The heart on the Manu Biosphere Reserve is the Manu River, it is the centre of a stunning landscape, an important transport link for both the people that live in Manu and those who visit, and most importantly it’s waters provide a home to many of the animals in the park and the fish that live in it are food for many more.
The park covers almost the entire watershed of the river, high up in the Andes are tributaries which form the source of the Manu river, flowing down the slopes and combining to create something much larger. The rain that falls across the park, which can be quite a substantial amount, it’s not called a rainforest for nothing, will too end up in the river. Eventually all this water flows into the Madre de Dios River at the edge of the park, which then winds through Bolivia, into Brazil, joining the Madeira River and finally the Amazon itself, taking water that fell as rain in the Andes mountains nearly 2000 miles away to the Atlantic ocean. Moving at about 5m/s on average this journey will only take the water around a week, check out the map below:
View Manu River to the mouth of the Amazon in a larger map
Along the banks of the river is dense jungle and cliffs made of orange clay which contains large amounts of minerals, attracting large numbers of macaws, including the endangered blue headed macaw, which visit in order to eat the clay. They do this because the minerals enable them to digest otherwise toxic foods and it also provides them with sodium in their diet, a mineral which is scarce so far from the sea.
The Manu River twists and turns as it makes it’s way, over the years this has resulted in the formation of ox bow lakes, these lakes are home to animals like the giant otter and black caiman, as well as an abundance of fish. These lakes provide great wildlife watching locations, many people go right out into the middle on a balsa wood raft to get the best view.