Cusco to Manú National Park

This tour offers a rich transect of all the habitats present in the Manú Biosphere Reserve.

Rufous-breasted Chat Tyrant

Peru: Cusco to Manú National Park




15-Day / 14-Night Manú National Park Tour with Dave Mehlman With 5-Day Machu Picchu Extension



Group Size

6 - 10


3.726 mdpl

Peru: Cusco to Manú National Park

Stretching across thousands of square miles on the eastern flank of the Peruvian Andes, Manú National Park and the biosphere reserve that surrounds it encompasses a continuous tract of pristine wilderness that preserves the entire spectrum of Andean slope ecosystems – from high Andean puna grasslands to lowland Amazonian rainforest. Stretching across so many altitudes and habitats, this reserve lays claim to the most diverse fauna and flora of any park in the world: 1,000+ bird species, 160 mammal species, and 4,385 plant species have been recorded in its boundaries with more still being discovered. Due to its unmatched biodiversity and pristine natural habitats, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. By following the very birdy Manú-Kosñipata Road and staying at lodges at different altitudes, this tour offers a rich transect of all the habitats present in the Manú Biosphere Reserve.

Our tour begins in Lima, where nutrient-rich upwellings from the cold Humboldt Current offer nourishment for teeming seabird colonies that include boobies, cormorants, and penguins. After a short flight to Cusco, we travel across natural high mountain grasslands and fields farmed for centuries in search of endemics like Bearded Mountaineer and Creamy-crested Spinetail. Once we reach the crest of the Acjanaco Pass above the tree line, the landscape tumbles downward into progressively taller and wetter forest. Our first stop is Wayqechua Biological Station, where we explore misty elfin forests buzzing with high elevation tanagers and hummingbirds. Then, we continue to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, where lush cloud forests harbor exuberant leks of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, mixed flocks of technicolor tanagers like Paradise, Saffron-crowned, and Beryl-spangled, and brilliant songsters such as Andean Solitaire and Chestnut-breasted Wren. A bit further down still at Villa Carmen Biological Station, we explore spiny Guadua bamboo and foothill rainforest for the shimmery Bluish-fronted Jacamar, adorable Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher, and skulking Manú Antbird.

Finally, we reach the awe-inspiring Amazonian Rainforest: a habitat layered with diversity, complexity, and sheer beauty. Here, we spend four full days soaking up the spectacle of parrot clay licks attended by hundreds of parrots, visiting quiet oxbow lakes inhabited by prehistoric Hoatzins and elegant Agami Herons, watching for brightly-colored toucans and cotingas from canopy platforms, and seeking out large mammals like Giant Otter and South American Tapir. All in all, this tour covers one of the greatest birding roads in the world.

Tour Highlights

  • Visit the full spectrum of Andean slope habitats, including puna grasslands, elfin forests, cloud forests and lowland rainforest, each with their own special collection of birds, animals and plants.
  • Marvel at the timeless lek display of Andean Cock-ofthe- Rock, a spectacle of sound and color.
  • Enjoy over fifty species of hummingbird on this route with such evocative names as Bearded Mountaineer, Shining Sunbeam, Wire-crested Thorntail, Booted Racket-tail and Violet-throated Starfrontlet.
  • Witness the lively congregation of hundreds of parrots, parakeets and macaws at a clay lick, where these noisy birds feed on the mineral-rich soil.
  • Seek endemic birds found only in Peru such as Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, Red-and white Antpitta and Seaside Cinclodes.
  • Be inspired by the biological richness of the Manú- Kosñipata Road, a classic birding route that traverses one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.


As the day begins to heat up, we head down the Alto Madre de Dios River in our motorized canoes to its confluence with the Manú River (about 4 hours). The water from the mountains here is relatively clear, as it winds past isolated Andean ridges and picturesque rainforest landscapes dotted with blazes of yellow and red flowering trees. However, once we pass the village of Boca Manú and the confluence of the Alto Madre de Dios River with the Manú River, the water quickly becomes brown and laden with silt. The river slows to a lazy pace, piling up impressive sandbars that are home to charismatic Pied Lapwing, bizarre Horned Screamer, rare Orinoco Goose and colonial Sand-colored Nighthawk. These boat rides through Amazonian Rainforest are usually exciting and productive, giving us out best chances at spotting raptors such as Great Black Hawk and Ornate Hawk-Eagle, large mammals such as South American Tapir and Capybara, and gaudy parrots such as Blue-and-yellow and Scarlet Macaw.

We plan to arrive at the Manú Wildlife Center in the late afternoon. Accommodations at Manú Wildlife Center are first class; bungalows with an en-suite bath, with spacious adjoining dining and bar complexes.

Accommodations at Manú Wildlife Center (B, L, D)



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