Peru

Manu Road

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Along the eastern slopes of the tropical Andean mountains, reaching down towards the extensive lowlands of the Amazon rainforest, lies the Peruvian Cloud Forest. Regular swaths of cloud drift here, covering the canopy in dense mist, giving life to a host of epiphytic plants that grow among the twisting branches of the forest, such as mosses, lichens, colorful bromeliads and orchids. In this more remote part of Peru, some animals like Spectacled Bears, Gray Woolly Monkeys and Cock-of-the-Rocks still live undisturbed.

During our trip we will traverse the famous route that descends from Cuzco to Manu National Park. A well-known route to birdwatchers and naturalists because of its gigantic altitude gradient along the eastern slope of the Tropical Andes, allowing access to different types of forests and the chance to see a great variety of specialist species from the high Andes, cloud forest and bamboo thicket. During this tour we will stay in a selection of biological stations and nature-friendly lodges.

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ITINERARY SUMMARY

Day 1: Cuzco to Wayqecha

Day 2 and 3: Wayqecha

Day 4: Wayqecha to Cock-of-the-rock Lodge

Day 5: Cock-of-the-rock Lodge

Day 6: Cock-of-the-rock Lodge to Villa Carmen Biological Station

Day 7 and 8: Villa Carmen Biological Station

Day 9: Return to Cuzco

 

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Traversing the world-famous Manu Road
  • A myriad of specialist and endemics species of the high Andes, cloud forest and bamboo thickets
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THIS TOUR?
  • Accommodation at the listed hotel or similar (confirmation of final hotel when booking)
  • All meals
  • Private transport in comfortable van
  • Entrance fees to all mentioned reserves
  • Specialist bilingual birding guide
What is not included in this tour?
  • Vuelo Santiago – Cuzco – Santiago
  • Seguro de viajes
  • Bebidas (alcohólicas y no alcohólicas)
  • Platos a la carta
  • Gastos de transferencia
  • Cargo por exceso de equipaje
  • Noches adicionales
  • Cualquier ítem no mencionado arriba o en el itinerario
  1. Day 1: Cuzco to Wayqecha

    Our first stop of the trip will be the Huarcapay lagoon, surrounded by Inca and pre-Inca ruins. Here we will observe a variety of typical aquatic birds of the high Andean environment, such as: Puna Teal, Yellow-billed Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail and Andean Duck, White-tufted Grebe and Andean Coot.

    In the arid scrub surrounding the lagoon, we will look for the first endemics of the trip, the Rusty-fronted Canastero and the beautiful Bearded Mountaineer, feeding among the Tobacco trees. In this area we will also be looking for Rufous-breasted Thornbird, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Mourning Sierra-Finch, Greenish Yellow-finch and Blue and Yellow Tanager.

    Making a few stops in the inter-montane environment we will look for Andean Hillstar, Andean Flicker, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Chiguanco Thrush, as well as the stunning endemic Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch. Lunch will be had at a nice spot along the way.

    Our next stop will be before reaching the last Andean pass Ajcanacu, where we will look for another endemic, Creamy-crested Spinetail. If we are lucky and it is clear, we will be able to look out over the Andes and across into the Amazon basin, which stretches into the distance, just as the Incas did in ancient times, worshiping the sun that rises over the endless jungle.

    Along the Tres Cruces road, we could find two Canasteros, Scribble-tailed and Line-fronted, along with the recently described Puna Wren. Here we can also search for Puna and Diademed Tapaculo.

    After reaching the upper limits of the eastern slopes, we will begin our slow descent along the winding forested route that leads to Manu Park. Soon after we start the descent the continuous forest begins. The high grasslands give way to the cloud forest, where our accommodation, Wayqecha Biological Station (”brother” in Quechua), is located. We will spend the afternoon birding around our accommodation at 2,800 m, near Pillahuata. Mixed flocks of Tanagers, Flycatchers and Ovenbirds abound. Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, Collared Jay and Mountain Cacique are some of the many species we can enjoy.

    Night at the Wayquecha Biological Station

  2. Day 2 and 3: Wayqecha

    Our accommodation is located within a 587 hectare reserve, which has an extensive and well-maintained trail system for exploring the forest. With just under 450 bird species on its list, an orchid garden, hummingbird feeders and a walkway over the canopy, Wayqecha provides top-notch birding in the Cloud Forest.

     

    The station has a central building, where the dining room is located, well-equipped cabins with private bathrooms and showers with hot water.

     

    This is a great place to look for the endemic Red-and-white Antpitta and Marcapata Spinetail. We will also be paying close attention to movement in the understory, since at any moment some of the large mammals that live in the reserve could appear, such as Spectacled bear, jaguar, puma, ocelots, and monkeys. Depending on what we have seen so far, we can return to the edge of the forest further up, or spend a full day exploring the temperate rainforest from below the station.

     

    The next day after breakfast, we will start birding near the station. Out main targets will be Moustached Flowerpiercer, Tit-like Dacnis, Golden-collared Tanager and Puna Thistletail. As the temperature rises, we will spend time looking for mixed flocks in the forest, which could include Grass-green Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-throated Tody-Flycatcher, Barred Fruiteater, White-banded and White-throated Tyrannulets, and many more. With some luck we may also find Peruvian Treehunter, Golden-plumed Parakeet or Greater Scythebill.

