Manu Biosphere Reserve:South-East Peru

Photographer: Judith Adams

The Manu Biosphere Reserve has the highest diversity of life on Earth and is one of the most important conservation units in the world. If you were to choose THE best birding trip in the world, this must surely be a candidate for the top ten. The beauty of this trip is the variety of habitats visited ranging from orchid laden cloud forest where Spectacled Bears and Cock-of-the-Rocks still live unmolested, to untouched Amazon rainforest where 13 species of Monkey abound and Giant Otters still exist in the ox-bow lakes.

A trip to Manu is a trip to one of the world's great wilderness areas where wildlife is still plentiful and over 1000 species of birds have been recorded. We regularly record 600 species on this tour and often see Jaguar. No birding in cutover forest on this trip! Imagine birding on forest trails with mixed species flocks that might contain over 50 species and bumping into a troop of Peruvian Spider Monkeys around the corner, or quietly paddling on a catamaran on an Ox-bow Lake with Giant Otters and teeming lakeside birdlife!

Day 1:Arriving in Lima our staff will transfer to our hotel in Lima, which will vary depending on flight arrival times.
Day 2:Early morning flight to Cusco where your tour leader will greet you and we'll head out south of town with a picnic lunch to Huarcapay lakes. The lake is surrounded by Inca, and pre-Inca ruins. Here we will see a variety of high Andean waterfowl including Puna, Yellow-billed and Cinnamon Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck and other wetland associated birds. White-tufted Grebe and Andean Coot will be here too. Depending on the time of year migrant North American shorebirds (waders) may be present.
We will be specifically on the lookout for Wren-like Rushbird, Many-colored Rush-tyrant, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Puna Ibis, Plumbeous Rail and Andean Negrito. Birds of Prey we may see include Aplomado Falcon, Cinereous Harrier, Variable Hawk and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. In the arid scrub around the lake we'll look for the endemic Rufous-fronted Canastero and also Streak-fronted Thornbird. We should find the pretty, endemic Bearded Mountaineer feeding in the tree tobacco (Nicotania sp.) with Giant Hummingbird and Trainbearers. Peruvian, Ash-breasted and Mourning Sierra-Finches will be here with Greenish Yellow-finch and Blue and Yellow Tanager. In the late afternoon we'll drive back to Cusco for a night in the old Inca capital. B: L:D
Day 3: Early start in our expedition bus. We will make a couple of selected stops in the inter-montane valleys specifically for two endemics. We'll take a picnic breakfast as the sun hits the slopes and colorful Quechua peasant farmers pass by with livestock creating a peaceful pastoral scene – our target here – the endemic Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch. We should see Andean Hillstar, Andean Flicker, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Chuiguanco Thrush and more.
Our next stop is for the endemic Creamy-crested Spinetail, before arriving at the last Andean pass – Ajcanacu and if it's clear we'll be able to look out from the last range of the Andes over the Amazon basin stretching into the distance, as the Incas did in ancient times, worshipping the sun rising over the endless rainforest. A side stop along the Tres Cruces road may find us Scribble-tailed and Line -fronted Canasteros, the newly described Puna Wren and maybe Puna and Diademed Tapaculo. In the after-noon we will bird the upper limits of the eastern slopes.
Working our way down the eastern slope of the Andes, the forest becomes more continuous and we will spend the afternoon birding to our accommodations at 2800 meters above sea level above Pillahuata. Possibilities are many but we hope to encounter mixed species flocks of Tanagers, Flycatchers and Ovenbirds. Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, Collared Jay and Mountain Cacique are among some of the many species we may find. In the evening we will go to a favorite spot where we have had luck calling in Swallow-tailed Nightjar. Night at the Wayquecha Biological Station B: L: D
Day 4: Depending on what we are missing we may go back to tree line or spend a full day exploring the humid temperate forest from tree line down. We'll start early near our Lodge. Our target birds after a hot breakfast and hot tea and coffee include – the recently, Moustached Flowerpiercer, Tit-like Dacnis, Golden-collared Tanager and the PunaThistletail. As the day warms we'll spend all day birding downhill through the forest looking for mixed feeding flocks that will contain Grass-green Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-throated Tody-Flycatcher, Barred Fruiteater, White-banded and White-throated Tyrannulets and much more. If we are lucky we may see Peruvian Treehunter, Golden-plumed Parakeet or Greater Scythebill. We'll stay again at the Wayquecha Biological Station for this night. B: L: D
Day 5: At breakfast we will be greeted with a varied dawn chorus and Red and White and the occabambae race of Rufous Antpitta should be calling. We will spend all day birding from the biological station at 2800 meters to our next stop at 1300 meters. This is pristine forest on a little traveled road. Some of the special birds on this stretch which we will look for include: White-rumped Hawk, Trilling Tapaculo, Black and Chestnut Eagle, Andean Guan, Scaly-naped Parrot, a wide variety of Hummingbirds including Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Violet-throated Startfrontlet and Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Purple-backed Thornbill, Scaled Metaltail, White-bellied Woodstar.
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, the endemic MarcapataSpinetail, White-throated Antpitta, Barred and Band-tailed Fruiteaters, White-throated Tyrannulet, Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher, Barred Becard, Pale-footed Swallow, Mountain Wren, Citrine Warbler and many Tanagers. Night at the comfortable Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge near Union at 1300 meters. B: L: D {NOTE: If no space is available at Cock of the Rock Lodge we'll stay at the nearby comfortable Paradise Lodge}
