DAY 1: CUSCO TO COCK-OF-THE-ROCK LODGE
Our overland journey begins at 3,400m/11,150 ft, with an early departure
from the highland city of Cusco. Today’s destination is the lush cloud
forest region where the Andes fall away to the Amazon basin. This is a
day of scenic drama and striking contrasts. We first visit a mountain
wetland habitat teeming with migrant and local waterfowl, before
crossing two mountain ranges between the Cusco valley and the
Paucartambo valley, to a maximum altitude of 3,900m/12,790ft. Finally we
follow a sinuous ribbon of highway on its plunge through an
extraordinary world of forested cliffs, waterfalls and gorges. We take
leisurely stops to see mountain villages, a hilltop necropolis of
chullpas (pre-Inca burial chambers), and the abrupt ridgetop of Ajanaco,
which marks the final high point where the Andes begin their swoop into
the Amazon basin. In clear weather we will see a breathtaking panorama
of cloud forest and mountain giving way to the lowland rainforest plains
far below us.
After a picnic lunch near here we descend through the startling and
rapid environmental transformations characteristic of the tropical
Andes, passing from grassland and stunted trees through elfin forest,
until we wind through a lush and magical world of overhanging trees,
giant ferns, monster begonias, countless orchids and bromeliads, and a
diverse and teeming birdlife.
We make frequent spontaneous stops, perhaps spotting a brilliantly
feathered quetzal, a trogon, or the wild turkey-like Guan. We reach the
comfortable Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge in the late afternoon, the best hour
to visit the nearby viewing platform for the display ground, or "lek".
This is usually the highlight of a long, full day, a chance to see
Peru’s dazzling national bird, the Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola) in full,
raucous courting display. (Box Lunch, D)
DAY 2: COCK-OF-THE-ROCK LODGE TO PANTIACOLLA LODGE OR AMAZONÍA LODGE
Rising early, we have a second chance to view the Cock-of-the-Rock
display, and then scout for birds, and perhaps Brown Capuchin or Woolly
monkeys along the nearby road. Or we can take a secluded nature walk on
a short trail loop to the river and back. After breakfast we continue
our drive, as mountains give way to low rolling hills and farmland. At
Patria we visit a plantation of coca grown legitimately for the Peruvian
coca leaf market.
At midday we reach Atalaya, a tiny port where the Piņipiņi River meets
the Alto Madre de Dios. Now the lowland rainforest part of our journey
begins. Rivers are the highways of the rainforest, and henceforth we
will travel in large, comfortable dugout canoes shaded by canopy roofs
and driven by powerful outboard motors.
During normal river conditions we arrive at our lodge in time for
exploration and wildlife viewing —which may include toucans,
kingfishers, a rare endemic hummingbird and a multitude of butterflies—
along one of its many forest trails. (B/Box Lunch/D)
DAY 3: AMAZONIA LODGE OR PANTIACOLLA LODGE TO MANU WILDLIFE CENTER.
There is time for another short morning hike on the lodge trails before
leaving early for Manu Wildlife Center.
As we follow the broad, rushing course of the Alto Madre de Dios river
past the last foothills of the Andes, our ever-changing route offers
sightings of new birds —terns, cormorants, White-winged Swallows, and
flocks of nighthawks flushed from their daytime lairs by the sound of
our engine. Splashes of brilliant yellow, pink and red foliage dot the
forest-clad slopes around us, and the breeze is laden with the heady
perfumes of the tropical forest.
We pass the mouth of the Manu river, the gateway to the Manu National
Park. We pause during our journey to stretch our legs and visit Boca
Manu, the village a short way downriver, we visit the boatyards where
local people build the dugout boats so essential to life on the river.
After a boat journey of approximately 6 hours, we arrive at Manu
Wildlife Center, one of the world’s top ten wildlife lodges. After a
reception and orientation we move into our private bungalow and rest to
escape the midday heat.
Later, we make our first acquaintance with the lowland rainforest,
learning about the plants and forest ecology as we explore some of the
30 miles of trails that surround the lodge. We have an excellent chance
of encountering some of the 12 species of monkeys, including the Spider
Monkey and Emperor Tamarin, which inhabit the surrounding forest. (B,
Box Lunch, D)
DAY 4: MANU WILDLIFE CENTER: THE MACAW CLAY LICK, CANOPY TOWER &
TAPIR CLAY LICK.
Another early start (inevitable on wildlife expeditions), is followed by
a short boat ride downstream. We take a 20-minute trail through palm
plantations to a cut-off channel of the river, where we find the Macaw
Lick. A spacious hide provided with individual chairs and a convenient
place for cameras and binoculars is our ringside seat for what is
usually a very spectacular show. We enjoy a full breakfast here while
waiting for the main actors to arrive.
