I took my wife and two boys (10 and 12) to Peru and we went on the 5night/6day Amazon tour with Manu Nature Tours. It was a great experience and I recommend it to anyone who seriously wants to see Amazon wildlife.
The Manu Lodge is located within Manu National Park ,a pristine area of rainforest within the Amazon Basin. This is the place if you want to see wildlife. You have the possibility of seeing large mammals, and will at least, if you work at it, see their tracks and markings. The lodge is located next to an oxbow lake. It is of wood construction, screened to keep out mosquitos, and the beds are comfortable. The bathrooms are located about 100 feet away. The bathrooms are not allowed to be in the main lodge due to park requirements. Although I heard they had hot water, we only had cold water while we were there. It's refreshing if you take your shower in the afternoon heat.
Food at the lodge is wholesome, simple, and filling. Breakfasts included breads, eggs, yogurt and fruit. Lunches and dinners consisted of a meat, vegetable, and fruit.
Our trip started from Cusco where we drove nine hours over the Andes to the Manu Cloudforest Lodge. It was very comfortable and we spent the night there before moving on the next morning. Our driver had 18 years experience driving these roads. There were six tourists in our group, the other two a young Dutch couple. We had two guides, Wilfredo Arizabal, and another man named Willy. Wilfredo was our main guide. The drive over the Andes was long but beautiful. We saw birds and drove through numerous villages. Our van was often the only vehicle in the villages. Many of the people around there travel by foot, or sometimes horse. Their clothing and style is like you see in all the books, and it's real, not a put on for tourists. We stopped at one village for a half hour and walked around the dirt streets, adobe and rock homes, and small village square.
We had lunch when we reached the park boundary. When we were travelling, Manu Nature Tours supplied a good hearty lunch. The Dutch couple opted to ride bicycles the downward side of the Andes to the lodge. They complained a bit about the bikes. The tour operator did have to make adjustments to each bike, however, they were minor. The bikes appeared adequate, but nothing special. It is a steep ride down a narrow winding dirt road with many cliffs and dropoffs. I do not recommend it for kids. Once we descended into the cloudforest, we stopped at several points to walk along the road. We saw many small colorful birds and also a puma track.
The next morning we drove a couple of hours to the Madre de Dios River. There we boarded a long narrow, canopy covered boat equipped with a 60 hp motor for a three hour ride to Boca Manu, a small village at the confluence of the Manu River. The ride was very comfortable and we started seeing a lot more wildlife, especially birds ( terns, storks, herons, swallows), turtlesand caimans. The wind was actually cool and we wore light jackets when we moved on the river. The village of Boca Manu was neat. The schoolhouses were nearby, and as we walked along to check out the place, small pairs of eyes peeked at us from around corners. We stopped to get a soda at one place and the woman came out with a capuchin monkey on her shoulder. The monkey was very friendly and my wife and kids had a blast petting it and checking out its fingernails (just like us).
The wildlife multiplied when we moved up the Manu River. In addition to birds and turtles, we saw spectacled and black caimans (one over 15 feet long), capybara (the largest rodent), and red howlers monkeys. We reached the lodge right at dark where we had to walk about ten minutes to the lodge. We were greeted along the way by an aggressive ant species, and spent a few minutes in the lodge foyer hopping up and down, swatting and stepping on the biting little buggers.
We spent the next two days looking for wildlife. It consisted of a four to five hour morning walk, and then a few hours break, and then another walk or rowing in the catamarand in the oxbow lake. We opted out of the canopy tour because my one son and wife were afraid of heights, but we did do a nightwalk. I recommend it. The highlights:
- Finding jaguar tracks, they look like no other cat tracks, and territorial mark scratches on trees as high as 9 feet off the ground
- Tapir tracks
- While in the catamarand, we saw three species of monkeys at the same time. In the lower canopy, there were about a 100 squirrel monkeys, flying through air, and in the middle canopy, dozens of capuchin monkeys flying through the air, and at the top, several spider monkeys flying through the air. Unforgettable. It was a huge trapeze act.
- Seeing a giant river otter with a fish in its mouth
- Dozens of hoatzins, and several king vultures and other brightly colored birds.
- Several snakes, including small false coral and pit vipers, and a seven foot black whiptail that got up close and friendly with me (all non-venomous)
- explanation of the ecosystem and balance of nature. the ants were fascinating. Lots of butterflies, some frogs and toads, and lots of odd insects
- A short walk at dawn by myself
- Finishing a catamarand float trip in the dark, complete with full moon and the Southern Cross
As I said, our main guide was Wilfredo Arizabal. He was extremely knowledgable and great (and patient) with our kids. Tour companies are about people, and Wilfredo made this trip unforgettable. He is a herpetologist, so he's into reptiles and amphibians. We have video of him handling (and kissing!) the 7 foot whiptail.
The morning out we had a delay while they fixed the outboard motor, and then we were off toward Puerto Maldonado. The boat trip was cold, with more birds and caimans. And then we had a jarring one hour ride to the town of Colorado, where we forged another river in a local boat equipped with an outboard motor that strongly resembled and sounded, like my old gasoline lawn mower motor. There we hired two cars to drive us to Puerto Maldonado. Wilfredo rode with us all the way. However, these drivers drove way too fast for the road conditions, and I recommend that Manu Natura Tours hire a permanent service out of Puerto Maldonado that will travel at a reasonable "tourist" speed.
Wilfredo had dinner with us that evening, recommending a restaurant and helping coordinate our airline travel the next day to Cusco. Again, Wilfredo was a great guide.
Some things you should know:
DO bring long pants and long sleeved-shirts to Manu. Make sure your socks are long enough that you can tuck your pants under your socks. Otherwise the mosquitos, sand flies, and ants will have you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bring insect repellants, and expect they won't help that much.
DO bring a hat to keep out the midday sun and also keep insects from making a home in your hair. Bring a jacket. It was surprisinlgy cool in the morning, evening, and during the boat trips. It's really only hot during the middle of the day.
DO bring a good pair of binoculars and camera.
DO bring the right attitude. Things will go wrong. Mechanical parts break, the weather does not always cooperate, and insects rule.
DO bring the kids. They will thank you for it later.
A few things about Manu Nature Tours that could help with the experience:
- They have a bar but it is not manned. Wilfredo was always there, but I only saw the lodge manager once. If I was the manager, I would have manned the bar after the late afternoon tour to provide drinks to guests (they have wine, beer, liquor, and juices).
- One bathroom was destroyed by a falling tree branch 3 years ago and has not yet been repaired. That should be done asap.
- as I said before, Manu Nature Tours should hire a responsible driver out of Puerto Maldonado to transport guests at the end of the trip.
- Their electriciity is operated by a generator. They should consider using solar, which is quieter and ecofriendly. I've seen it work at a lodge we stayed at in Costa Rica.
If you want to see wildlife, this is the place. But give yourself at least 6 days. I think 8 or 9 would be better. Hope this helps.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.