Explore the cosmopolitan Cusco city also named Navel of the World and then begin a journey that combines a spectacular descent through mountainous cloud forest from Andes to Amazon, crossing an extraordinary range of life zones from highlands to lowlands, taking you through a range of ecosystems found nowhere else on the planet in such close proximity.
After clearing customs, walk across the sky bridge to the comfortable Costa Del Sol Wyndham Hotel to check in for the evening.
After the short flight to Cusco, take some time to relax and adjust to the altitude. Next, it’s time to take a private guided walking tour to see and experience Cusco first hand. Your perfect English-speaking guide will help you explore and discover the Inca capital. Wander through this city of terra-cotta roofs, cobblestone streets, and colorful markets and visit the stunning bohemian area of San Blas, meeting the locals and taking in some of the key sites in Cusco as well as some off the beaten track.
Breakfast, box lunch, dinner
Your overland journey begins at 11,150 feet with an early departure from the highland city of Cusco. Today’s destination is the lush cloud forest region where the Andes fall away to the Amazon basin. This is a day of scenic drama and impressive contrasts. You first visit a mountain wetland habitat brimming with migrant and local waterfowl, before crossing two mountain ranges between the Cusco and the Paucartambo valley, to a maximum altitude of 12,790 feet. Finally, you follow a sinuous ribbon of highway on its plunge through an extraordinary world of forested cliffs, waterfalls and gorges. Leisure stops will be taken to see mountain villages, a hilltop necropolis of chullpas (pre-Inca burial chambers), and the abrupt ridgetop of Ajanaco, which marks the final high point where the Andes begin their descent into the Amazon basin. In clear weather you can see a breathtaking panorama of cloud forest and mountain giving way to the lowland rainforest plains far below.
After a picnic lunch nearby, descend through the startling and rapid environmental transformations characteristic of the tropical Andes, passing from grassland and stunted trees through elfin forest, until you wind through a lush and magical world of overhanging trees, giant ferns, monster begonias, countless orchids and bromeliads, and a diverse and teeming birdlife. Frequent spontaneous stops will be made to perhaps spott a brilliantly feathered quetzal, a trogon, or the wild turkey-like Guan. You will finally reach the comfortable Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge in the late afternoon, the best hour to visit the nearby viewing platform for the display ground, or “lek”. This is usually the highlight of a long, full day and a chance to see Peru’s dazzling national bird, the Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruvianus), in full courting display.
Breakfast, box lunch, dinner
You will have an early rise in order to have a second chance to spot the Cock-of-the-Rock display, and then scout for birds, and perhaps Brown Capuchin or Woolly monkeys along the nearby road. Or you can take a secluded nature walk on a short trail loop to the river and back. After breakfast you continue your drive, as mountains give way to low rolling hills and farmland. At Patria, visit a plantation of coca grown legitimately for the Peruvian coca leaf market.
Reach Atalaya at midday, a tiny port where the Piñipiñi River meets the Alto Madre de Dios. Now the lowland rainforest part of your journey begins. Rivers are the highways of the rainforest, and henceforth you will travel in large, comfortable dugout canoes shaded by canopy roofs and driven by powerful outboard motors. During normal river conditions you will arrive at the lodge in time for exploration and wildlife viewing – which may include toucans, kingfishers, a rare endemic hummingbird and a multitude of butterflies — along one of its many forest trails.
Breakfast, box lunch, dinner
Another early rise will be necessary to have the opportunity of another short morning hike on the lodge trails before leaving early for Manu Wildlife Center.
As you follow the extensive, rushing course of the Alto Madre de Dios river past the last foothills of the Andes the ever-changing route offers sightings of new birds — terns, cormorants, White-winged Swallows, and flocks of nighthawks flushed from their daytime lairs by the sound of the engine. Splashes of brilliant yellow, pink and red foliage dot the forest-clad slopes around us, and the breeze is laden with the stimulating perfumes of the tropical forest.
Finally pass the mouth of the Manu river, the gateway to the Manu National Park, and a necessary pause will be made to stretch your legs and visit Boca Manu, the village a short way downriver. Visit the boatyards where local people build the dugout boats so essential to life on the river.
After a boat journey of approximately 6 hours, you will finally arrive at one of the world’s top ten wildlife lodges, the Manu Wildlife Center. After a warm reception and orientation, move into your private bungalow and rest to escape the midday heat.
