Both the Pacaya Samiria and Manu rainforest of Peru contain incredible wildlife opportunities and provide a fantastic experience of the Amazon Rainforest. These are two of the largest protected areas of the Peruvian Amazon and protect a fantastic amount of animals and plants, including the iconic Amazon animals, such as giant otters, macaw parrots, jaguar, and a high diversity of monkeys.
Not only offering some of the best wildlife viewing in the Amazon, both the Pacaya Samiria and Manu contain some of the favorite Amazon Rainforest tours widely praised by a multitude of travel publications.
So with these protected areas, do you choose the Pacaya Samiria or Manu for your experience of this incredible tropical forest? First we will introduce these areas, their differences, and where to access the forest. We will then provide the best tours to experience both the Pacaya Samiria and Manu Amazon Rainforest so you can make the most of the Amazon and its incredible wildlife.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is a tropical flooded forest accessed from Iquitos in northern Peru. Iquitos is the world’s largest city unreachable by road and is the gateway to Peru’s northern Amazon Rainforest, such as the Pacaya.
Covering 2,080,000 hectares, the Pacaya Samiria is the largest protected area of flooded Amazon Rainforest. Containing many different waterways, the Pacaya protects thousands of different plants, 527 different types of birds, over 100 different mammals, over 100 species of amphibians and reptiles, and hundreds of types of fish.
Because this is a very large flooded tropical forest, to experience the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve we recommend one of the different highly regarded Amazon Rainforest cruises, such as the Perla (longer itineraries cruise into Pacaya Samiria Reserve).
To enjoy the Amazon in luxurious comfort, we then recommend the top of the line luxury cruises of the Zafiro Amazon Cruise, Delfin I or Delfin II. Aboard the Delfin I or Delfin II, you will cruise in luxury, enjoy gourmet cuisine, fantastic service and excellent guiding, which really compliments the incredible wildlife experiences and vistas of the Pacaya.
The Delfin II
The Delfin II Cruise has 14 large and comfortably designed suites, which includes four larger Master Suites at the front of the vessel with 180° panoramic windows to watch as you voyage deep in the Pacaya Samiria. The other ten luxurious suites then contain four suites that can be interconnected to cater for families.
The large picture windows in your suite mean you can enjoy simply relaxing on your bed with luxuriously linen watching the rainforest pass by. You will then enjoy gourmet breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in the dining room, relaxing drinks in the bar, fascinating books in the library, and of course incredible wildlife excursions throughout the day to find the Pacaya Samiria’s animals and plants.
The Delfin I
The Delfin I then offers a lot more exclusivity and space than its sister ship the Delfin II. With only four over-sized suites, space about this luxury floating boutique hotel is at a premium with two of the suites fitted with their own cool-water whirlpool.
All of the four suites then offer panoramic terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows helping you keep connected with the surrounding pristine rainforest. Cabin service is provided three times each day to ensure you are treated to personalized service. The top deck then features the lounge area, bar and entertainment center.
Manu National Park
Manu National Park covers about the same land area of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve at 1,716,295 hectares, but differing from the Pacaya, the forest of Manu also contains forest of the Andean mountains. Because of the transitional environments of the Andes to lowland rainforest, the Manu region contains a higher level of wildlife.
The Manu National Park protects around 20,000 different plants, over 200 different mammals, 240 amphibians and reptiles, 1,000 bird species, and around 200 different fish. This translates to around double the diversity of life in roughly the same area as the Pacaya Samiria.
To access the lowland Manu rainforest, you will land in the small Amazon town of Puerto Maldonado in southern Peru. From here you will be taken towards the Manu region. Although visitors are not permitted inside the Manu National Park itself, the surrounding rainforest, such as the reserve zone or Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, contains a very similar amount of wildlife. This is because the animals and plants are free to move around the continuous forest surrounding the national park.
The main lodge to consider if you are thinking of visiting the Manu rainforest is the Manu Wildlife Center, a lodge regarded as one of the most intense wildlife experiences in Amazonia by Conde Nast Traveler.
No other lodge in the Amazon offers such a high chance of seeing some of the Amazon’s most iconic animals. For example, you will be close to two large macaw clay licks where large brightly colored parrots flock to feed from medicinal clay. The lodge is also closeby to a tapir lick, where you will wait to catch sight of the largest land mammal in South America. In addition, you will tour the different oxbow lakes to find giant otters and even stand a 10% chance of spotting wild jaguar.
In addition to exploring the Manu rainforest from the Manu Wildlife Center, you can also combine with the Manu cloud forest on the Peruvian Andes at the Cock of the Rock Lodge. Here you can find fascinating plants, capuchin monkeys, hummingbirds, the Cock of the Rock, and many more birds. To get close to Manu National Park, you can also combine the Manu Tented Camp inside the Reserved Zone of Manu on the Bio Trip tour, regarded as one of the most incredible wildlife experiences in South America.
Pacaya Samiria or Manu
With this information in mind, the Pacaya Samiria is a great place to visit if you’re interested in an Amazon Cruise and the best place if you want to maximize the balance between luxury or comfort and incredible wildlife.
If you are focused on seeing as much incredible wildlife as possible, and as many of the icons of Amazonia as possible, then we recommend the Manu rainforest and especially the Manu Wildlife Center. In addition to the Manu Wildlife Center, you can combine with the Manu Cloud Forest and / or the Manu Tented Camp inside the Reserved Zone of Manu National Park on different Manu tour programs.