Hilary Bradt, founder of Bradt Travel Guides, reflects on the pros, cons and ultimate ambiguity surrounding cultural tourism.Read more...
This UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve is said to be the most species-rich protected area on earth, with an ever expanding inventory of plants, animals and birds.
Manú National Park, in a beautiful, unspoiled corner of Peru, is the country’s largest protected area and covers a vast 9,300km2 of rainforest. UNESCO recognise it as a World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve and it is considered to be the most species-rich protected area on earth, with an ever-expanding inventory of plants, animals and birds found here.
Less accessible than the rainforest in the north of the country, it is correspondingly more exclusive, and therefore more expensive to visit. Beginning in the foothills of the Andes at elevations as high as 4,200m and then descending and stretching east, the conservation area includes lowland tropical forest and montane forest.
These habitats are home to an exceptional biodiversity; 200 mammal species have been recorded here, along with around 1,000 bird species and over 15,000 plant species so far. Giant otter, black caiman, jaguar, ocelot and various primates are often spotted, whilst birdwatchers will marvel at the macaws and parrots lured to clay licks throughout the reserve by the minerals in the soil.
The park is divided into three zones: by far the biggest, the National Park Zone is strictly preserved in its original state and is off-limits to unauthorised visitors; the Reserve Zone is set aside for scientists, researchers and controlled ecotourism, and access is by permit only and is strictly controlled with all visitors having to be accompanied by a guide; the Cultural Zone is where most casual tourism occurs.
Viewing platforms and observation towers allow you to see animals such as tapir at close quarters, whilst boat trips on oxbow lakes often find giant river otters, caimans and other creatures. Ideal times to visit are during the dry season, June to November.