Manu National Park – Where the Wild Things Are



It’s home to over 15,000 species of plants, over 1,000 species of birds, 1,300 species of butterfly, and a handful of species so exotic, they haven’t even been named yet.

The location of this off-the-charts level of biodiversity is Manu National Park, located in southeastern Peru.

It’s home to over 15,000 species of plants, over 1,000 species of birds, 1,300 species of butterfly, and a handful of species so exotic, they haven’t even been named yet.

One of the reasons for Manu’s exceptional biodiversity is simply its size, over 6,500 square miles—slightly bigger than Connecticut. Another is its topographical diversity. The park contains 14 distinctive ecosystems, but can essentially be divided into two sections: the mountains and the lowlands.

The mountainous area can reach altitudes up to 13,000 feet, while the lowland area includes part the floor of the Amazon basin.

Manu National Park was established in 1973, and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Nature lovers are drawn to Manu by the possibility of citing jaguars, pumas, tapirs, giant armadillos, a whole host of monkeys, spectacled bears, macaws, Andean condors, caimans and anacondas. Well, maybe not so much that last one.

There are some parts of Manu that are open to visitors. First and foremost is the cultural zone, which is located near the edges of the park. It’s home to the Manu Learning Center, as well as several indigenous peoples, who operate eco-lodges, where visitors can stay. Deeper into the park is the reserved zone, where you need a permit to enter, though there is an eco-lodge there, as well as several campsites. Because the travel time to reach this deep into Manu is significant, it is recommended you spend at least a week here.\ The restricted zone is off-limits, save for scientists with special permits. Many tour operators offer Manu tours from 2-8 days. Most leave out of Cusco. A quick online search will give you plenty of options. 

For the chance to see nature at its most diverse—from the Amazon, to the Andes—Manu National Park is a rare and glorious opportunity.