and II) trip down the Koshñipata River where we will have the opportunity for a dip and of course enjoy the spectacular view of the Koñeq Canyon. Continuing down the Alto Madre de Dios River to Erika Lodge.
Very early and after a ten minutes boat ride, we will arrive to a Parrot Lick "Collpa", which is a wall of clay in the riverbanks, where many species of parrots such as the blue headed parrot, the white-eyed parakeet, the dusky-headed parrot the chestnut fronted macaw and others feed for mineral and salt supplements to their diet of seeds and fruits. After an early breakfast, we will continue travel up the Manu River for 4 hours approximately into the pristine heart of the reserve. We arrive at Salvador Lake, our base safari campsite. We arrive early in the afternoon and have lunch before setting off on a jungle trail although at this time of day mammals and birds are not as active as in the early morning, we will concentrate on the forest itself and discuss general rain forest ecology, return to the campsite.
We rise early in the morning, as the forest is awakened by the Red Howler monkey (Aloatta seniculus) declaring its territory. A morning walk before breakfast is a great way to catch wildlife in the pursuit of food, as the temperature is very pleasant at this time of day. We explore Salvador Lake by paddling quietly along on a catamaran, giving us the opportunity to observe unique species of birds, monkeys, caimans and with luck the Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). This endangered species can be seen swimming, fishing, eating and playing. After 20 minutes of walking from the river to the lake you will be taken through a nice terra firme forest. The epigone trail around the lake has a good selection of bird species where we should be looking for the range-restricted blackfaced Cotinga. Overnight in the safari campsite.
Today, we cross the river to walk a trail to another oxbow lake called Otorongo. This forest, which is estimated to be 200 to 300 years old and includes truly huge Ceiba trees and Strangler figs, and it, is home to several mammals that are occasionally encountered: Saddleback tamarins, Squirrel, Spider and Brown Capuchin Monkeys, the Collared and the white lipped peccaries. At the lake a strategically located observation tower rises 15 meters above the lake and the jungle floor, from the top you not only get spectacular view of the lake and the surrounding forest but also excellent opportunities to observe birds from the canopy, this also gives us more chances to observe wildlife including the Giant Otter. Back at Salvador Lake, late in the afternoon we will use the catamaran and with the help of flashlights we can observe the black caimans rise from the depths of the lake and begin their search for prey. Return to the safari campsite.
Once again we wake up early, enjoy walking around Salvador Lake and then pack up and slowly go down stream the interesting Manu River. We arrive at 3pm. approximately to the Valley's Island that belongs to a Native family and it's possible to do a short walk through the forest to observe American bullfrogs, horned frogs, tree frogs and an incredible variety of colorful insects. We continue to Boca Manu's Village, situated a short distance from the confluence of the Manu and Alto Madre de Dios rivers. From here we descend the Madre de Dios River arriving Juan de Dios Reserve and spend one more night at the Lodge in this magical Amazon jungle. Possibility of doing a short night walk.
Around mid-morning or before, we continue up the Alto Madre de Dios River to camp on an appropriate beach in the Cultural Zone if for some chance we cannot arrive Erika Lodge and enjoy the sights and sounds of the jungle for one last night.
Waking up very early, we continue the trip by boat to Atalaya, where the bus will be waiting for us and drive back up and out of Manu, arriving in Cusco very late this night or the next early morning.