In groups of twos and threes the big Red-and-Green Macaws come flapping
in, landing in the treetops as they eye the main stage below —the eroded
clay banks of the old channel. Meanwhile the supporting cast appears:
these may included Blue-headed, Mealy, Yellow-crowned, and
Orange-cheeked Parrots— and the occasional villain, a menacing and
unwelcome Great Black Hawk.
The drama plays out in first in tentative and then bolder approaches to
the lick, until finally nearly all the macaws, parrots and parakeets
form a colorful and noisy spectacle on the bare banks, squabbling as
they scrape clay from the hard surface. (Please note that the clay lick
is most active from August to October and less so during the months of
May and June.)
We return to the lodge for lunch, and then we continue to explore and
discover the rainforest, its lore and plant life, on the network of
trails surrounding the lodge, arriving in the late afternoon at our
34m/112ft Canopy Tower. On its platform we witness the frantic rush-hour
activity of twilight in the rainforest canopy, before night closes in.
Later we set off along the “collpa trail”, which will take us to the
lodge’s famous Tapir Clay lick. Here at the most active tapir lick known
in all the Amazon, our research has identified from 8-12 individual
600-pound Tapirs who come to this lick to eat clay from under the tree
roots around the edge. This unlikely snack absorbs and neutralizes
toxins in the vegetarian diet of the Tapir, the largest land animal of
Latin America. The lick features a roomy, elevated observation platform
5m/17ft above the forest floor. The platform is equipped with
freshly-made-up mattresses with pillows. Each mattress is covered by a
roomy mosquito net. The 10-m-long, elevated walkway to the platform is
covered with sound-absorbing padding to prevent our footsteps from
This Tapir Experience is unique and exciting because these normally very
shy creatures are visible up close, and flash photography is not just
permitted, but encouraged.
The hard part for modern city dwellers is to remain still and silent
anywhere from 30 minutes to two or more hours. Many prefer to nap until
the first Tapir arrives, at which point your guide gently awakens you to
watch the Tapir 10-20m/33-66ft) away below the platform. Most people
feel that the wait is well worth it in order to have such a high
probability of observing the rare and elusive Tapir in its rainforest
home. (B, L, D)
DAY 5: MANU WILDLIFE CENTER: COCHA BLANCO AND THE WILDLIFE TRAILS.
We set off early for Cocha Blanco, an old oxbow lake full of water
lilies and sunken logs. As we circle the lake on our catamaran we might
encounter the resident Giant Otter family on a fishing expedition, or
troops of monkeys crashing noisily through the trees. Wattled Jacanas
step lightly on the lily pads, dainty Sun Grebes paddle across the
water, supple-necked Anhingas air-dry their wide, black wings, and
perhaps an Osprey scans for fish from a high branch.
Among the bushes near the waterline, Hoatzins, which look like
rust-colored, punk chickens, announce their presence with distinctive,
bizarre wheezing and grunts. Woodpeckers, tanagers, macaws, toucans and
parakeets all finally come swooping in to trees surrounding the lake.
Many of them roost around the lake for the night.
After lunch at the lodge our guide is available to lead us on
freewheeling expeditions in search of further wildlife encounters, or we
may take one of the lodge’s many trails on private and personal
excursions to commune with the spirits of the rainforest.
This evening, from the late afternoon until after Dinner, we offer an
opportunity to search for caiman and other nocturnal life along the
riverbank by boat (If the level of river allows it) (B, L, D).
DAY 6: MANU WILDLIFE CENTER TO CUSCO - DEPARTURE DAY
We leave our lodge very early on the two hour and half return boat trip
downstream to the Colorado Village, the breakfast will be serve on the
boat while you enjoying early morning wildlife activity as we go, of
course this is a perfect time to take advantage of valuable early
morning wildlife activity along the river, in aditions this journey
allows us to see several lowland native settlements and gold miners
digging and panning gold along the banks of the Madre de Dios River. We
will stop in the far-west type gold-mining town of Colorado to start our
overland journey to Puerto Carlos for 45 minutes, then you will cross
the Inambari River for 15 minutes boat trip to Santa Rosa, finally a van
or bus will drive us to the airport in Puerto Maldonado City, in
approximately two-hours and half, from here you fly by a commercial
airplane to Cusco or Lima (airfares not included)(B)
Please note that the program may vary slightly so as to maximize your
wildlife sightings, depending on the reports of our researchers and
experienced naturalist guides based at the lodge.END OF OUR SEVICES
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