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PERU: FROM THE CUSCO ANDES TO THE MANU

A veritable feast of specialities and scenery

Birdquest's Peru: From The Cusco Andes to the Manu birding tour is a very special itinerary that concentrates on the many endemic, near-endemic and range-restricted birds found in the Andes of Southeast Peru, from the high mountains to the Amazonian foothills. This exciting tour is both a real adventure and an extraordinary birding experience as we travel first through the Cusco Andes and then from the snow-capped peaks of the High Andes right down through the temperate and subtropical zones in the vast Manu Biosphere Reserve to the edge of the lowland rainforest of Amazonia!

Friday 26th July — Monday 12th August 2019
(18 days)


Leader: Pete Morris

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly comfortable accommodations

Nowhere in the Andes will you find such an easily observed lek of Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks as the Manu cloud forest, located just five minutes walk along a flat road and with a wonderfully designed viewing hide (Pete Morris)

Nowhere in the Andes will you find such an easily observed lek of Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks as the Manu cloud forest, located just five minutes walk along a flat road and with a wonderfully designed viewing hide (Pete Morris)

Southeast Peru is one of richest regions of this extraordinary, bird-rich country, with dozens of endemic, near-endemic and restricted-range specialities.

A visit to the huge Manu Biosphere Reserve, which extends from the High Andes to the Amazonian lowlands, is one of the world’s great birding journeys. Situated at the periphery of the upper Amazon basin, this splendid sanctuary boasts the planet’s richest biological heritage. Spanning the entire humid east slope of the Andes and including vast tracts of adjacent Amazonian lowlands, it holds the astonishing number of over 1000 bird species, or more than ten percent of the world’s avifauna, within the boundaries of a single protected area!

One of the wildest and remotest places on earth, it still holds Amerindian tribes that have never been contacted by outsiders and a multitude of forest creatures that form an intricate ecological network, the secrets of which man is only just starting to reveal. Habitats range from steamy lowland rainforests to luxuriant subtropical forests, moss-draped cloudforests and contorted elfin woodland at the treeline, each sheltering an entirely different set of birds.

For a long time this wilderness was virtually inaccessible, but new lodges now enable us to sample a broad array of life zones and elevations in some comfort. Even for the well-travelled birder, the mountains of the Manu and the Andean region surrounding the famous city of Cusco offer a treasure trove of new and exciting endemic or otherwise restricted-range birds.

We will begin in Cusco (or Cuzco), ancient capital of the proud Incas, where a visit to a fine marshland area and nearby puna scrubland and grassland will provide us with a sample of birds that have adapted to the rigours of living permanently at elevations of over 10,800ft (3000m), including the endemic Bearded Mountaineer and Rusty-fronted Canastero, and the near-endemic Black-throated Flower-piercer.

Next there will be a wonderful opportunity for a thorough exploration of the endemic-rich Cusco Andes. Not only will we see some fantastic Andean scenery but we will have the chance to find numerous specialities that we see on no other tour, or perhaps one other in a few cases.

Based at the towns of Abancay, Ollantaytambo and Quillabamba, we will be looking for such specialities as Violet-throated Starfrontlet, White-tufted Sunbeam, Coppery-naped Puffleg, Green-and-white Hummingbird, Creamy-breasted, Apurimac and Marcapata Spinetails, White-browed Tit-Spinetail, Junin Canastero, Vilcabamba and Puna Thistletails, Unstreaked and Ashy-breasted Tit-Tyrants, Pale-footed Swallow, Inca Wren, Puna, Diademed, Vilcabamba and ‘Ampay’ Tapaculos, Moustached Flower-piercer, Rust-and-yellow and Golden-collared Tanagers, Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Parodi’s and White-browed Hemispinguses, Apurimac and Cusco Brush-Finches, and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch. With luck we will find some of the rarer specialities, which include Taczanowski’s Tinamou, ’Hocking’s’ Parakeet, ‘Apurimac’ Screech-Owl, Royal Cinclodes and Vilcabamba Brush-Finch. A veritable feast of southern Peruvian endemics and restricted-range species awaits us in the Cusco Andes.

A spectacular Andean road (known as the Kosnipata or Manu Road) then takes us to the cloud-forested slopes of Peru’s eastern Andes, for the most part inside the immense Manu Biosphere Reserve, where an astonishing lek of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, a parade of iridescent hummingbirds and swirls of colourful tanagers form only a fraction of the excitements. Amidst breathtaking mountain scenery, a short stay at a lodge at the upper edge of the cloudforest and then a longer stay at a lodge at middle elevation (lower subtropical and upper tropical elevations) will enable us to spend time sorting through an overwhelming variety of montane birds, many of which can only be found here and in adjacent northern Bolivia.

Restricted-range specialities at these altitudes include Yungas Pygmy-Owl, Wire-crested Thorntail, Peruvian Piedtail, Buff-thighed Puffleg, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Black-throated and Blue-banded Toucanets, Versicoloured Barbet, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner, Bamboo Antshrike, Yellow-breasted Warbling-Antbird, Red-and-white Antpitta, Slaty Gnateater, Band-tailed Fruiteater, the recently-described Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet, Bolivian and Red-billed Tyrannulets, Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher, Inca and Olive Tufted Flycatchers, Yungas Manakin, White-collared Jay, Fulvous Wren, Slaty Tanager, Cuzco Warbler and Grey-eared Brush Finch. Golden-plumed Parakeet, Peruvian Recurvebill, Chestnut-crested Cotinga and Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant are also found here, but rarely seen.

