Manu Photo Safari

A relaxed pace tour with fantastic photographic opportunities in one of the remotest areas on Earth.

reberPhotographer: Fabrice Schmitt

Our photo tours are not workshop’s they are Birds and Wildlife Photography Tours. A photography tour is often less hands-on and the guide’s main task is to make sure you’re at the right place at the right time. While you’ll still get photography instructions, you’re more on your own when it comes to capturing the images and you’re more likely to see the guide using their own camera as well.

Our first question to Bird and Wildlife photographers is - what sort of photo tour are you looking for? There are two kinds of photographers and mostly they do not mix - our usual photographers want to photograph birds but also want to look at birds and do some birding.

Photographers often join tours and can be frustrated when swiftly after seeing something for the first time, they are quickly whisked away to the next target, and watch their precious photo-ops rapidly fade away. Our photo tours are for people who want great wildlife photos, not a massive bird trip list.

Throughout our last ten years at Manu Expeditions Birding tours we have recognized the emergence of photographers as a growing community, and have been regularly setting up customized tours for this distinct market, and so are offering these tours to cater for their significantly different needs to dedicated birders. We will use our wealth of experience from operating bird and natural history tours to take you to the very best places to get memorable shots of birds and wildlife.

WE DO NOT CLAIM TO BE THE WORLD’S BEST PHOTOGRAPHERS, BUT WE CAN GET YOU THE BEST PHOTOS

We do have very competent bird guides, and know intimately the behavior of birds and other animals, and therefore where to position you for getting a decent photo. All the guides use a well-maintained method of finding birds, playback, to bring the birds closer in to you where appropriate. That is the simple objective for these tours: to take you to the best places for nature photography, and get you in the best position to get quality wildlife photos. It is not about the guide getting a good photo; it is about YOU getting a good photo.

Local operators like us have local knowledge and know about secret spots where few others come. We are also better prepared in case something unexpected happens and we are in a better position to arrange a unique and authentic experience.

This leads to a smoother, better-organized experience for you and the other participants

In our opinion, the ideal group size is up to 6 or 8 participants balancing tour costs and group size. More than this and it starts getting crowded in certain places but we can ALWAYS organize private tours for smaller groups.

A local birding and wildlife expert will accompany you throughout the tour. Your guide will not only help you identify the myriad of species encountered, but also try and get you as close to the birds and wildlife as possible to ensure good photo opportunities
The Manu Biosphere Reserve has the highest diversity of life on Earth and it is one of the most important conservation units in the world. If you were to choose THE best bird and wildlife photography trip, this must surely be a candidate for the winner!

The highlights of this tour will be many and include: spending time observing and photographing hundreds of parrots and macaws at the amazing Blanquillo clay lick from the comfort of a spacious blind (hide); relaxing as we watch and photograph hummingbirds, colorful tanagers and other species as they visit the various feeders at the lodges where we will stay; great views and photographic opportunities of birds restricted to the forest canopy from observation towers; observing the fascinating behavior of a Cock-of-the-Rock lek from a nearby blind (hide).

This tour has been designed both for wildlife photographers and those who prefer their birding to be done at more of a relaxed pace. Rather than attempting to accumulate as large a bird list as possible during the tour, we will focus on spending more time at selected locations. This will give the photographers amongst the group greater opportunities to capture images of many of the beautiful birds and other creatures that we will encounter. Prolonged stays will give us more time to relax and enjoy observing the behavior of the birds and the wonders of the natural environments in which they are to be found.

A local birding and wildlife expert will accompany you throughout the tour. Your guide will not only help you identify the myriad of species encountered, but also try and get you s close to the birds and wildlife as possible to ensure good photo opportunities

A trip to Manu is a trip to one of the world’s great wilderness areas where wildlife is still plentiful and as well as a plethora of bird species, we should have chances to observe and photograph such iconic Amazonian creatures as Giant River Otter, Caiman, Tapir and possibly even a Jaguar! The whole watershed of the Manu River drainage has been protected forever and we hope you will leave this tour with a host of memories that will last a lifetime!

