The Birdwatchers Dream

A 12 day trip to Peru 
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Imagine a country with 1,804 species of birds. A country with more bird species than found in all of North America and Europe combined. Home to 120 endemic species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world! Imagine traveling through the land of the Incas, among locals dressed in colorful woven fabrics. Here at the birthplace of the potato, visit with the people of ancient traditions, savour tasty cuisine, mingle in lively markets and see sophisticated folk art- just to name a few of the country's unmistakable allure. All complemented with a birdwatching dream experience.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

LIMA - CUSCO - MACHUPICCHU - CUSCO - MANU - CUSCO - LIMA

Departure Dates 

DEPARTURES : From May to October

RECOMMENDED SEASON: From May to October

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1:

ARRIVAL TO LIMA
Arrival Lima, reception and transfer to your hotel.
Overnight at selected hotel.

Day 2:

LIMA
In the morning, city tour of Colonial Lima visiting the Cathedral, located in the Main Square which was rebuilt on the same site from 1555, under the direction of Jesuit priest Juan Rehr after the 1746 earthquake. Both its façade and interior are austere with its remarkable wooden choir stalls, altars and the tomb of Francisco Pizarro, who died in 1541, are to be noted.
Visit the Church of San Francisco, with its convent, museum of colonial art, cloisters and catacombs. Afterwards, panoramic view of the Main Square with the Government Palace, the Municipal Hall, the “Desamparados” Train Station, and finally drive through the old streets with their vice traditional mansions and Moorish style balconies. Continue through the most traditional residential and commercial areas of contemporary Lima, passing by sites of pre-Columbian Civilisations dating back to the beginning of the Christian era. Then, you will enjoy a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.
Set Menu Lunch at Restaurant Astrid & Gaston, include round trip transfers.
In the afternoon visit the Larco Herrera Museum. The Rafael Larco Herrera Archaeological Museum, founded in 1926, has the largest private collection of pre-Columbian art in the world. The collection concentrates on the refined ceramics of the Moche Dynasty and the people who lived along the northern coast of Peru between 200 and 700 AD. You can learn about their religion, agriculture, transport, dance and music through their ceramic designs and shapes. After visit, return to your hotel
Overnight at selected hotel. (B – L)

Day 3:

LIMA - CUSCO
Transfer to airport to take flight Lima / Cusco. Arrival Cusco, reception at the airport and transfer to your hotel.
In the afternoon, visit Cusco’s Historical Inca and Spanish Colonial Monuments, such as the Main Square, known in Inca times as Huacaypata or the Warrior’s Square, it was the scene for many key events in Cusco’s history.
The Cathedral, originally built on the site of the old temple of Suntur Wasi (House of God), now the church of El Triunfo, a particular interest are the choir cloisters, the pulpit, the engravings on the altar and furniture.
Continue onto the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, a Spanish construction belonging to the Dominican Order built upon the foundations of the Inca temple of Koricancha or Temple of the Sun. Koricancha (in quechua, site of gold) was the main religious building of the Incas dedicated to the worship of the Sun and whose walls, according to the chroniclers, were plated with sheets of gold. Magnificent blocks of finely carved stone were used in its construction.
After, you will visit the surrounding ruins of the city of Cusco: Sacsayhuamán, this huge Inca fortress is built on three overlapping platforms, each of them over 360 m long. Then, onto Tambomachay, known as the Inca baths. It was apparently a site dedicated to the worship of water and a resting place for the Inca monarch.
Kenko, it is said to have been a worship site. There is a huge 5,9 m high stone block that looks like a puma. There are also passages, canals and stairways with stone engravings representing animals. Finally, Puca Pucará, which was an administrative and military centre formed by terraces, stairways, passages, turrets and vaulted niches.
Return to the hotel.
Overnight at selected hotel. (B).

Day 4:

FULL DAY TOUR TO MACHUPICCHU
Early in the morning, transfer to take train, First class (Vistadome) to visit the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, (Optional train first class). Spectacular train journey crossing valleys, mountains and typical communities. The altitude will descend from 3,500 to 1,500 m.a.s.l. Crossing two different regions from the sierra to the rainforests. Snow peaks, eucalyptus, deep canyons and orchids are also part of the sceneries.
This stone citadel, located 112 km from Cusco, was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The citadel was built on a very special spot covered in vegetation between two mountains: the Machu Picchu (old mountain) and Huayna Picchu (young mountain), at the foot of which meanders the Urubamba or Vilcanota River (lower Jungle featuring abundant flora and fauna). On arrival, Tour of the Sanctuary.
In the afternoon, return to Cusco by train Tourist Class (Optional: Train First Class). Transfer to the hotel.
Overnight at selected hotel. (B).

