The Reserve of Manu is, for us peruvian, our treasure museum; the showcase of ecology with landscapes traced by wild brushes of nature that preserves the inspiration of its Creator for millions of years.
At 4,000 meters above sea level and with two million hectares, the Manu National Park, located in the departments of Madre de Dios and Cusco, extends like a green blanket of wild rainforests and corners of exultant beauty, inhabited by thousands of species of flora and fauna, alien and distant to the maelstrom of civilization.
MANU THE NATIONAL PARK
The Reserve of Manu is the largest of the National Parks of Peru and, without a doubt, the most diverse biosphere. If we could observe this region from space, we would see that it is a huge altitudinal region that goes from the high Andean peaks, to more than 4,000 meters above sea level, to the Amazon plain, barely 200 meters high.
Manu National Park, is one of the 56 Natural Protected Areas in Peru, with almost two million hectares – half of the surface of Switzerland – and, of course, is one of the few places in the world, if not the only one in which the evolutionary process of the species has not been interrupted or conditioned by the alluvial technological development; reason that justifies the declaration of Natural Patrimony of the Humanity granted by the UNESCO in 1987.
THE THOUSAND SIDES OF THE MANU
The Region of Manu, is located in the south eastern part of the Peruvian territory, east of the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes, comprising territories of Madre de Dios and Cusco, covering representative areas of the High Andes, High Jungle and Low Jungle.
Given its geographical location at the base of the Andes, and the abruptness of its physiography, the Manu presents a wide range of climates and landscapes. From the cold punas, to more than four thousand meters of altitude, to the steamy floodplains of the Amazon.
This climatic variety, together with differences in relief and types of soil, creates a great natural biosphere diversity, both in flora and fauna species.
These rainforests are considered as one of the best preserved territories on the planet; a bank of biological wealth that has a great diversity of flora and fauna (of the largest in the world), having registered more than 800 types of birds, 200 mammals, a hundred varieties of fish and about one million species of insects and other invertebrates.
In terms of wild animal life, the most abundant and diverse taxonomic group are birds, estimating a total of 960 species, which constitutes 51% of the total number of species recorded in Peru.
In the case of mammals, 160 species of the 480 that exist in Peru have been registered here. And in this world of unusual greenery species that are on the verge of extinction survive, such as the cock of the rocks (Rupicola peruviana), considered the national bird of Peru, the otorongo (Panthera onca), the feline that reigns in the Amazon and the black maquisapas (Ateles paniscus), agile monkeys that have found refuge in the trees of the Manu.
THE MANU IS THE ONLY PARK OF LATIN AMERICA THAT INCLUDES THE ENTIRE RANGE OF ENVIRONMENTS BETWEEN TROPICAL LOW JUNGLE UNTIL THE FRIGID PUNAS, ABOVE THE 4,000 MSNM.
Everything is surprising in the Manu: the uncontainable strength of its river, the presence of rare birds such as the paujil, native of the Amazon and similar to the chickens, or the bluish partridge, the largest of its kind; or the simple rejoicing produced by the benefactor shade of the trees, like the cetico (Cecropia sp.) or the screw (Cedrelinga catenaeformis). And also the parade of leaf cutter ants, the fluttering of colorful butterflies (there are more than 1,300 species registered), the stillness of the alligators on the banks of the river or the gymnastic exhibition of the dozens of monkeys that swing in the trees
The Secrets of ManKind
Also the thickness of its jungle hides some secrets of Mankind. The Petroglyphs of Pusharo, with their enigmatic inscriptions and carved figures, located in the Bajo Palotoa or the disturbing stone paths that lead to the ruins of Mameria, are evidences of an extinct culture.
But the wisdom of the human groups lost in the twists and turns of history has been inherited by the Amazonian ethnic groups; tribes that have not been yet contacted. They are nomads, and in their tireless and cyclical walk they seem to preach that it is possible to live in communion with nature.
ANCESTRAL NATIVES OF THE MANU
Several native groups have their home in the remote jungles of Manu, approximately 30 groups. Their history is the history of predation and even of genocide, caused by westerners that begins to invade and overwhelm the forests first in search of rubber, after the fine woods and now, without having left the clandestine extraction of these, extends its destructive radius through drug trafficking, river mining, agriculture, livestock and misunderstood tourism.
Some of these groups, such as the Yaminahua, Amahuaca and Amarakaeri, avoid by their own decision the contact with the modern world, preferring by their own decision to live in the depths of the forests in complete isolation of the world, they are called isolated.