Later, make your first acquaintance with the lowland rainforest, learning about the plants and forest ecology as you explore some of the 30 miles of trails that surround the lodge where you will have an excellent chance to encounter some of the 12 species of monkeys, including the Spider Monkey and Emperor Tamarin, which inhabit the surrounding forest.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
After another early start (inevitable on wildlife expeditions), you will walk through the forest for some minutes and then find the Macaw Lick project. The hide provided with individual chairs and a convenient place for cameras and binoculars to a distance of 15 meters. In groups of two and three the scarlet Macaws come flapping in, landing in the treetops as they eye the main stage below. After this you continue exploring and discovering the rainforest, its lore and plant life, on the network of trails surrounding the lodge then return for a delicious lunch.
In the afternoon you visit the 34m/112 ft Canopy Tower and on its platform you will be able to witness the frantic rush-hour activity of twilight in the rainforest canopy, before night closes in. Then you set off along the “collpa trail”, which will take you to the lodge’s famous Tapir Clay lick. Here at the most active tapir lick known in the entire Amazon, the research has identified from 8-12 individual 600-pound Tapirs who come to this lick to eat clay from under the tree roots around the edge. This unlikely snack absorbs and neutralizes toxins in the vegetarian diet of the Tapir, the largest land animal of Latin America. The lick features a roomy, elevated observation platform 5m/17ft above the forest floor. The platform is equipped with freshly made up mattresses with pillows. Each mattress is covered by a roomy mosquito net. The 10-m-long, elevated walkway to the platform is covered with sound-absorbing padding to prevent the footsteps from making noise. This Tapir experience is unique and exciting because these normally very shy creatures are visible up close, and flash photography is not just permitted, but encouraged. The hard part for modern city dwellers is to remain still and silent anywhere from 30 minutes to two or more hours. Many prefer to nap until the first Tapir arrives, at which point your guide gently awakens you to watch the Tapir 10-20m/33-66ft) away below the platform. Most people feel that the wait is well worth it in order to have such a high probability of observing the rare and elusive Tapir in its rainforest home.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Set off early for an old oxbow lake. The Peruvian Amazon has a plethora of these lakes and they provide habitats for a wide variety of different wildlife species. As you circle the lake on the catamaran, you might encounter the resident giant otter family on a fishing expedition, or troops of monkeys crashing noisily through the trees. Wattled Jacanas and dainty Sun Grebes paddle across the water, supple-necked Anhingas air-dry their wide, black wings, and perhaps an osprey scans for fish from a high branch. Among the bushes near the waterline, hoatzins, which look like rust-colored, punk chickens, announce their presence with distinctive, bizarre wheezing and grunts. Woodpeckers, tanagers, macaws, toucans and parakeets all finally come swooping in to trees surrounding the lake. Many of them roost around the lake for the night.
After lunch at the lodge the guide is available to lead you on freewheeling expeditions in search of further wildlife encounters, or you may take one of the lodge’s many trails on private and personal excursions to commune with the spirits of the rainforest. This evening, from the late afternoon until after dinner, you have an opportunity to search for caiman and other nocturnal life along the riverbank by boat (if the level of river allows it)
Depart the lodge very early on the two-hour and a half return boat trip downstream to the Colorado Village. Depending upon the time you must be in Puerto Maldonado for your flight, the breakfast will be served at the lodge or on the boat, this is a perfect time to take advantage of valuable early morning wildlife activity along the river, in addition this journey allow you to see several lowland native settlements and gold miners digging and panning gold along the banks of the Madre de Dios River. A stop will be made in the far-west type gold-mining town of Colorado to start the overland journey to Puerto Carlos for 45 minutes, then you will cross the Inambari River for 10 minutes’ boat trip to Santa Rosa, finally a van or bus will drive you in approximately two-hours and a half to the airport in Puerto Maldonado City. Fly return to Cusco, Lima or to your next destination.
NOTE: Beginning 02 March 2017 Bolivia and Brasil are requesting that all passengers must hold the proof of vaccination for Yellow Fever. This proof will be also requested in Peru to prevent and incidents as we have borders in common.
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Ask our experts about an extension to the impressive Colca Canyon; to Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world; the impressive Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, or to the mysterious Nazca lines.