There are many places from where to explore the jungle in South America, but most require an expensive flight to get there and away. Manu National Park is one of the exceptions, as it can be reached by car from Cusco. I booked a 5-day/4-night trip with Atalaya Peru, leaving Friday 12 November. Until Paucartambo it was normal sealed road, but quickly thereafter it turned into a one-lane gravel road that was winding its way through the mountains. We made stops along the way to see waterfalls, cock-of-the-rock birds and monkeys. Arriving at the Atalaya Lodge I noticed the lodge was on the other side of the river, and no bridge was present. A simple zip-line trolley was used to get people and cargo to the lodge, where resident red howler monkeys and macaws were awaiting. In the evening the guide Alici took us on a nocturnal tour of the rainforest.
Saturday started with a bath underneath a small waterfall, followed by a visit to a small farm with Scarlet and Bolivian Macaws. In the afternoon we took a longboat to the Amaru Mayu Lodge, located on a cliff next to the Upper Mother of God river. From there we made a jungle walk, spotting dusky titi monkeys and eating pineapple fresh from the tree.
On Sunday we got up early to spot parrot claylicks from a longboat. During the following jungle tour we saw heliconia, cotton trees, the tree of life, cecropia tree, walking palm tree, ceiba pentandra and erotic palm tree. I also got the chance to play Tarzan swinging through the jungle on strangler fig vines. On the fauna side there were army ants, centipedes, hoatzins, blue-grey tanager, social flycatcher, horned screamers, black-capped donacobius, capybaras and red-capped cardinal.
On Monday we made a visit to the village of Pilcopata, before returning back to the Atalaya Lodge with its resident red howler monkeys. In the afternoon Maria, Alici and I went for a jungle walk to the big waterfall, and in the evening we spotted a large toad nearby the lodge. Tuesday was already time for the long drive back to Cusco.