Other native groups, such as the pyro – arrived to this region at the beginning of the century, with the famous expedition of the rubber tapper Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald – or the group of the Machiguenga (the most numerous in the area), yine and harakmbut, are being integrated one way or another to western society.
Some native work as park rangers and collaborate with the protection of the reserve; others, participate in the various scientific projects as guides, motorists or field assistants.
HUNTING IN THE MANU NATIONAL PARK
The administration of the Manu National Park is the only authority that allows transit through the park, also allow hunting and fishing, as long as these are carried out with traditional methods and non-commercial purposes.
Because of this, many of the animals in this region do not feel threatened, show little fear of man and can be more easily approached than animals in other regions.
HOW TO GET TO THE MANU RESERVE
The trip to the park itself is incredibly spectacular and if you happen to visit Cusco, it is another experience that should not be missed either.
Access is normally by road and the two-day trip from Cusco to the entrance of the Manu Reserved Zone. This trip takes you through the mountains at a height of 4000 m, passing through pre-Inca ruins and down through the cloud forest on the side East of the Andes in the lush low jungle.
The roads remain largely unpaved and meander precariously through cascading water, deep gorges and ravines. Manu is really a complete experience.
The most advisable thing is to take a tour in Cusco that can move you, it is a long trip but with several activities on the way that will keep you entertained.
There are differences in altitude between Cusco and El Manu, after it enters Manu it will begin to descend.
TOURISM IN THE MANU
The Reserve of Manu is a wide range of opportunities for tourists. Here it is possible to practice activities of learning and enjoyment of nature by the visitor, and the participation of local communities in order to deploy economic activities that ensure responsible use of natural and cultural resources.
There are three important areas in the Manu:
- The Cultural Zone: In this area there are several attractions and activities that we describe below are possible.
- The Reserved Zone: More commonly known as The Park. It is possible to visit it only with a tour operator
- The Intangible Zone: For the tourist there are no possible activities in the intangible zone of Manu
There are up to five recommended zones for tourist visits within the Reserved Zone, with a high diversity of flora and fauna: Salvador, Otorongo, Juárez, Pakitza and Limonal.
A RECOMMENDED EXPERIENCE: THE VIEWPOINT OF THREE CROSSES
For a spectacular view it is recommended the Mirador de Tres Cruces and appreciate the sunrise, as well as two opposite landscapes: the Andean mountain range and the cloud forest.
This experience it is better to go between May and August, when the sky is clear and allows to see the appearance of the sun twice during the same dawn, due to a phenomenon of nature.
Experiential Tourism & Rural Community Tourism in Manu
30 years ago tourists only went to the Manu to see the flora and fauna. The native communities were totally left out. But, in recent years, this has begun to change notably: the concept of experiential tourism is allowing communities to strengthen and value their cultural identity.
It is interesting to highlight the project Community Tourism Shepitiari is an articulated experiential tourism program that is in the hands of a machiguenga group. Here stands out the Matsichenka-House (or Machiguenga), opened in 1999 and has been operating on the initiative of young community leaders who have had the opportunity to meet serious experiences of ecotourism in various parts of the world.
Birdwatching and Other activities in the Manu
Tourism in the Manu has been developed mainly in the so-called Reserved Zone looking for the observation of animals (birds, large mammals) in contact with the forest, but in the Cultural Zone, it is possible human activity with fewer restrictions, in an area that descends from the Andean heights to the low jungle, passing through the cloud forest. This alternative also allows the practice of tourist and sports activities that are not allowed in the Park itself (Reserved Zone).
For example, we have rides in llama-drawn carts (auquénidos), called “Llama Taxis” that are operated by the peasant community of Jajahuana and offer two circuits. The first runs 15 kilometers between Acjanacu and the Amazonic Mirador de Tres Cruces; the second offers a variable route (according to the taste of the visitor) between Acjanacu and the cloud forest of Manu (Bosque de las Nubes).
ONE OF THE LARGEST ATTRACTIONS OF THE PARK ARE LAS COLLPAS, HABITAT DE BANDADAS DE GUACAYAMOS,
Also, in the Cultural Zone it is possible to practice sports.
Adventure Tourism and Extreme Sports in the Manu
Another option for the daring visitor is to get on a mountain bike and continue its descent through the eastern flank of the Andes, making a journey without steep slopes, along a well maintained road, stopping at will and observing the changing landscape constantly as you descend.
