At 1.7 million hectares in size the Manu Biosphere Reserve is the largest National Park in Peru.
Founded in 1973 the reserve covers terrain ranging between 120 and 4,200 meters above sea level. This gives it several diverse habitats in a relatively compact area, including tropical rainforest, Andean high puna (grasslands) and cloud forest. In fact Manu has such a high level of biodiversity it’s one of the most biodiverse places on earth, so it’s no surprise that in 1987 it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Manu is also hugely important because its remote location, shielded by the Andes to the West and the vast Amazon basin to the East, meaning that it has been left largely undisturbed. Even the great Inca empire didn’t manage to conquer it. This makes it an excellent place to catch a glimpse of rare and endangered species, like giant otters and jaguar.
Nowadays Manu is still inaccessible by road, and at least two of the four tribal groups living within the reserve remain uncontacted, but unfortunately it is also increasingly under threat from illegal logging and resource extraction. Unsustainable slash-and-burn agriculture has also affected the land around the reserve, reducing the productivity of the soil and causing poverty and malnutrition in the local community.
It’s not all bad news, however, the rise of eco-tourism has created new opportunities for the local people and raised the profile of Manu as an area of great biodiversity and a refuge for endangered species, ensuring their continued protection in the future.
To find out more about visiting Manu Biosphere Reserve check out our getting there page.