The group flights to Cuzco via Madrid and Lima depart this afternoon.
The group flights arrive this morning, and we will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel. In the afternoon we will have a group meeting and a short walking tour of the Inca capital, including the Plaza de Armas and a visit to the Qoricancha Sun Temple.
We start early this morning to visit Lake Huacarpay, 30km outside of Cuzco, which once supplied water to the nearby pre-Inca Wari culture site of Pikillacta. The lake is one of the best places near Cusco to see a wide variety of birds, including Bearded mountaineers, Plumbeous rail, Yellow-winged blackbird, Puna teal, Yellow-billed pintail. Less common sightings include Rusty-fronted canasteros, Streak-fronted thornbirds, Baird's sandpipers and Upland sandpipers. After spending time at the lake we visit Pikillacta and Tipon, an Incan archeological site, and stop for lunch on our way back to Cuzco. The rest of the afternoon is free to relax or explore Cuzco.
Today we leave Cuzco early and head into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a broad valley which has been the centre of the region's agriculture for centuries. Our initial destination is Huaran, where we spend time bird watching as well as learning about the conservation of the polylepis forest, a disappearing habitat with endangered bird species. Afterwards, we visit the colourful market at Pisac and enjoy a walking tour of the huge Inca ruins above the village. Driving further down the valley, we come to Ollantaytambo, where we visit the immense Inca fortress and explore the unique village whose streets still follow the pre-conquest grid plan.
A relaxed start to the day as we take the mid-morning train to Aguas Calientes. After free time for lunch and time to explore the small town of Aguas Calientes, we will have 1-2 hour walk along the railroad in the late afternoon. The thick forests which surround the tracks are home to a wide variety of animals and birds, including the colorful cock-of-the-rock.
After an early breakfast, we set off to visit one of the greatest ruins in the world, the lost city of Machu Picchu. This is one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world, in a mountain setting of staggering immensity. The Spaniards never found it; the Incas left no records about it, so Machu Picchu remains a great enigma, a city lost for centuries in the jungle. After our guided tour of Machu Picchu, we will have free time to explore. For those that wish to combine the visit with wildlife viewing, there is an optional walk either to the Inca Bridge for birding or to the Sun Gate with possibility to see Spectacled bear and Incawren. In the late afternoon we return to Aguas Calientes and board the train to Cuzco.
Today has been left free for optional activities. You may wish to visit the museums and sights of Cuzco, head outside of Cuzco for mountain biking or rafting, or buy souvenirs and last minute supplies for the jungle. For those that are keen to see more birds, there will be an optional early morning rise and walk to the Saphi River for birding and plants. The walk passes the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman and offers fantastic views over Cuzco as we descend into the town for lunchtime.
An early start today for the spectacular journey to Manu. We pass through the Sacred Valley and up over the Andean highlands before we drop into the cloud forest. We stop at Paucartambo, a centre of the Inca trade routes and famous for its old colonial square, hand carved statues and traditional festivals. After a brief stop to freshen up and learn about the local culture, we ascend to the Manu National Park entrance at Acjanaco, which stands 3,500 metres above sea level. From the rangers' station, there is an awe inspiring view over the Amazon Basin and Peru's largest national park. The landscape begins to change dramatically as we descend from the barren plains of the Altiplano through high Andean grasslands and into the lush green cloud forest. The journey is exhilarating as we meander down the roads carved into the mountainside. This is one of the world's most famous bird watching routes, and many species can be spotted from the road. A picnic lunch will be served en route, and we arrive at the Cock of the Rock Lodge in the early afternoon. The rest of the day has been left free to relax, or to take an optional trail walk.
We rise early to visit a Cock-of-the-rock lek, where the brightly coloured red/orange males dance and sing, attempting to attract the duller burgundy females. We then continue our journey further into Manu. After a three hour drive to the port of Atalya, we take to boats, first on the Madre de Dios River, which is one of the most southern tributaries of the legendary Amazon, and then onto the Manu River. While this is a long day by boat, the journey offers great opportunities to start spotting the wildlife of Manu. If time allows, we may be able to visit an overgrown oxbow lake to look for parrots and macaws. After an eventful day the boat finally comes to rest at Romero Rainforest Lodge, situated on the banks of the Manu River.
Today we travel further (approximately 5 hours by boat) to Cocha Salvador - this is as far as we are allowed to go in Manu. Beaches, especially in the dry season, are loaded with nesting birds, turtles and caimans, and there is a strong possibility of encountering a sunning Jaguar, the largest cat in the Americas. At Cocha Salvador, we will have an excursion on a floating platform to observe oxbow lake wildlife, and we will search for a family of otters that live here. Giant river otters are the world's largest freshwater carnivores have been hunted to near extinction in Peru, and now only remain in Manu. Each of them consumes 4 to 5 kilos of fish a day and this can often be witnessed by the lake. We spend the night in a permanent tented camp.
We make our way back to Romero Lodge today, with a stop at Cocha Otorongo, where a 20-metre high observation tower has been constructed overlooking the lake. From the top of the tower, the sheer magnitude of the rainforest becomes apparent, and birdwatching opportunities are excellent.
Today we have a relaxing 3-hour boat journey to the Manu Wildlife Centre. On arrival at the lodge, there is time for a hot shower, lunch and a chance to meet the onsite guides. The lodge provides the area's base for scientific research and a centre for visitors wanting to explore the rainforest, and has its own canopy platform and observation tower. The canopy platform is accessible via a spiral staircase and provides a great opporunity to get close to the species which live in the upper reaches of the forest. The afternoon is set aside to relax or to follow a trail through the virgin forest. On a cliff overlook the river, there is a great lookout point which offers views of parrots and macaws flying in to roost as the sun sets. Guided night walks in search of nocturnal animals are also available.
Macaw clay licks (known locally as 'collpas') are one of the world's great wildlife spectacles. Every day hundreds of parrots and macaws (their larger relatives) congregate here to eat the mineral rich clay that is essential to their diet and digestion. We rise early and head to a comfortable hide to get close to the birds. The noise alone is incredible and the sight of these brightly coloured birds at the lick is one not to be forgotten. Breakfast is taken at a suitable time while the spectacle unfolds. The activity dies down mid-morning as the birds stop feeding, and from the hide we set off to Cocha Blanca, an oxbow lake with a resident otter family, where there will be a chance to canoe around the lake looking for other wildlife. After a leisurely lunch at the lodge, we explore other trails in search of Emperor and Saddleback tamarins. There is a a very good chance of spotting the rare Goeldi's marmoset - Manu is one of its main breeding grounds. In the evening we stay in the lodge, but there is the option to camp overnight at a mammal lick, about an hour's walk from the lodge. Tapirs, the largest South American land mammal, regularly visit for minerals, and Brocket deer and other animals can also be seen here. There is a large, raised blind here equipped with mattresses and mosquito nets for those who want to spend the night in comfort observing these nocturnal creatures.
The return leg of the journey starts early as it's a 3 hour trip downstream to Colorado Village. Breakfast is served on the boat while there is the fantastic opportunity to catch the activity of the early morning wildlife along the river. Passing several lowland native settlements and miners digging for gold along the banks of the Madre de Dios River, the boat rushes along with the ever quickening downstream flow of the river. From Colorado we have a 45-minute bus transfer to Puerto Carlos, a 15 minute boat crossing of the Inambari River to Santa Rosa, then a 2 to 3-hour drive to Puerto Maldonado. We fly from Puerto Maldonado to Cuzco, arriving in the afternoon.
The group flights back to London (via Lima and Madrid) depart this afternoon.
The group flights arrive in London this afternoon.