Founded after the collapse of the rubber boom that endangered a lot of wildlife in the area, Manu was declared a national reserve in 1968 and upgraded to a national park in 1973. The Manu National Park protects over 1.5 million hectares of habitat in the Amazon basin making it Peru’s largest national park. This is Peru’s most pristine protected area and is hailed by wildlife enthusiasts the world over for its breathtaking assortment of tropical flora and fauna. Tourism is prohibited within the park itself, but there is a reserved zone and Amarakaeri Communal Reserve adjacent to Manu National Park in continuous rainforest where you can find exceptional wildlife and tour the most picturesque lakes of the Manu rainforest.
Manu National Park is located across the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios and accessible from the city of Cusco to see the cloud forest or the small jungle town of Puerto Maldonado to experience Manu’s lowland rainforest. To reach the lowland rainforest, you first arrive in Puerto Maldonado and if you book the Manu Wildlife Center or the Manu Adventurer tour, you will be collected from the airport and taken down the Manu River to the Manu Rainforest.
The Manu National Park contains many different habitats, such as the puna grasslands, yunga forests, and cloud forest on the Andes. These tropical Andean forests are one of the world’s most species-rich environments and rival the Amazon for biodiversity. The birds you can find here are especially diverse and it’s one of the world’s must-visit locations for birdwatchers and nature lovers. Enjoy chance sightings of many different hummingbirds, including the world’s largest species, as well as Peru’s national bird, the cock of the rock, spectacled bears, woolly monkeys, and capuchins. To concentrate on the cloud forest of Manu National Park, you can enjoy a stay at the Cock of the Rock Lodge in its own private reserve next to the protected area.
When you descend the Andean mountains, you will reach the lowland tropical rainforest home to incredible wildlife and interesting plants, which is where you find the iconic Amazon animals. Even the lowlands contain a complex mosaic of habitats to accommodate the diversity of species. The Manu region is home to many different oxbow lakes where the river once flowed but then changed direction. These pools of water attract different wildlife, such as the giant river otters, caiman crocodilians, hoatzin birds, and different monkeys that feed on lakeside foliage and fruits. The forest canopy and forest floor then contain their own different communities of animals you can spot as you explore the forest from Manu lodges.
There are different native communities living in the Manu National Park, such as the Amarakaeri, Matsiguenka, Amahuaca, and Huashipaire and even isolated tribal groups deep within the park boundary. These groups only make contact with the outside world to communicate illegal deforestation or mining activities deep within the Manu rainforest.
Animals of Manu National Park
Covering such a large area of Andean habitats and lowland rainforest, Manu National Park is home to an incredible diversity of animals and plants. The area protects over 1,000 different mammals, 120 species of fish and reptiles, 15,000 different plants, and 1,000 different birds, which amounts to 10% of all the world’s bird species. Manu is well known for its clay licks where hundreds of macaws visit to detoxify seeds they have eaten in the rainforest and to obtain different salts. Different licks are also visited by tapir and other animals. Manu also features oxbow lakes home to other Amazon Rainforest icons, such as the giant river otters and black caiman.
You can find some fantastic wildlife within the Manu rainforest. The protected area contains all the iconic wildlife famous for the Amazon Rainforest, including the colorful macaws, giant river otters, toucans, tapir, anaconda, black caiman, and jaguar. Other animals include puma, ocelots, different slot species, tapir, capybara, tamandua, and 14 different species of monkey. The monkeys you can find include emperor tamarins, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, different capuchins, marmosets, sakis, and titi monkeys. The best lodge to see the Manu rainforest animals is located just outside the park boundary and is called the Manu Wildlife Center, which is near a macaw clay lick, oxbow lake home to giant otters, and a hide to see tapir. The lodge is also surrounded by many wildlife trails to spot the different monkeys, interesting reptiles, and colorful birds.
Best Time To Visit
A great place to visit whenever you can, there are definitely some differences dependent on the time of year. The first thing to note is that the regular tours in the lowland Manu rainforest operate over the dry season from April through October and outside of this window you will need to book a private tour. The second most notable thing is that the macaw clay licks in the Manu region are more active between August and October and least active during the months of May and June. Finally, the wet season is between October/November to March/April and is when the forest fruits and flowers. The end of the dry season and beginning of the wet season, coinciding with the most activity at the clay licks, is the recommended time to visit. The dry season is also when pools of terrestrial water shrink, which can concentrate dependent wildlife and make wildlife sightings a little easier. Rainforest trails are also less muddy and there is less chance of activities being postponed because of rain.
Manu Rainforest Tours
The most recommended lodge for the lowland rainforest of the Manu region is the Manu Wildlife Center and our top pick for the best rainforest lodges in Peru, however, you can also combine with a stay in the Manu Reserved Zone on the Manu Adventurer tour, visit the cloud forest at the Cock of the Rock Lodge, or enjoy different combination programs for an in-depth experience of the Manu National Park region.
Manu Wildlife Center
Manu National Park is considered the most pristine National Park in Peru. Manu Wildlife Center is favored for visiting Manu’s macaw, parrot & mammal clay licks as well as touring the incredible Manu lakes searching for Giant River Otters. On Manu Wildlife Center tours, you will stand a 10% chance of seeing rare jaguar making this a good choice to observe the icons of the Amazon wilderness.
Manu Adventurer Program
Fully experience the jungle lowlands of Manu National Park. Visit an oxbow lake with giant otters, Manu’s famous clay lick, tapir lick, and observation platform. Includes two nights at Manu Wildlife Center and two nights at Manu Tented Camp (within Manu National Park).
Cock of the Rock Lodge
Staying in pristine Cloud Forest beside Manu National Park, you can easily see Peru’s national bird, the Cock of the Rock, as the lodge is located right next to the bird’s display ground. On forest walks, you can see Cloud Forest animals like spectacled bears, colorful birds and monkeys.
Manu Bio Trip
This tour combines the Manu Wildlife Center, situated in lowland rainforest, and the Cock of the Rock Lodge in pristine Manu cloud forest. On this tour, you will visit two spectacular sections of Manu National Park as you traverse the Andes to the jungle. Includes visits to the Cock of the Rock display ground, clay licks, and lake tours.
Manu Explorer Program
Travel from Andean Cloud Forest to the jungle lowlands of Manu National Park. See all areas of Manu as you visit the cock of the rock display ground, an oxbow lake with giant otters, and exceptional biodiversity. Includes a visit to the Cock of the Rock Lodge, Manu Tented Camps, and Manu Wildlife Center.
Manu Tapir & Macaws Program
Travel from Andean Cloud Forest to the lowland jungles of Manu National Park. You will stay inside the park and visit a nearby reserve, including a visit to the cock of the rock display ground, an oxbow lake with giant otters, Manu’s famous clay lick, tapir lick, and our observation platform. Includes a longer Amazon experience for the Cock of the Rock Lodge, Manu Tented Camp, and Manu Wildlife Center.