The Manu Reserved Zone is the area of Manu National Park where tourists are permitted to visit, as the rest of the national park is fully protected. Manu is Peru’s largest national park and covers around 1.5 million hectares of tropical Amazon Rainforest and Cloud Forest high in the Andes. Cloud forest is defined as forest penetrated by cloud cover and is one of the world’s most threatened habitats.
Covering such a large area of the Amazon Rainforest (the world’s largest home of animals and plants) on Manu Reserved Zone tours, and when visiting the surrounding Manu region, you can see an incredible amount of wildlife. It is thought that Manu protects a higher level of biodiversity than anywhere else on Earth.
The favorite animals to see include tapir, South America’s largest land mammal, playful and highly social giant river otters, several species of large and colorful macaw parrots, fascinating frogs, lizards, and snakes, giant butterflies, colorful toucans, delicate and intricate orchids, hummingbirds, and the rarely sighted jaguar (seen by around 10% of guests to Manu Wildlife Center). These sightings are then accompanied by an amazing amount of other sights and unique Amazonian sounds.
We will mention some of the best ways to experience this incredible wildlife while enjoying a visit to the Manu Reserved Zone on several different combination tours of the Manu region. Although many people first feel they need to visit inside Manu National Park to see the wildlife, remember that the animals and plants are not contained and are free to move in and among the surrounding rainforest. This means the entire Manu region is home to impressive amounts of animals and plants.
With the restrictions on lodge placement etc. in the reserved zone, some of the best wildlife sightings are actually located just outside the park boundary, for example in the Amarakaeri Reserved Zone of the Manu region. This area is home to giant otter filled lakes, tapir licks, and some of the most attractive clay licks for colorful macaw parrots. Here we will mention both these areas, tours to visit the Manu reserved zone and Amarakaeri area, and provide some wildlife and species lists of both areas to give you an idea of diversity.
The reserved zone around Manu covers around 260,000 hectares and is visited by a much smaller amount of tourists compared to the nearby Amazon reserve of Tambopata. Manu is also the most biodiverse protected area but is further away from the gateway town of Puerto Maldonado. In addition to the reserved zone, the Manu region and tropical forest extends to the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, which is located just across the Madre de Dios River from Manu National Park and connected to Manu by continuous tropical forest.
Although less protected than Manu National Park, as wildlife is free to cross between these areas, it means similar levels of animals and plants are found in areas of Amarakaeri closest to Manu National Park and the reserved zone. Amarakaeri contains all the favorite animals to find in Manu, such as giant otters, jaguar, several species of macaws, spider monkeys, spectacled bears, and many more.
The species lists from two lodges located in the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve and the Manu National Park Reserved Zone seem to indicate a similar species composition, but with a higher level of amphibians and reptiles to find in Manu National Park. However, your chances of seeing larger wildlife, such as giant otters, jaguar, macaws, and tapir will be higher at the Manu Wildlife Center in the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, a lodge regarded by Condé Nast Traveler as “the most intense wildlife experience in Amazonia.”
In addition to visits to Manu Wildlife Center, you can combine the lodge with visits to the Manu Reserved Zone at Manu Tented Camp, as given restrictions of the reserved zone, tourists can only visit the reserved zone for a few days making visits only possible on combination programs with another nearby lodge. Given the incredible wildlife and location of Manu Wildlife Center, this makes a great combination tour.
Established by the same people who wrote the park policies for Manu National Park, at Manu Wildlife Center you can see tapir, giant amazon otters, and have access to an active and large macaw clay lick. The program to combine both the Manu Reserved Zone and Manu Wildlife Center is the Manu Adventurer mentioned above, but you can also combine Manu National Park on other programs.
As the Manu National Park Reserved Zone requires a combination visit, a great way to experience the area is to combine a cloud forest lodge in the Manu region from Cusco, journey down from Andes to Amazon to visit the Manu Wildlife Center, and then combine with the Manu Reserved Zone on either the Manu Explorer program or the Manu Macaws & Tapir program.
Both of these package tours begin from Cusco in Peru and combine the Cock of the Rock Lodge, Manu Wildlife Center, and the Manu Tented Camp. The Cock of the Rock Lodge is located in Manu’s Cloud Forest and is a great place to see capuchin monkeys, hummingbirds, orchids, spectacled bears and the bright red cock of the rock, which is Peru’s national bird.
Differences in Wildlife
The chances of seeing larger wildlife is higher at the Manu Wildlife Center due to the easily accessed clay licks, which is where the larger animals are more easily found. To give an idea on other wildlife differences, here are some general examples of diversity for the three areas:
Lodges for the Manu Region
The above programs are focused on the following three lodges and include a visit to the Manu Tented Camp inside the reserved zone of Manu National Park:
Manu Tented Camp
Manu Tented Camp is a low impact lodge built in the reserved zone of Manu National Park and is located near Cocha Salvador, a great lake to find giant otters and other Amazon Rainforest wildlife.
Manu Wildlife Center
Regarded by Condé Nast Traveler as “the most intense wildlife experience in Amazonia,” from Manu Wildlife Center you can visit the large macaw clay lick, tapir clay lick, and find giant river otters in the nearby lake. You will also enjoy guided tours in the surrounding rainforest to find many different animals and plants, including a diversity of monkeys like squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, capuchins, titi monkeys, marmosets and tamarins.
Cock of the Rock Lodge
Located near the display ground of Peru’s national bird, the Cock of the Rock Lodge provides a great place to experience one of the world’s most threatened environments. Tour Peru’s cloud forest to find different wildlife, including hummingbirds, capuchins, orchids, bromeliads, spectacled bears, and the cock of the rock.