Day 5:

CUSCO TO COCK-OF-THE-ROCK LODGE
Our overland journey begins at 3,400m/11,150 ft, 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 striking contrasts. We first visit a mountain wetland habitat teeming with migrant and local waterfowl, before crossing two mountain ranges between the Cusco valley and the Paucartambo valley, to a maximum altitude of 3,900m/12,790ft. Finally we follow a sinuous ribbon of highway on its plunge through an extraordinary world of forested cliffs, waterfalls and gorges. We take leisurely stops 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 swoop into the Amazon basin. In clear weather we will see a breathtaking panorama of cloud forest and mountain giving way to the lowland rainforest plains far below us.

After a picnic lunch near here we descend through the startling and rapid environmental transformations characteristic of the tropical Andes, passing from grassland and stunted trees through elfin forest, until we wind through a lush and magical world of overhanging trees, giant ferns, monster begonias, countless orchids and bromeliads, and a diverse and teeming birdlife.

We make frequent spontaneous stops, perhaps spotting a brilliantly feathered quetzal, a trogon, or the wild turkey-like Guan. We 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, a chance to see Peru’s dazzling national bird, the Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruviana) in full, raucous courting display. (B – L – D)

Day 6:

MANU CLOUD FOREST TO BOCA MANU
Rising early, we have a second chance to view the the Cock-of-the-Rock display, and then scout for birds, and perhaps Brown Capuchin or Woolly monkeys along the nearby road. Or we can take a secluded nature walk on a short trail loop to the river and back. After breakfast we continue our drive, as mountains give way to low rolling hills and farmland. At Patria we visit a plantation of coca grown legitimately for the Peruvian coca leaf market. At midday we reach Atalaya, a tiny port where the Piñipiñi River meets the Alto Madre de Dios. Now the lowland rainforest part of our journey begins. Rivers are the highways of the rainforest, and henceforth we will travel in large, comfortable dugout canoes shaded by canopy roofs and driven by powerful outboard motors.

As we follow the river’s broad, rushing course past the last foothills of the Andes, our 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 our engine.
Splashes of brilliant yellow, pink and red foliage dot the forest-clad slopes around us, and the breeze is laden with the heady perfumes of the tropical forest.

At our overnight lodge near Boca Manu, a new array of forest sounds awaits our ears. As night falls the whistling call-and-response of tinamous gives way to the loud shrill of cicadas. (B – L – D)

Day 7:

BOCA MANU TO MANU TENTED CAMP
In the morning we may join other eco-guests arriving by air from Cusco. We make a short visit to the village of Boca Manu, riverside capital of the remote and sparsely populated Peruvian province of Fitzcarrald. The main activity here is building dugout boats for travelers on the river, and we see how these sturdy craft are made. Logging is prohibited here, so the resourceful villagers work entirely with lumber brought downriver by floodwaters.

Now we turn northward up the chocolate-brown waters of the Manu River into the lake-rich lower Manu National Park. The pristine quality of the forest is instantly apparent, with abundant birdlife and no signs of outside development.

We check into the park at Limonal ranger station and then proceed upstream, as our boat driver steers skillfully through shallows and driftwood snags. Orinoco Geese and Horned Screamers strut on the beaches, Capped and White-necked Herons patrol the shoreline, and countless sunbathing turtles dive off their log perches as we approach.

After some six hours on the river we reach InkaNatura’s Manu Tented Camp, a simple but comfortable low-impact lodge nestled almost invisibly in the forest.

Time permitting, we will take a short walk before dinner to stretch our legs and enjoy our first encounter with virgin rainforest. (B – L – D)

Day 8:

TWO LAKES IN THE NATIONAL PARK
Today we visit two lakes near our camp. Park authorities determine the time of our visit to Cocha (Lake) Salvador; depending on this schedule, we will visit Cocha Otorongo earlier or later in the day.

Our trail to Cocha Otorongo begins some 30 minutes downstream from the camp. This brief river journey to the trailhead can always offer the chance of a thrilling wildlife sighting. Perhaps we will spot a family of Capybaras, the world’s largest rodent, browsing on the riverbank, or if we are very lucky, a solitary Jaguar might stalk slowly off an open beach into the forest, flicking its tail in annoyance at our intrusion.