    Nights at Wayquecha Biological Station.

  3. Day 4: Wayqecha to Cock-of-the-rock Lodge

    At breakfast we will be greeted by a great chorus of varied songs, including Red-and-white and Rufous Antpittas. We will spend the day birding between the biological station at 2800 meters and our next accommodation at 1300 meters. This section of the forest remains pristine and the road has little traffic. Some of the interesting birds on this section of the route include: White-rumped Hawk, Trilling Tapaculo, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Andean Guan, and Scaly-naped Parrot. Among the many hummingbirds to be seen, there are Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Violet-throated Startfrontlet, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Purple-backed Thornbill, Scaled Metaltail, and White-bellied Woodstar. Other interesting species that we can see today are Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Bar- bellied Woodpecker, the endemic Marcapata Spinetail, 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 many Tanagers.

    Night at the comfortable Cock-of-the Rock Lodge near the town of Union, 1300 meters.

  4. Day 5: Cock-of-the-rock Lodge

    Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge is located at almost half the elevation than Wayquecha. It’s surrounded by lush montane forest, protected within a 5000 ha reserve, with a staggering total of 685 species of birds have been recorded. As the name implies, the fabulous Cock-of-the-Rock are common in the area, with an accessible lek just a few kilometers from the Lodge, allowing us to observe these majestic birds in their boisterous mating rituals at dawn. This Lodge has a central building where the dining room and bar are located, it has 12 large bungalows, each with a private bathroom and hot showers. The lighting is by candles in the bungalows, and has limited electricity for charge batteries and phones.

    The is a feeding station located in front of the dining room, where Brown Capuchin Monkeys, the impressive Tayra (a large mustelid related to otters), and numerous colorful Tanagers are regular visitors. Hummingbird feeders attract various species, including Rufous-webbed Brilliant and Peruvian Piedtail, among others.

    The Lodge maintains a network of trails to explore the surrounding forest, in which there is a bamboo area where we will look for some of the specialist birds of this type of vegetation. The understory along the trails here will be key in searching for some unlikely species in other areas, such as Chestnut-breasted Wren, Scaled Antpitta, Rufous-breasted and Short-tailed Antthrushs, Slaty Gnateater, and the endemic Cerulean-capped Manakin.

    Other interesting species in the area 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, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Scaled Fruiteater, Bolivian Tyrannulet, Inca Flycatcher (endemic), Yungas Mankin, Uniform Antshrike, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Yellow-rumped and Slaty Antwrens, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, Peruvian Piedtail (endemic), and many more. After dark we will take walk to look for some nocturnal birds such as Foothill and Rufescent Screech Owls, Rufous-banded Owl, Lyretailed Nightjar, and Andean Potoo.

    Night at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge.

  5. Day 6: Cock-of-the-rock Lodge to Villa Carmen Biological Station

    During breakfast, at dawn, we will be accompanied by the singing of Andean Solitaires and Paradise Tanagers. Then, we will continue our journey descending slowly, from San Pedro at 1,300 meters of altitude, to the comfortable Villa Carmen Lodge at 500 meters. We will pay particular attention to the section of forest between 1500 meters and 800 meters. This type of upper tropical forest has largely disappeared from the slopes of the Andes in South America due to its suitability for cash crops such as tea, coffee and cocoa, but in this part of Peru it has still remained. intact.

    Some of the birds that we will look for in this section of the route will be Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail, Speckle-faced Parrot, Chestnut-collared Swift, Peruvian Piedtail, Yungas and Threebanded Warblers, 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, Duskygreen Oropendola, Golden-collared Honeycreeeper, White-winged Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, and many more.

    We will arrive at the comfortable Villa Carmen in time to look for more birds, including the endemic Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher

    Night at Villa Carmen Bird Lodge.

  6. Day 7 and 8: Villa Carmen Biological Station

    Last but not least, the Villa Carmen Biological Station, covering 3000 ha, is within the Manu Biosphere Reserve, and extends from 1200 to 550 m, with the last foothill rainforest before giving way to the vast Amazon rainforest of the lowlands. This station has an extensive 35km trail system, which covers grasslands, young secondary forest, mature forest, streams, waterfalls, the Pini Pini river, and over 450 bird species have been recorded. The station also has a laboratory where interesting research is carried out, in addition to running a sustainable agriculture and fish farm program.

    This area is characterized by its large Chusquea bamboo forests and will spend quite some time in this habitat at Villa Carmen. We will be looking for bamboo specialist species, 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.

    This reserve is also a good place to look for Scarlet-hooded Barbet, along with a wide variety of foothill forest species. And the lookout at Atalaya is a great vantage point to from where Blue-headed and Military Macaws are often seen.

    Nights at Villa Carmen Lodge.

  7. Day 9: Return to Cuzco

    Before heading back towards Cuzco, we will take some time this morning to explore nearby trails for any species we still may be missing. On our journey uphill, we will stop along the way to enjoy our Box Lunch, and have time to make other stops for any missing species we didn’t spot on our way down.

    Arriving in Cuzco we will drop you off at your hotel or airport depending on your plans.