Containing much of the Peruvian Amazon’s greatest flora and fauna, Manú National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the world and allows for once-in-a-lifetime sightings of rare and exotic animals. The park is Peru’s biggest and consists of three parts: the “Cultural or Buffer zone,” where native communities live and tourists can enter unaccompanied, the “Reserved zone,” an area set aside for controlled scientific research and ecotourism, and the “Intangible zone,” the largest section that is strictly for flora and fauna preservation. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Manú offers adventurous travelers lush, untouched Amazon to explore and discover the unmatched beauty of virgin environments and unrestricted wildlife.
With a range of ecological zones within the park, Manú has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. The terrain varies from Amazon forests at 150 meters above sea level, to portions of Peruvian Yungas (moist broadleaf forest) at middle elevations, to Central Andean wet grasslands at elevations reaching 4,200 meters. Likewise, its inaccessibility plays a crucial role in preserving the area and the countless rare and endemic species residing in the park – it’s a true animal and nature fanatic’s paradise.
Some of the most impressive wildlife in Manú are the Peruvian jaguar, macaws, the puma, the ocelot, marsh deer, Brazilian tapir, and the “giants,” which refers to the giant otter, the giant anteater, and the giant armadillo. Aside from these strange but fascinating species, our readers (I’m talking to you, birders) would be pleased to know that there are around 1,000 species in the park – about a quarter of all birds known in South America and over 10% of all species in the world – a mighty impressive number.
To enter the “Reserved zone,” visitors must undergo a lengthy journey (as forewarned earlier in this post) consisting of a scenic bus ride plus a winding boat ride to Boca Manú. Visiting the park in the drier months (May through October) or the rainier months (November through April) does not significantly influence the sighting of certain species, except for amphibians which are more observed during the rainy season. Therefore, grab your binnies (binoculars), hiking boots, and animal field guide and brace yourself for a real-life neotropical Jungle Book experience.