Day 6 to 8: Cock of the Rock 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 furnished with a blind (hides) which enable us to observe these colorful birds during their dawn mating rituals. Facilities at the Lodge include 12 large spacious en-suite bungalows with hot and cold running water, flush toilets and two single beds in each room plus several rooms with shared facilities – which room you get depends on how early you book!
Private bungalows have their own private balcony. Lighting is by candle and lantern but there is a small generator available for charging batteries. There is a large dining area and lounge overlooking a feeding station for Large-headed Capuchin Monkeys and Tayra's (a large mustellid related to the Martens). Hummingbird feeders attract several species right in the dining room sometimes including Rufous-webbed Brilliant and Peruvian Piedtail. There is trail system behind the lodge that enables you to see the under-story of the Cloud Forest first hand and facilitates seeing some species not likely from the road such as Chestnut-breasted Wren, Scaled Antpitta, Rufous-breasted and Short-tailed Antthrush's, Slaty Gnateater and the endemic Cerulean-capped Manakin.
Many spectacular waterfalls in the area are far enough away so as to enable hearing birdsong. Orchids abound with c. 80 species recorded around the lodge. One day we'll devote to the 2500-meter altitude zone, and one day to the 1500-meter zone. Possibilities include White-rumped Hawk, Solitary Eagle, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Crested Quetzal, Golden-headed Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Highland Motmot, Black-streaked Puffbird, Blue-banded Toucanet, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, Spotted Barbtail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Uniform and Variable Antshrikes, Slaty Gnateater, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Scaled Fruiteater, Bolivian Tyrannulet, Inca Flycatcher (endemic), Yungas Mankin, Uniform Antshrike, White-throated Spadebill, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Yellow-rumped and Slaty Antwrens, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, Peruvian Piedtail (endemic) and lots more. We will also do some night birding here and we have been lucky previously with Foothill and Rufescent Screech Owl, Rufous-banded Owl, Lyre-tailed Nightjar and Andean Potoo. Nights at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. B: L: D.
Day 9: After a dawn breakfast accompanied by the singing of Andean Solitaires and Paradise Tanagers from the breakfast table, we leave San Pedro at 1300 meters and spend the day birding slowly down to the comfortable Villa Carmen at 500 meters. 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, but in this part of Peru the forest remains untouched.
A spectacular new Tanager to science, yet to be described is along this stretch and we have seen it with several tours. Birds we have seen well on this stretch of road include: Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail, Speckle-faced Parrot, Chestnut-collared Swift, Peruvian Piedtail, Yungas and Three-banded Warbler, Long-tailed Sylph, Lanceolated Monklet, Versicolored Barbet, Russet Antshrike, Rufous-lored Tyrranulet, Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Russet Antshrike, Olive-tufted Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Dusky-green Oropendola, Golden-collared Honeycreeeper, White-winged Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager and much more. We plan to arrive at the comfortable Villa Carmen Lodge in time for some birding and look for the endemic Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher along the way. Night at Villa Carmen Lodge. B: L: D
Day 10: The tripartite international boundary of Peru, Brazil and Bolivia is close and this are is characterized by large stands of Chusquea bamboo and here at Villa Carmen we will be looking for some specialties of this micro habitat including White-cheeked Tody-Tyrant, Flammulated Tody-Tyrant, Large-headed Flatbill, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner, Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Manu Antbird, Goeldi’s Antbird, Red-billed Scythebill, Bamboo Antshrike, White-lined Antbird, Ornate Antwren and Dot-winged Antwren. Scarlet-hooded barbet is here too along with a wide variety of foothill species. After a leisurely lunch we’ll work the road to Atalaya where from lookouts we often see Blue-headed and Military Macaws. Night Amazonia Lodge B: L: D
Days 11 and 12: Two full days at the comfortable Amazonia Lodge. This family run Lodge has a bird list of around 650 species and others are continually being added to the list. 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. There are Butterfly bushes that attract various Hummingbird species including the pretty Rufous-crested Coquette, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Blue-tailed Emerald, Black-eared Fairy and Wire-crested Thorntail. A canopy tower on the hill enables us to watch canopy foothill flocks. We will be birding a variety of habitats over the next three days including floodplain and hill forest.
The possibilities around Amazonia Lodge are enormous but some species we will be on the lookout for include: Black-capped Tinamou, Blackish Rail, the strange Hoatzin, Buckley's Forest Falcon, Wattled Guan, Military Macaw, Blue-headed Macaw, Pheasant Cuckoo, Koepcke's Hermit, Rufous-webbed Brilliant, Bluish fronted Jacamar, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Fine-barred Piculet, Red-billed Scythbill, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner, Bamboo Antshrike, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Amazonian and Thrush-like Antpitta's, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Mottle-backed Elaenia, Red-billed Tyrranulet, Johannis' Tody-tyrant, Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher, Black-backed Tody -Flycatcher, Ornate Flycatcher, Band-tailed, Fiery-capped and Round-tailed Manakins, White-thighed Swallow, Cuzco Warbler, Black-faced Dacnis - the list goes on....! We will have the possibility of night birding here and in the past we have seen: Mottled Owl, Black-banded Owl, Tawny-bellied Screech-owl, Great, Long-tailed and Common Potoo. We will be reluctant to leave this very birdy place, but yet more awaits us in the Amazon lowlands. All nights will be spent at Amazonia Lodge. B: L: D
