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Vicki’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2008

Location: Peru

MapWEEK 11: MANU BIOSPHERE RESERVE (PERU)

This week we entered the Peruvian jungle of Manu Biosphere Reserve, in the south western region of the Amazon basin, in search of many wild and wonderful animals. Manu is a world heritage site as it comprises over 1 million hectares of undisturbed and pristine forest with what is claimed to be the greatest bio-diversity on the earth. It is the refuge of many endangered animals, including the jaguar, black caiman, giant otter and harpy eagle (we were lucky to spot 3 out of these 4 endangered species) and it contains around 1000 species of birds, thousands of species of plants, 13 species of monkeys and hundreds of mammals.

Given it`s remoteness, this meant about two and a half days of travel to get right into the heart of the Reserve. We travelled the first day by car for about 9 hours and spent the night at a small town on the outskirts of the Reserve area. During the first day we stopped off in the cloud forest area to watch the "Cock of the Rock" birds (that is seriously their name) in their daily ritual where the males "dance" and "perform" to gain the attention of a female bird. Most interesting was the male birds themselves as they had the most unusual shaped head for a bird, but unfortunately the zoom on our camera was not good enough to capture this!

The second day we travelled by boat (as there is no road access) for about 6 hours and did much bird and animal watching from the boat along the way. We saw loads of monkeys which Ben was most pleased about as he seems to have a soft spot for the cheeky little animals. We stayed in Boca Manu on the second night, the town situated right on the entrance to the Reserve area. The following morning on the third day we again boarded our boat and entered the Reserve area, first signing in at the Ranger`s station where we were surprised to see from the log book that we were the only ones (plus our guide, cook, and two boat hands) to be in the Reserve area at that time. Another 4 hours on the boat and we reached our destination - Casa Matsuguenka - a lodge built and run by the Matsuguenka tribe, one of the two known tribes still living in and surviving off the jungle area. We then went on a walk through the jungle with our guide, the final hour of which was spent walking in the dark with our torches, and saw many more animals including the giant otter (which is apparently a rare sighting). Our hosts of the Matsuguenka tribe caught catfish in the river which they were kind enough to share with us (as only the tribes people are legally allowed to hunt and eat within the jungle), so our cook prepared the local dish "Ceviche" (raw fish marinated in lime juice and chilli) which was really tasty.

We awoke to a huge downpour of rain on the morning of the fourth day, we are in the rainforest after all, and had to spend a few hours relaxing and waiting for it to pass... which meant lying in our mosquito net covered beds and covered in insect repellent, as the mossies were ferocious! In fact the conditions generally in the jungle were pretty harsh, it was very hot and humid, made worse by the long layers you had to wear because of the bugs. But Ben and I being such rough-and-tough adventure travellers were of course revelling in it...

We spent the rest of day 4 and the first half of day 5 walking through the jungle in search of more animals and during that time spent a few hours on a boat on Lake Salvador where I was really happy to spot a few Caimen (ie Alligators). I was pleased to find them much more placid than Crocodiles, given that they were only a meter or so from our boat. We also heard wild pigs passing just near us, but couldn`t see them as the jungle was so thick. Unfortunately we didn`t spot any Jaguar during our journey, although our guide said they are very difficult to see and they could have been close to us during our walks in the jungle, but they avoid humans - I was happy to hear that! Days 6 and 7 were spent retracing our steps from Days 1 and 2 as we took our boat and car journeys back to Cusco. It was nice to have a hot shower and mossie-net free bed after 7 days away!

We fly to Lima tomorrow morning, our final destination before returning to London next week. We`re hoping to catch some sunshine and spend a few days at the beach before returning to the big city!