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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Peru: The Manu Biosphere Reserve and Machu Picchu

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Peru: The Manu Biosphere Preserve and Machu Picchu. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here. 

ENTERING PERU: For United States citizens a passport valid on the day of entry and with one blank page, and return airline ticket are required. Visas are not necessary; tourist permit and customs forms will be handed out by your arriving airline, and your passport will be stamped upon arrival. 

A valid Yellow Fever vaccination is required if you are arriving from a country where the disease is a risk. See http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever#1948 for more information.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/peru.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes here: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pe.html .

PACE OF THE TOUR: Sunrise in southern Peru this time of year is around 6:00 a.m. and sunset is at about 5:40 p.m. We plan to be in the field at dawn, with breakfast at about 5:30 each day in order to be out birding through the best hours of morning activity. On one day we depart at 5:00 and have a picnic breakfast in a shelter/observation platform to see parrots at a clay lick. Except on travel days we schedule time off after lunch for an hour or so before a late afternoon outing; we always have at least an hour off before dinner each day and typically end most days by 8 pm (having eaten and completed the day’s bird lists). On some days we’ll schedule optional owling/nightjar outings either in the evening or before dawn. 

We will be going over a pass at 12,900 feet (3930 m) on the first day of the tour where we will likely get out and look around bit, with no long walks and taking it very easy. We then spend time at a lower pass at around 11,500 feet (3500 m) and then end up at our lodge for the night at about 9600 feet (2925 m) where we spend much of the next morning. After that we continue downhill to much more comfortable elevations. Most, if not all of our birding in the first few days of the tour will be done while walking on roads. At the jungle lodges starting with Villa Carmen on to Manu Wildlife Center, all of our walking will be on trails. The longer walks are about two miles in length, but even on the shorter ones we go slowly and spend a lot of time standing and looking. Trails are mostly level, but there are some short but steep inclines In places where the trails cross ravines, and footing can be very unstable with rock and roots in places. Anyone with balance issues should carry a hiking stick. 

When on the road we’ll not be far from the bus, but one should be prepared for long periods of standing and walking slowly, and a small travel stool is handy for those who find this tiring. The forest trails may be muddy in spots, and short roadside vegetation could be wet from dew or rains, so waterproof footgear is highly recommended – waterproof hiking boots or even rubber boots are best, but if you don’t mind having wet feet, a cheap pair of sneakers also works, as long as you have something dry and clean to change into back at the room. 

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Malaria: The CDC considers Peru to be of low risk for travelers contracting malaria. While malaria is not common in the Manu area, it does exist, and the CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. 

Yellow Fever: Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended by the CDC. 

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure, as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations for Peru can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/peru

Elevation: This tour involves two days at elevations over 11,000 feet – one pass is at 12,900 feet (3930 m). If you have a heart problem, please consult your doctor concerning these higher elevations. If you know you suffer from the more typical mild effects of elevation sickness (headache, nausea), we find that acetazolamide is a very effective drug (available in the US by prescription under the brand name Diamox or over the counter in Peru). 

Insects: Many potential health problems can be prevented by adequate protection against insects. Even when mosquitoes may be sparse, biting gnats and chiggers can still be a nuisance. To be protected, bring plenty of spray repellent and wear long sleeves and pants when in the field. We recommend using insect repellents with a concentration of DEET of at least 20%. 

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous: We do not often encounter snakes and take time to observe them whenever possible; most are not venomous, and venomous ones are not aggressive.  At times we will be remote, and while the lodges have emergency medical supplies, professional medical assistance will be several hours away from some of them. 

One can never completely escape the risk of parasites or fungal infections. Please consult with your physician. We avoid tap water but filtered and bottled water are readily available. 

CLIMATE: At the time of our visit, the austral spring, coastal Lima is seasonally foggy, damp, and chilly, necessitating a sweater. Cusco, an Andean town, is cold at night and early in the day (potentially down to near freezing). During the afternoon, it can be very bright and sun protection should be used. At Wayqecha, morning could be in the low 40’s °F, but in the lowlands expect temperatures in the 70s to high 80s °F with high humidity later in the tour. Rain is probable in the eastern Andes and lowlands. To deal with all climatic contingencies we recommend light gloves and a rain jacket that could double as a windbreaker and a sweater for the highlands and light weight warm weather clothes for the lowlands. A compact umbrella is essential for birding in light rain. 