More widespread but good birds found in the area include Black-and-chestnut and Montane Solitary Eagles, Swallow-tailed and Lyre-tailed Nightjars, the rare Andean Potoo, the magnificent Crested Quetzal and Crimson-bellied Woodpecker.

Reaching the headwaters of the Alto Madre de Dios, we will visit the hospitable Amazonia Lodge, an abandoned tea plantation set amongst a carpet of unfolding green foothills. Now covered with second growth habitats of various ages amid tracts of primary forest, the former plantation offers excellent opportunities to see a wide variety of antbirds along with representatives of many other families.

Special birds here include Blue-headed Macaw, Gould’s Jewelfront, Koepcke’s Hermit, Western Striolated Puffbird, Fine-barred Piculet, Manu, White-lined and Goeldi’s Antbirds, Fiery-capped Manakin, Johannes’s Tody-Tyrant and Yellow-crested Tanager. There is even a possibility of seeing some of the more difficult specialities such as Black-capped Tinamou, Razor-billed Curassow, Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail, White-browed Hermit, Rufous-webbed Brilliant and Scarlet-hooded Barbet.

Birdquest has operated tours to Peru since 1982.

Machupicchu Option: We can easily arrange for you to visit Machupicchu either before or after the tour, spending either one or two nights at a good hotel near the ruins, and either with or without a local guide to look after you, according to your personal choice. You will travel by train to the famous ruins. Even the journey from Cusco is interesting in itself, with the train manoeuvring its way through a series of switchbacks to descend the Andes and then travelling down the scenic Urubamba Valley. The ‘Lost City of the Incas’ is so well known from the numerous photographs and articles that feature this extraordinary place that it seems almost unnecessary to describe its dramatic setting amongst the Andes. The city is perched on a narrow ridge high above the Urubamba River and on seeing the precipitous slopes on all sides one can easily appreciate why it remained undiscovered for so many years. Exploring this wonderful place is definitely a highlight of a journey to Peru. There will be no new birds there though (we will have seen everything that can usually be seen here during the tour itself), which is why we keep Machupicchu as an option for a private excursion. Please contact the Birdquest office.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels in Cusco and Ollantaitambo are of good standard, those in Abancay and Quillabamba are of medium standard. The guesthouse at Vilcabamba is basic, with no hot water. Elsewhere, we stay in delightfully-situated, comfortable but fairly simple lodges (they lack electricity, so lighting is by gas or paraffin lamps). Bathroom facilities are shared at Wayqecha Biological Station at Pillahuata and at Amazonia Lodge. Road transport is by small coach or minibus. Roads range from reasonable to poor.

Walking: The walking effort is easy for the most part, sometimes moderate.

Climate: Rather variable. At low and middle elevations many days are warm or hot, dry and sunny, though on other days it can be cool and overcast. At high altitudes conditions range from cool to decidedly cold in the early morning. It may well rain at times and it will be rather humid at lower altitudes.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £4990, €5690, $6540 Cusco/Cusco. Single Room Supplement: £680, €775, $891. Deposit: £600, €720, $780.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Western Striolated Puffbird is one of the many specialities birds we may find at Amazonia Lodge (Pete Morris)

Western Striolated Puffbird is one of the many specialities birds we may find at Amazonia Lodge (Pete Morris)

The Manu cloud forest is a great place to see Golden-headed Quetzal (Pete Morris)

The Manu cloud forest is a great place to see Golden-headed Quetzal (Pete Morris)

…as well as the stunning Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan (Pete Morris)

…as well as the stunning Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan (Pete Morris)

Game birds from the Manu cloud forest, such as this Andean Guan, are not hunted (Pete Morris)

Game birds from the Manu cloud forest, such as this Andean Guan, are not hunted (Pete Morris)

The swift waters of the upper Rio Madre de Dios always have good numbers of Fasciated Tiger-Herons fishing in the rocky shallows (Pete Morris)

The swift waters of the upper Rio Madre de Dios always have good numbers of Fasciated Tiger-Herons fishing in the rocky shallows (Pete Morris)

It is not all humid forest, as we begin the trip birding the arid high country near Cusco where we usually find small numbers of Bare-faced Ground-Doves (Pete Morris)

It is not all humid forest, as we begin the trip birding the arid high country near Cusco where we usually find small numbers of Bare-faced Ground-Doves (Pete Morris)

Shining Sunbeams are also found in the arid highlands (Pete Morris)

Shining Sunbeams are also found in the arid highlands (Pete Morris)

The lovely Sparkling Violetear is the most aggressive hummer at the feeders (Pete Morris)

The lovely Sparkling Violetear is the most aggressive hummer at the feeders (Pete Morris)

The garden of Amazonia Lodge is probably the best stake-out in the world for the unreal looking Rufous-crested Coquette (Pete Morris)

The garden of Amazonia Lodge is probably the best stake-out in the world for the unreal looking Rufous-crested Coquette (Pete Morris)

…and in many years the gardens also host a pair of nesting Chestnut-fronted Macaws (Pete Morris)

…and in many years the gardens also host a pair of nesting Chestnut-fronted Macaws (Pete Morris)

White-throated Woodpecker is a speciality of western Amazonia (Pete Morris)

White-throated Woodpecker is a speciality of western Amazonia (Pete Morris)

The far reaching calls of Lemon-browed Flycatchers are usually a good sign of bird activity in the Manu foothills (Pete Morris)

The far reaching calls of Lemon-browed Flycatchers are usually a good sign of bird activity in the Manu foothills (Pete Morris)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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