Day 13:Early morning birding near Amazonia Lodge in search of species we have missed. As the day begins to warm, we will head down the Alto Madre de Dios river in our motorized canoes to its confluence with the Manu River (about 4 hours), and then on for another two hours to the very comfortable Manu Wildlife Center, jointly owned by Manu Expeditions and the Peru Verde conservation group. Accommodations are first class in bungalows with en-suite bath, hot water and with adjoining spacious dining and bar complexes. On the river journey, we will have the opportunity to see some of the typical riverside species such as Pied Lapwing, Collared Plover, Fasciated Tiger-heron, Orinoco Goose, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Tern. Flyovers will include many species of Macaws and Parrots, and this is our opportunity for some Bird of Prey observations. The river trip is a pleasure as we leave the last foothills and enter the Amazon proper. Our boats are roofed with comfortable padded bucket seats. We plan to arrive at the Manu Wildlife Center in the late afternoon. Night Manu Wildlife Center. B: L: D
Day 14 to 18: Five full days based at the Manu Wildlife Center. Situated just upriver from the Blanquillo Macaw Lick with 9 species of primate. There will be the opportunity on one morning to visit the Macaw lick and observe the spectacle of hundreds of Parrots and Macaws at close quarters from our blinds. Here we will see the beautiful Orange-cheeked Parrot, hundreds of Blue-headed Parrots as well as Mealy and Yellow-crowned Parrots. Smaller visitors include White-eyed, Cobalt-winged and Dusky-billed Parrotlets. The rest of the time will be spent birding the extensive trail systems which have been designed to visit different forest types. The area around this lodge has the most forest types of anywhere in the Manu area, and thus the highest bio-diversity - which means the most species of birds.
Large stands of Bamboo hold many local and much sought after species, and coupled with the extensive Varzea, Terra Firma and Mature Transitional Floodplain Forest, this means a mind-boggling variety of bird-life. 600+. We will spend time at a canopy observation tower accessed by a spiral metal stairway watching canopy flocks which include Sclater's Antwren, Chestnut-winged and Lineated Foliage-gleaners, Three-striped Flycatcher, Red-billed Pied Tanager, Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak and a multitude of Tanagers, Dacnis’ and Honeycreepers. Some of the more interesting and unusual species we will be searching for in the Bamboo include - Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Manu Antbird (common here), Flammulated Bamboo-tyrant, Large-headed and Dusky-tailed Flatbills, Peruvian Recurvebill, Dusky-cheeked and Brown-rumped Foliage-gleaners, Ihring's (Bamboo) and Ornate Antwren, White-lined Antbird, Striated Antbird and more. We will certainly look for Rufous-fronted Antthrushe we have located on territory here.
Some of the scarcer forest species we will be on the lookout for that we have seen here previously include: Bartlett's Tinamou, Razor-billed Curassow, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Sunbittern, Pavonine Quetzal, Purus Jacamar, Striolated Puffbird, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Ocellated Woodcreeper, Collared Puffbird, Ruddy Spinetail, Plain Softail, Striped Woodhaunter, Banded Antbird, Ash-throated Gnateater, White-throated Antbird, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Black-faced Cotinga, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, White-bellied Tody-tyrant, Royal Flycatcher, Musician (Ferruginous) Wren, Pale-eyed Blackbird, Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak to name but a few. We will also visit Ox-bow lakes in the area where we will see lakeside birds including Hoatzin, Sungrebe, Agami Heron, Black-billed Seed-finch, Silvered and Band-tailed Antbirds, Amazonian Streaked Antwren, Rufous-sided Crake, Gray-breasted Crake and we may be lucky and see one of the two Giant Otter families that live in the area. Night birding may produce Long-tailed, Great and Gray Potoos, Amazonian Pygmy Owl, Spectacled Owl, OcellatedPoorwill and Silky-tailed Nightjar amongst others. A visit to the large mammal lick in the forest, apart from attracting Tapirs, Peccaries and maybe a Jaguar, also attracts Guans, Curassows, Chachalaca’s as well as Rose-fronted and Rock Parakeets and Dusky-billed Parrotlet. All nights at the Manu Wildlife Centre. B: L: D.
Day 19: Early start on our comfortable boats and our last look at early morning Parrot flocks. Our journey down the Madre de Dios River takes us past pristine forest until the town of Boca Colorado. It will be a great chance to see riverside birds and raptors. Leaving our boat, we'll take one hour ride in local transport to the Inambari River where our bus will be waiting on the other bank to take us, birding along the way, into the bustling frontier town of Puerto Maldonado where we'll stay at our comfortable hotel. B: L: D
Day 20: Early morning birding around the airport and the road to Cusco. We should pick up a lot of new species in these few hours including seedeaters, Red-breasted Blackbird and White-tailed Kite. Other birds we'll be on the lookout for include White-throated Jacamar, Black-banded Crake, Grassland Sparrow, Gray-breasted Crake, Black-faced Tanager, Barred Antshrike, Southern-Crested Caracara, Lesser – Yellow-headed Vulture, Small–billed Tinamou, Rusty-margined and Sulphury Flycatchers etc. Point –tailed Palmcreeper is common. We’ll make a special effort for the range restricted White-throated Jacamar. Morning Lan Peru Airbus 319 flight to Lima (or Cusco if joining post tour extensions) and connecting international flights. B:
Does not include air Lima - Cusco & Puerto Maldonado – Lima but we will purchase these on request – the price depends on when we get your full name, deposit and passport numbers – you can check current prices at, and