ACCOMMODATIONS: Our hotels and lodges are always among the best available, comfortable and modern, and all have rooms with private baths at all locations. In Lima we stay in a standard modern airport hotel. Elsewhere on the tour, our accommodations are more basic eco-lodge quality, but still very nice, wooden construction with hot water and private baths. Single accommodation cannot be guaranteed at Wayqecha Lodge and Villa Carmen, depending on group size.

At Pillahuata, we stay at a biological research station perched on the edge of a wild ravine overlooking the endless cloud forest of the Kosñipata Valley. Facilities include six twin rooms (each with two twin beds). Each room has recently been remodeled to contain a private bathroom. If the group size requires sharing of rooms, we will do our best to accommodate couples, but it may be necessary to split them to create non-coed rooms of single travelers. The research station is in the process of increasing the number of cabins so this may not be an issue by the time our next tour takes place. Electricity for charging batteries is available for a limited time in the evenings in the dining hall, and internet is very slow. The elevation here is about 9,600 feet (2925 m); temperatures may drop to 45º F (7º C) at night. Satellite wifi is available in the evenings when the generator is running, though sometimes is also turned on during the day with solar-charged batteries. 

At San Pedro we stay at either of two lodges. Both are situated in the pristine cloud forest of the mountains of Manu just a few minutes drive from a spectacular Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek furnished with blinds to observe these colorful birds during their dawn mating rituals. Facilities at one Lodge include twelve large spacious bungalows with private facilities toilets and two single beds in most cabins. There is no electricity in the rooms; lighting is by candle and lantern but there is a small generator available for charging batteries for a limited time each evening in the dining hall. There is a large dining area and lounge overlooking a feeding station for birds. The other lodge is more hotel-like with rooms in two adjacent two-story buildings that also house the dining room. Hummingbird feeders are also in the garden here. Hot water is provided by gas heaters. There is no reliable wifi in San Pedro. 

Near Pilcopata we stay in a lodge that has six newly constructed cabins with private bathrooms, hot water, and full-time electricity. Wifi is usually available in the dining area. 

At Manu Wildlife Center we stay in airy, screen-walled cabins with private bathroom facilities (hot water showers and flush toilets). They are very comfortable and beds have mosquito netting, but you are also well within earshot of your neighbors; if you are a light sleeper, earplugs would be a good idea. There is a generator for recharging batteries, available around mid-day and in the evenings at the dining hall. Walkways are lit by kerosene lamps and the rooms by candles. Canopy observation towers are available and there are blinds set up at nearby tapir and macaw licks. A bar and eating hall complete the compound facilities, and wifi is available here when the generator is on in the evenings and at lunch. There are more than 30 km of trails through various habitats. 

As is typical in the tropics, occasionally, small lizards, amphibians or unusual insects may visit a hotel room, especially in the lower elevations. 

FOOD: Food on our southeastern Peru tours is quite good. We start all days with warm breakfasts, almost always including scrambled eggs or an omelet. Lunches are either back at our lodge or, during transfer days, a boxed lunch prepared by the lodge, usually including something like a chicken-pasta dish, fruit, juice, and cookies. All dinners are at our lodges and, like the sit-down lunches, usually start with a delicious soup and then follow with a main dish with trout, chicken, or beef, rice, potatoes, cooked vegetables, and sometimes a salad. Dinners are followed by a simple dessert. We have no reservations about eating fresh vegetables or drinking beverages with ice at our lodges, which cater largely to foreigners like ourselves. A couple of our lodges have only a very limited selection of alcoholic drinks available, though all have wine and can also prepare pisco sours, the Peruvian national cocktail.

Drinks: Bottled water and/or a soft drink or a beer is provided at lunch and dinner, as is coffee or tea. All other drinks or ‘personal’ drinking water for use in your room etc. is the responsibility of the individual; our lodges typically have filtered water available for refilling your own bottles. We also keep bottled water on the bus for ‘emergency’ use during the day.  

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORTATION: The flights to Cusco and back from Puerto Maldonado will be in a modern, full-sized jets (such as an Airbus 320), and our transportation from there will be in a small bus provided by our ground agent. Most road travel will be on an unpaved, often bumpy road, but we are fortunate just to have roads into this fabulous area. After our days at Villa Carmen, we’ll travel by long, motorized, dug-out style boats with comfortable seats and a covered roof. Our return to civilization will be downriver by boat, followed by an hour-long taxi ride on a very bumpy road, another short boat ride, and then by bus on paved highway to Puerto Maldonado. Some roads may be quite bumpy and/or winding; anyone susceptible to motion sickness should bring an appropriate remedy. Participants should be able to sit in any seat in our vehicles.

Updated: March 2015