On the short trail to the lake we may spy one or more of the park’s 13 monkey species leaping through the canopy high above. And some of the trees which form that canopy -- such as kapok, ironwood and figs, will astound us with the vast size of their trunks and buttressed root systems.

These are oxbow lakes, formed when the river changed course, leaving a landlocked channel behind. The lakes are abundant in fish and wildlife, and provide optimum habitat for caimans and the Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), one of the Amazon’s most endangered mammal species.

This lake enjoys maximum protection, and boats are not allowed. However, it features two dock platforms and a 50ft tower from which to scan the trees and marshy shoreline for monkeys, kingfishers, Anhinga (a large, long-necked waterbird), and countless other species. We have a good chance of sighting the resident Giant Otter family as they dive for the 4Kg. of fish that each individual consumes daily.

Cocha Salvador is the largest of the area’s lakes, at 3.5 Km, or some two miles long. It is also home to a family of Giant Otters. We cruise the lake on a floating catamaran platform, which offers superb new perspectives of lake and forest. The lakeside trees are often alive with monkeys; Scarlet, Chesnut-fronted and Blue-and-gold macaws beat a path overhead; a variety of herons and egrets scout the water’s edge; and the reptilian eyes and snouts of caimans, motionless as logs, may be spied beneath the branches. Somewhere on the open water or in among toppled bankside trees, we may spot the sleek heads of the shy Giant Otters. These social animals play and fish together, and we may see them sprawled on a fallen tree trunk, dozing or gnawing on a fish. (B – L – D)

Day 9:

MANU NATIONAL PARK TO MANU WILDLIFE CENTER AND TAPIR CLAY LICK
We set off downriver at dawn. At this hour chances of wildlife encounters are excellent. We return to the Limonal park station, to file our wildlife report before leaving the park. After reaching the turbulent union of the Alto Madre de Dios and Manu rivers and then the village of Boca Manu, we may drop off some passengers returning to Cusco. After ninety more minutes downstream we arrive at Manu Wildlife Center -- the exciting final stop of our journey -- in time for lunch.

After an early afternoon rest we set off along the “collpa trail”, which will take us to the lodge’s famous Tapir Clay Lick. Here at the most active tapir lick known in all the Amazon, our 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 50-m-long, elevated walkway to the platform is covered with sound-absorbing padding to prevent our 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. (B – L – D)

Day 10:

MANU WILDLIFE CENTER: THE MACAW CLAY LICK & COCHA BLANCO
Another early start (inevitable on wildlife expeditions), is followed by a short boat ride downstream. We take a 20-minute trail through palm plantations to a cut off channel of the river, where we find the Blanquillo Macaw Lick. A spacious hide provided with individual chairs and a convenient place for cameras and binoculars is our ringside seat for what is usually a very spectacular show. We enjoy a full breakfast here while waiting for the main actors to arrive.

In groups of twos and threes the big Red-and-Green Macaws come flapping in, landing in the treetops as they eye the main stage below -- the eroded clay banks of the old channel. Meanwhile the supporting cast appears: these may included Blue-headed, Mealy, Yellow-crowned, and Orange-cheeked Parrots -- and the occasional villain, a menacing and unwelcome Great Black Hawk.

The drama plays out in first in tentative and then bolder approaches to the lick, until finally nearly all the macaws, parrots and parakeets form a colorful and noisy spectacle on the bare banks, squabbling as they scrape clay from the hard surface.

(Please note that the clay lick is most active from August to October and less so during the months of May and June.)

In the afternoon we visit Cocha Blanco, an old oxbow lake full of water lilies and sunken logs. As we circle the lake on our catamaran we might encounter the resident Giant Otter family on a fishing expedition, or troops of monkeys crashing noisily through the trees. Wattled Jacanas step lightly on the lily pads, 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.

Amongt 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. (B – L – D)

Day 11:

Cusco MANU WILDLIFE CENTER TO CUSCO
After an early breakfast, we leave on the two-hour boat trip to the Boca Manu airfield, enjoying early morning wildlife activity as we go. From here we fly to Cusco, where our rainforest adventure ends with a pickup and tra transfer to our hotel.
Overnight at Monasterio Hotel in Cusco (B)

Day 12:

CUSCO/OUT
At the convenient time, transfer to the airport to take international departure flight back home.

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Price 

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