CAN BE COMBINED WITH THE TRIPSLima to Cusco Overland: The Pacific Coast, West Slope and Apurimac Endemics, Andean Condors
Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga

Customer Testimonials

Huw Buck - Scotland

I thoroughly enjoyed Manu and the extension and claimed nearly 60 lifers. I thought Silverio the sharpest eared / eyed and most dedicated guide I have ever encountered.

David G. Davis Arlington, Virginia USA

I am writing to express our appreciation and commendations for the outstanding job performed by Manu Expeditions during our recent 2-week tour in Manu Peru. Manu Expeditions made the lodging and other accommodations, provided transportation and drivers, provided birding guides and handled all the other on-the-ground tasks that make for a successful tour. We could not have been pleased more in any aspect of the support provided by Manu. Our guide was absolutely excellent, both in terms of bird finding and identification skills, in handling necessary logistical support, and in dealing with 5 sometimes tired and overwhelmed travelers. Our drivers were both competent and cool-headed, the latter of which is a true survival skill on the treacherous mountain roads of the Manu Highway.

Our vehicles, including our boat and its crew on the Madre de Dios, were first-rate.

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I am writing to express our appreciation and commendations for the outstanding job performed by Manu Expeditions during our recent 2-week tour in Manu Peru. Manu Expeditions made the lodging and other accommodations, provided transportation and drivers, provided birding guides and handled all the other on-the-ground tasks that make for a successful tour. We could not have been pleased more in any aspect of the support provided by Manu. Our guide was absolutely excellent, both in terms of bird finding and identification skills, in handling necessary logistical support, and in dealing with 5 sometimes tired and overwhelmed travelers. Our drivers were both competent and cool-headed, the latter of which is a true survival skill on the treacherous mountain roads of the Manu Highway.

Our vehicles, including our boat and its crew on the Madre de Dios, were first-rate.

I thoroughly enjoyed Manu and the extension and claimed nearly 60 lifers. I thought Silverio the sharpest eared / eyed and most dedicated guide I have ever encountered.

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