The Andes mountains were formed millions of years ago as the super continent of Pangea broke up, creating the longest continental mountain range in the world with peaks of up to 6,962 m and the world’s highest volcanoes. Tectonic forces continue to shape the Andes to this day as two plates (the Antarctic plate and the Nazca plate) are subducted beneath the South American plate resulting in the occasional earthquake.
Manu National Park sits on the east side of the Andes and these impressive natural monuments are responsible for much of the diversity found in the park. The increase height as you rise up from the rainforest surrounding the Manu River results in a change in climate, the air becomes cooler and the jungle changes, becoming the fog shrouded cloud forest, and finally the grasslands of the puna. Further into the Amazon basin the land becomes flatter, and so has a higher degree of similarity within the same sized area, resulting in reduced diversity.
Historically the Inca empire’s furthest boundary never made it far beyond the mountains into the rainforest, and today they still form a natural barrier, making travel from places such as Lima and Cusco to the rainforest difficult, but also protecting these areas from too much interference. This means that Manu is one of the last places on earth with uncontacted indigenous peoples living traditional lifestyles.