Day 1:Arriving in Lima, we will transfer to our hotel in Lima to stay overnight. The location of our hotel will vary depending on flight arrival times.
Day 2:We will take an early morning flight to Cusco and then head out south of town to Huacarpay lakes, surrounded by Inca and pre-Inca ruins, where we will have a leisurely picnic lunch. Here we will encounter and have many photographic opportunities with a variety of high Andean waterfowl including Puna, Yellow-billed and Cinnamon Teals, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck, White-winged Grebe and Andean Coot. At this time of year migrant North American shorebirds (waders) may also be present. We will be specifically on the lookout for Wren-like Rushbird, Many-colored Rush-tyrant, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Puna Ibis and Andean Negrito. Birds of prey we may see include Aplomado Falcon, Cinereous Harrier, Red-backed Hawk and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. In the arid scrub around the lake we will look for the endemic Rufous-fronted Canastero and Streak-fronted Thornbird. We should find the lovely endemic Bearded Mountaineer feeding in the tree tobacco, along with Giant Hummingbird and Trainbearers. Peruvian, Ash-breasted and Mourning Sierra-Finches will be here, as will Blue and Yellow Tanagers and Greenish Yellow-finch. In the late afternoon, after some scenic landscape photo opportunities amongst the Inca ruins, we will drive back to Cusco for a night in the old Inca capital. B: L: D (Breakfast: Lunch: Dinner included)
Day 3:

An early start in our spacious bus. We will make a couple of selected stops in the inter-montane valleys specifically for two endemics: Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch and Creamy-crested Spinetail. We will take a delightful picnic breakfast as the sun hits the slopes, watching as colorful Quechua peasant farmers pass by with their livestock. Here we should see and have chances to photograph such species as Andean Hillstar, Andean Flicker, Black-throated Flowerpiercer and Chiguanco Thrush. . B: L: D

Days 4 and 5:

The pleasant Cloud Forest Lodge is situated in the pristine cloud forest of the mountains of Manu; just a few minutes drive from a spectacular Cock-of-the-Rock lek. Blinds (hides) overlooking the lek will allow us a great opportunity to observe the behavior of and photograph these colorful birds during their dawn mating rituals. The lodge also has well developed Tanager feeders, Humingbird feeders and vegetation that attract Hummingbirds and you can get close ups of up to 15 species including the stunning Wire-crested Thorntail and Anna’s Booted Racquet-tail B: L: D

Day 6:

After a dawn breakfast accompanied by the singing of Andean Solitaires and the sight of Paradise Tanagers from the breakfast table, we will spend the day working and photographing our way slowly down to the comfortable Amazonia Lodge, located at an altitude of 500 meters.

Today we will pay particular attention to the stretch between 1500 meters and 800 meters. This Upper Tropical Zone forest has disappeared on much of the Andean slopes in South America because of its suitability for cash crops such as tea, coffee and coca. However, in this part of Peru the forest remains untouched. Other birds we have seen well on this stretch of road include: Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail, Speckle-faced Parrot, Peruvian Piedtail, Three-striped and Three-banded Warblers, Long-tailed Sylph, Lanceolated Monklet, Versicolored Barbet, Russet Antshrike, Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Russet Antshrike, Dusky-green Oropendola, Golden-collared Honeycreeeper, White-winged Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager and many more!

A short boat ride across the Madre de Dios river takes us to the lodge, which we plan to reach before dusk. Night at Amazonia Lodge. B: L: D

Days 7 and 8:

We will spend two full days based at the comfortable Amazonia Lodge. This family-run lodge has a bird list of around 600 species and others are continually being added. The lodge is situated in the transitional zone at 500 meters, where the last low foothills of the Andes begin to flatten out into the lowland Amazon Basin proper. In the lodge grounds there are butterfly bushes that attract various hummingbird species including the pretty Rufous-crested Coquette, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Blue-tailed Emerald, Black-eared Fairy, Wire-crested Thorntail, Koepcke’s Hermit and more. We will spend a lot of time here, relaxing, photographing and observing the wildlife from the comfort of the lodge balcony.

Fruit feeders here also attract a variety of colorful tanagers and also Tayras and Opossums. A canopy tower on the hill enables us to more closely observe and photograph canopy foothill flocks.

During these 2 days we will visit a variety of habitats including floodplain and hill forest. The possibilities around Amazonia Lodge are enormous but some species we will be on the lookout for whilst here include: Buckley’s Forest Falcon, Wattled Guan, Military and Blue-headed Macaws, Pheasant Cuckoo, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Hoatzin, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Fine-barred Piculet, Red-billed Scythbill, Bamboo and Chestnut-backed Antshrikes, Amazonian and Thrush-like Antpittas, Band-tailed, Fiery-capped and Round-tailed Manakins, Golden-bellied (Cuzco) Warbler and Black-faced Dacnis…the list goes on and on!

Mammals we could also encounter include troops of Black-capped Squirrel, Black-headed Night Monkeys and Neotropical Otter.

