Exploring Manu Biosphere Reserve Zone, Peru

The Jungle is as dense and thick as the mind can picture.  Every sensible characteristic is different and quite noticeable.  The air is thick with humidity and welcome to the skin.  The music of the jungle sounds rehearsed.  Take a deep breath, and inhale the cleanest air on the earth.  Pleasant sights of the entire topography remind the interloper of the colorful storybook one favored as a child.  When one can taste the edible flavors of the jungle, all of the other senses merge.   

Manu National Park is located in southeastern Peru and is one of the largest parks in South America.  The area of the park encompasses parts of the Andean Department of Cusco, and the jungle department of Madre De Dios.  Manu protects over 4.5 million acres of territory that are rich in flora and flauna species in a variety of habitats including high Andes, cloud forests and lowland tropical rain forests.

UNESCO officially recognizes this natural paradise as a world heritage site.  In 1977, they designated Manu as a World Biosphere Reserve because it contains the best existing example of biodiversity in protected areas of rain forest, as well as endemic areas of cloud forest.

The majority of forests in the world have been altered by humans.  Fortunately, Manu has remained intact and untouched by civilization.  Thus, observe a variety of animals in their natural habitats, including:  Giant Otters, Black Caiman, Jaguars, Spectacled bear, the Tapir, the Ocelot, 13 species of primates and an estimated one thousand species of birds including seven species of Macaws.

Manu also contains 10 per cent of the world's vascular plant species including several species of figs and palms, as well as countless species of medicinal plants that scientists are current cataloging.  A single hectacre of forest in Manu can have up to 220 species of trees.  While a hectacre of temperate forest in Europe or North America may only have twenty tree species.  


The native people of this small village, before entering the cloud forest, like to laugh.

Waking up to the cloud forest is welcoming.



The butterflies of the jungle abound.  We heard a story about a group of scientists who travel the globe searching for butterflies that have numbers and letters on them.  To date, almost the entire alphabet has been discovered and numbers from one to zero have been fully discovered.  (Above Left)  This butterfly isn't shy when it comes to making new friends, as it lands on the cheek of this girl.  We think it was enjoying the salt taste from her skin.  This butterfly has a natural numbering on it "98", which is quite amazing (Above Right)  These translucent butterflies use their backgrounds to help camoflauge them.  Seeing translucent butterflies was almost like being on another planet.  (Below Left)  This butterfly stopped long enough to welcome a good photograph.  (Below Right)  The Coca plant used much by Incas and early civilizations thrives in this area.



The headwaters of the Alto Madre De Dios river.

Madre De Dios river by full moon.


A spectacular view traveling down river to witness the morning rituals of the parrots and macaws who feed off the clay on the river banks and return there each morning to perform the same ritual. (Above) Scarlet Macaws (Macaws are different to parrots for their long tails) fly by and show off their colors.  There are twenty different spots in Manu where the Macaws go to feed.  In this particular location, one can view seven different species of Macaws and over fifteen different species of parrots.  The birds mate for life, and will usually be seen flying around in pairs.  Long before seeing these beautiful birds, one can hear them from a good distance.


Scarlet's making their morning rounds. This flower is appropriately named: Hot Lips.


The strong Black Caiman is headed for a swim.      This side-necked turtle was about ready to jump.

When trying to predict or rely on a time schedule to view animals, we found it to be the exact opposite.  There is a lot of waiting for a short period of action.  The impression exists that merely showing up in a jungle, one is immediately gratified.  To view nature, one must become submersed in the surroundings.  If one desires the immediacy, then the best bet is to visit a zoo.

Boca Manu after a small rain storm moves through.  Boca Manu is a little village where the Manu, the Madre De Dios and Alto Madre De Dios rivers, converge.


These ants are having a little get together. The horned frog is awaiting his moonlight snack.

There is so information to take in while in Manu, that it compares to cramming for an exam.  While walking throughout the trails of Manu, the eyes simply can't move quickly enough to capture everything.  So, we decided to find a good spot and observe Manu. Take it all in and live it.


(Above left) A fantastic view during the early morning hours on Salvador Lake. (Above right)  This monkey (Black Spider) was just as interested in us as we were him.  Salvador lake is an oxbow lake created by the river changing courses during the rainy season quite some years back.  It is one of the purest, most natural environment for animal species in Manu.  It is also home to the fantastic and endangered Giant Otter.


The Giant Otters of Manu are highly endangered and are in Appendix I of the threatened animals of the world.  There are 300 left in the entire world and we were fortunate to view 5% of them.  Giant Otters live only where there is healthy waters, a rich choice of fish and where the rainforest environment is still intact.  The otters are bio-indicators and allow us to assess the condition of the waters in the tropical rainforest of South America.  Their presence tells us that nature is in balance.



This Giant Otter was not shy and we paid him later for this photo.  Notice the white markings on the neck, which biologists use to identify them. 



The Matsiguemka are one of two native tribes that live in the Jungle of Manu.  They were extremely friendly and shared many of their things with us.  (Above left)  This tribes man is showing us how to play a musical instrument that is a cross between a violin and guitar.  (Above right)  Messing around and shooting hunting arrows these tribesmen have no problem hitting the target from 35 feet.  One of the most exciting things about the jungle is being submersed in it as a way of life.  To fully understand how to open the senses for the jungle the natives are the tempo setters and there is much to learn as there is in any new environment. 

Hand in hand, our group with huge smiles around an a monster Kapop tree.  This is just one side of three around the tree.  It is estimated that this tree is only 400 years old, while its base circumference is well over 135 feet.  

*Feature written and photographed by Phillips, June 2001.  All details regarding names of animals, insects, trees, and other scientific information was provided to us by our certified guides from Manu.  The Manu Biosphere reserve zone has also much information about the native tribes and nearly instinct giant otters.  All information, additionally was experienced by Phillips first hand. 



There is one expert to do Manu with. We found their guides superlative and their entire eco-tourism approach to Manu fantastic. They are the company to work with and we were excited to be teamed up with such a top-notched company. Get in touch with them to book your trip and tell them, GlobeTrotteradventures.com sent you.

Manu Ecological Adventures

Calle Plateros 356, Cusco, Peru

Phone: 51-84-261640 Fax: 51-84-225562

[email protected]

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