Also, it is noteworthy that in the cloud rainforest of Manu are also the only four tropical rivers accessible in less than an hour from Cusco, for the practice of rafting and kayaking either by professionals or amateurs for most of the year.
You can also perform other activities such as zip lining within the Cultural Zone of Manu National Park.
More information can be found in the Adventure Tourism note in Cusco
Possible Activities in the Reserved Zone (Park) of Manu
For the conservation of the ecosystems and the biodiversity of the Reserve of the Manu only alguas activities are possible in this region:
Bird watching -Birdwatching-, flora, fauna and landscape; walks -hiking, camping, research studies, taking pictures and filming.
It is not possible to enter freely. The authorizations for the entrance to the Manu National Park by tourism are granted only to tourism operating agencies. The taking of photographs or films has a cost.
Services Within the Park (Reserved Zone): shelters, interpretation center, hygienic services, park rangers and radio.
Services Outside the Park (Cultural Zone): Rental of boats and / or boats, police post, medical post.
MALARIA IN THE MANU
The risk of malaria in Manu is extremely low (less than 0.1%). But it is advisable to take insect repellent and protect yourself with long sleeves. You can also take preventive medicine against malaria (check the side effects of these medications and their level of effectiveness). If you wish, you can bring “immediate help” medication in case you have malaria (which is very rare in the Manu, but can be detected by blood tests), you could also get this medication locally. In the Manu forest there is only the type of malaria ‘Plasmodium vivax` that is completely curable
MANU THE TREASURE OF PERU
The Manu will remain a separate world. A world surrounded by enigmas and mysteries that, according to legends, conceals in its entrails the mythical Paititi or El Dorado, the lost city of the Incas, where the treasures of Tawantinsuyo would be found.
Centennial speculation or not, legend born in the first years of the conquest, the only certainty is that the Reserve of Manu shelters an authentic natural wealth that must be respected. It will be a treasure for the men of the future and a delight for men today. It is our great ecological treasure.
BIRDWATCHING: Tunki, the bird that dances in the Manu
In the dense rainforests of the high forest of Manu lives one of the most beautiful birds of Peru. Its name in Quechua is “tunqui” and in Spanish it is “gallito de las rocas“. Scientists have given it the Latin name of Rupicola peruviana, which means “Peruvian bird of the rocks“. It lives between 1,400 to 2,500 meters above sea level, measures about 32 cm long and with a marked sexual dimorphism in color.
The male is of a beautiful intense red-orange color, with orange eyes, beak and yellow-orange legs, an erect crest of feathers on the beak and forehead, black wings and tail, and some pearl-gray feathers on the wings . The female is dark reddish brown in its entirety and with the smallest crest.
They nest in rocky walls, near the water, where they build a nest with mosses, lichens and other plant materials. During the incubation the females are very difficult to detect because of their color, which is mimicked by the rocks and nest materials. They lay two eggs and the nesting season is very broad: between January and September. It is a usually silent bird, that only emits sounds when it is in heat (a kind of grunts) or when it is frightened or away from its territory (a sound like “uankk”).
What is surprising is that during the breeding season the males perform dances with a series of pirouettes to attract the females. When a female has been attracted to one of the males, she approaches for copulation. These nuptial dances are quite a spectacle, because you can see a group of several males performing the dance and the females perched on the branches contemplating them.
Few species have developed such complex methods of exhibition. Jumping and flying between previously chosen branches, the roosters describe vertical and horizontal circles. They stop, they sing and they open their wings. They fly again and show the silver feathers on their backs. But then, the obvious question arises: what do the males offer these females? The answer seems to be, simply, his abilities as singers and dancers. The male who dances better in the eyes of the female “and the one who returns punctually every day to the dance session avoiding prey to predators” will be chosen to offer their genes to the new generations of roosters of the rocks.
Only one of the cockerels is the one chosen by the females as the winner, although nobody can explain it why with certainty. The rest, nevertheless, go punctually to the ‘dance hall’ to join this choreography of colored feathers among the intense green of the foliage.
The tunqui is considered as the national bird of Peru and enjoys legal protection, with prohibited hunting and commercialization; however, this provision is not respected and is sold live or dissected in many places. In many places it has completely disappeared due to the clearing of the forests and the illegal hunting. That is why its conservation is everyone’s task.
They nest in rocky walls, near the water, where they build a nest with mosses,