We will be reluctant to leave this very relaxing and photogenic place, but yet more awaits us in the Amazon lowlands! Both nights will be spent at Amazonia Lodge. B: L: D

Day 9:

After an early breakfast we will depart for our trip down the Madre de Dios River. Just before we get to the village of Boca Manu our boat will pass the native community of Diamante. The culture here is Piro and this is the largest settlement of Amerindians in the area. We will have great close looks and photographic opportunities as we pass beaches with nesting birds and riverside species such as Pied and Collared Plovers, Orinoco Goose, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, as well as many feeding herons, egrets and skimmers. Flyovers will include many species of macaws and parrots, along with various birds of prey. These beaches also host sunning White and Black Caimans and breeding Side-necked Turtles. Hundreds of Sand-colored Nightjars roost during the day on logs and there is a chance of encountering a Jaguar! In 2015 one in three of our trips saw and photographed Jaguar in Manu. We will also see some species of primate on this river trip, possibly Colombian Red Howler Monkeys or the smaller Black-headed Squirrel Monkeys.

In the late afternoon we will arrive at the very comfortable Manu Wildlife Centre Lodge. Night at Manu Wildlife Centre Lodge. B:L:D

Days 10 to 13:

We will spend four full days based at the Manu Wildlife Center. The area around Manu Wildlife Centre has the most forest types of anywhere in the Manu biosphere, which in turn means the most species of birds and mammals. Large stands of bamboo hold many local and much sought-after species. This, coupled with the extensive Varzea, Terra Firma and Mature Transitional Floodplain Forest, means a mind-boggling variety of bird-life.

The lodge has an extensive trail system, designed to visit these different forest types. Whilst here we will spend time at two different canopy observation towers so that we can observe and photograph canopy flocks and wildlife. Birds that could be seen include Sclater’s Antwren, Chestnut-winged and Lineated Foliage-gleaners, Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak and a multitude of colorful tanagers, dacnis and honeycreepers. Some of the scarcer forest species we will be on the lookout for include: Razor-billed Curassow, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Sunbittern, Pavonine Quetzal, Purus Jacamar, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Banded and White-throated Antbirds, Black-spotted Bare-eye and Black-faced Cotinga.

The area around the Centre holds 11 species of primate, as well as Tapirs, Peccaries and much more. There is always even a chance to see and maybe photograph an elusive Ocelot!

Visiting two ox-bow lakes during our stay we we will see and photograph lakeside birds including Hoatzin, Sungrebe, Agami Heron, Silvered and Band-tailed Antbirds, Rufous-sided and Gray-breasted Crakes and Amazonian Streaked Antwren. We may also be lucky and see one of the two Giant Otter families that live in the area, along with the Black and White Caimans.

There is a large mammal lick in the forest, which attracts Rose-fronted and Rock Parakeets, as well as Dusky-billed Parrotlets. As darkness descends, this lick attracts Tapirs, Peccaries, Guans, Curassows and Chachalacas. There is also the chance of spotting a Jaguar here!

On one morning we will make an early start for the amazing Blanquillo Macaw clay lick. This clay lick comprises a 250-meter long section of the bank of the Madre de Dios River, which is 6 meters high at this point. This clay lick is truly one of the world's great wildlife spectacles as hundreds of parrots and macaws congregate at this traditional locality to eat the mineral rich clay that is essential to their digestion. Species that regularly come here include hundreds of Orange-cheeked, Blue-headed, Mealy and Yellow-crowned Parrots, along with other species of smaller parakeets. As the morning progresses, Scarlet Macaws and Red and Green Macaws arrive. Not only birds use this clay wall as a much-needed source of antacids and nutrients. Mammals such as Tapirs, Red Brocket Deer and Colombian Howler Monkey can also be seen eating the clay. Eating clay acts as a source of essential nutrients which are not otherwise found in their daily diet. Also, the alkaline clay counteracts the acidity of the green fruits that they consume in great quantities.

The observation platform (blind), which overlooks the clay lick, is 8 meters high and 50 meters long. The blind has comfortable swivel chairs and is only 50 meters away from the clay lick wall, allowing extraordinary observational and photographic opportunities, especially when the early morning sun illuminates the bank. We will relax and enjoy a hearty breakfast here in comfort, as we watch and photograph the wildlife spectacle! All nights will be spent at the Manu Wildlife Centre. B: L: D.

The observation platform (blind), which overlooks the clay lick, is 8 meters high and 50 meters long. The blind has comfortable swivel chairs and is only 50 meters away from the clay lick wall, allowing extraordinary observational and photographic opportunities, especially when the early morning sun illuminates the bank. We will relax and enjoy a hearty breakfast here in comfort, as we watch and photograph the wildlife spectacle! All nights will be spent at the Manu Wildlife Centre. B: L: D..

