Peru in South America has about fifty natural reserves, national parks, protected areas and sanctuaries that total about five percent of the total land area of the country. The Tambopata – Candamo Reserve Zone and the Manu Biosphere Reserve are located in the southern Amazon Jungle while in the north the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is the largest protected area.
Half an hour’s plane ride from Cusco, landing in Puerto Maldonado, is relatively easy access to the Tambopata-Candamo Reserve. This reserve area is composed of three different ecosystems – the Amazon flat plain, the eastern slopes of the Andes and the Pampas ecosystem. As a result of this environmental diversity more than eleven different types of forest have been able to coexist and produce a vast biodiversity, among the densest life on the planet. There are 1,234 types of butterflies, 592 species of birds, 152 varieties of dragonflies, 135 kinds of ants, 127 species of amphibians, 103 types of mammals, 94 species of fish, 74 kinds of reptiles, 40 species of termites and 39 varieties of bees to be found in the south of Peru. The Tambopata area is home to the largest natural Macaw clay licks in the world, known as the Colpa de Guacamayos. Thousands of macaws and parrots are attracted to these copper-colored cliffs where they graze on the mineral salts contained in the area which helps with the digestion of berries and fruits.
The more remote Manu Biosphere Reserve covers 18,811 square kilometers of land located several hours travel from Cusco. It is said that Manu may be the only accessible virgin Rainforest left in the world. A variety of habitats including the high Andes, lowland tropical Rainforests and intermediate cloud forests provide an area that is super rich in flora and fauna with varied species and is one of the best existing example of very high density bio-diversity in protected areas of Rainforest.
Because it has been relatively unchanged by human activity, the Manu Reserve is home to a great number of species living in their original habitats including giant otters, black caiman, jaguars, the spectacled bear, the tapir, the ocelot, several species of monkeys and nearly a thousand species of birds. Manu is also home to one-tenth of the world’s fluid-carrying plant species including some species of palms and figs as well as numerous medicinal plants. There are also up to 220 recorded species of trees in a single hectare of rainforest in the Manu Reserve zone indicating the high density of the area.
In the northern jungle, located 120 kilometers by river from Iquitos, is the Pacaya – Samiria National Reserve. There is also a great deal of flora and fauna in this reserve including the huge Paiche fish which can weigh as much as 300 kilograms and measure up to three meters in length. The Paiche is in fact the largest freshwater fish on Earth. A number of other unusual animals can be spotted in the reserve such as pink dolphins, the manatee, large river turtles, giant otters, black spider monkeys, black caiman, wooly monkeys and a vast variety of Amazon birds. New additions to the reserve are facilities such as canopy trails that are collections of walkways that are suspended from trees thirty meters above the jungle floor which offer a unique viewpoint and different Amazon experience.
All of the jungle areas mentioned can be visited relatively easily on short trips, or combined with the other marvels of Peru, so feel free to investigate and ask your travel agent for more information.