Day 14:

Today an early start will find us on our comfortable boats as we take our last looks at early morning parrot flocks. Our journey down the Madre de Dios River takes us past pristine forest until we reach the town of Boca Colorado. It will be a great opportunity once again to see and photograph riverside birds and raptors. Leaving our boat we will take a one-hour ride by local transport to the Inambari River. Here our bus will be waiting on the other bank to take us into the bustling frontier town of Puerto Maldonado where we will catch the afternoon flight to Lima. Night in Lima. B: L: D.

Day 15:

As a complete change and as a final spectacular treat we will take a boat trip around Pucusana Bay, south of Lima, which will allow great close observation and photographic opportunities with such exciting species as nesting Inca Terns, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants and Peruvian Boobies. We will also encounter Blackish Oystercatcher, Peruvian Pelican, Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, a variety of gull species and perhaps Humboldt Penguin. South American Sea-lions are common in breeding groups and we may see Marine Otter. We get very close to our targets and good photographic opportunities are guaranteed.

After a relaxed seafood lunch at a favorite restaurant we will continue to San Pedro and Lurin looking for shorebirds (waders), Peruvian Thicknee and maybe Peruvian Tern, Chestnut-collared Swallow and Pacific Bran-colored Flycatcher. Our last stop will be at Villa marshes, a small nature reserve on the outskirts of Lima. Here we will see Slate-colored Coot, Puna Ibis, Great and White-tufted Grebes, Cinnamon Teal, White-cheeked Pintail, Franklin's Gull, Gray-hooded Gull, Harris’s and Variable Hawk. Wren-like Rushbird and Many-colored Rush tyrant are also here along with Least Bittern. We will then return to your hotel in Lima later in the afternoon before transfer to the airports for international flights home. We will provide day use of a hotel in Lima for relaxing before your international flight, or an overnight stay if needed. B: L:

CAN BE COMBINED WITH THE NORTH PERU HUMMINGBIRD PHOTO SAFARI

Customer Testimonials

Ann & Kim Tomlinson - UK

Having completed the Manu Tour with you we would like to say what an amazing experience we had. Exceeded expectations!! Everyone involved in our tour, driver, boatmen and chef were very professional and helpful. Special mention must go to Danny Vargas, our guide, whose knowledge, energy and expertise made the trip such an amazing experience and so memorable. We have travelled extensively with many excellent guides but have to say that this young man was the best. Please send him our warmest thanks.

Bill Heinsen - Canada

It was just incredible. Everything was so well organized, the staff so efficient, the food excellent, and our guide, I don’t know how he could have been better. I know it is not easy to juggle around the expectations, but he did it. We were given absolute patience in trying to accommodate each of us and making sure we got our money’s worth made everything flawless. {The guide} was knowledgeable in so many ways. You certainly got a gem of a guide when you hired him. The drivers, like all your staff were excellent, and very accommodating. The two men who looked after us on the river were superb. We felt totally safe in their hands. You can be certain that we will recommend Manu Expeditions to anyone we hear of wanting an excellent experience in Peru.

James E. Brown - USA

Thank you for the great Peru trip. I have to give full credit of appreciation to Fabrice, for being such a great guide. Personable, patient, knowledgeable, friendly, sincere, conscientious, giving and caring--and silly. He held it altogether and made it memorable and worthwhile. Kudos to him. You are fortunate to have a great guide and person like him. Well done, Lad!

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Comments

Thank you for the great Peru trip. I have to give full credit of appreciation to Fabrice, for being such a great guide. Personable, patient, knowledgeable, friendly, sincere, conscientious, giving and caring--and silly. He held it altogether and made it memorable and worthwhile. Kudos to him. You are fortunate to have a great guide and person like him. Well done, Lad!

It was just incredible. Everything was so well organized, the staff so efficient, the food excellent, and our guide, I don’t know how he could have been better. I know it is not easy to juggle around the expectations, but he did it. We were given absolute patience in trying to accommodate each of us and making sure we got our money’s worth made everything flawless. {The guide} was knowledgeable in so many ways. You certainly got a gem of a guide when you hired him. The drivers, like all your staff were excellent, and very accommodating. The two men who looked after us on the river were superb. We felt totally safe in their hands. You can be certain that we will recommend Manu Expeditions to anyone we hear of wanting an excellent experience in Peru.

Having completed the Manu Tour with you we would like to say what an amazing experience we had. Exceeded expectations!! Everyone involved in our tour, driver, boatmen and chef were very professional and helpful. Special mention must go to Danny Vargas, our guide, whose knowledge, energy and expertise made the trip such an amazing experience and so memorable. We have travelled extensively with many excellent guides but have to say that this young man was the best. Please send him our warmest thanks.

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