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Peru Wildlife: Pristine Amazon and enchanted Galapagos

20 days from £7,746pp

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Peru Wildlife: Pristine Amazon and enchanted Galapagos


Private Journey


Day 1

Arrive in Lima and transfer to hotel in Miraflores.
The half-hour drive to the hotel through Lima is not the most enchanting introduction to this city of extreme contrasts, but it does encapsulate the invigorating buzz of a modern-day Latin American capital. Lima’s history is grandiose in the extreme; a vital capital in Spanish colonial times, it has monumental architecture to match. The city is composed of contrasting districts, and Barranco (where your hotel is) is one of the most interesting, with a history of creative arts and many galleries and a lively music scene.
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Day 2

Transfer to the airport via city attractions. Fly to Cusco drive to Ollantaytambo.
On your transfer to the airport you’ll be taken on a whistle-stop tour of Lima’s principal attractions, including the vast Plaza de Armas flanked by the imposing cathedral and government palace.

It’s a 1hr flight to Cusco in the Andes, from where you’re driven up  out of the city, then descend into the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created.

Overnight in the one of the loveliest properties in the valley at Ollantaytambo, a small town lost in time between the Incas of its foundations and the colonial Spanish invaders, with little cobbled streets and adobe houses dwarfed by the massive bulk of its imperial Inca fortress. The snow-capped Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop.

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Day 3

Expedition train to Machu Picchu, guided tour of the ruins, return to Cusco.

Travel for 1.5hours by train from Ollantaytambo to reach the ruins of Machu Picchu. The railway route through the Sacred Valley and Urubamba gorge passes through some of Peru's most exquisite and dramatic scenery. From the fertile valley floor studded with fields bulging with cereals, fruit and vegetables, rimmed by rugged mountains, the track enters an ever-narrowing gorge: the river froths over water-smoothed boulders and vertical cliffs, increasingly draped in tropical vegetation, tower skywards.

You’ll have a guided tour of the ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, is reached by minibus up a sinuous road, or on foot up a near vertical rocky path. The American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath jungle vegetation. It soon became clear to excavators that the conquistadores had never found the city.

Return to Cusco.

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Machu Picchu

Day 4

Explore Cusco with guided visits to markets and top sights.
Once capital of the Inca Empire, its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches. It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and cafés.

Today you'll have a briefing from your guide about CREES and its work in Manú in the remote Peruvian Amazon. You’ll pop into a few of the city's foodstuffs markets to buy provisions and there's an opportunity to visit some of the magnificent churches, museums and the shop-lined alleys.

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Day 5

Travel to Manú Biosphere Reserve in Amazonia.
Begin your adventure to the Peruvian Amazon. This Biosphere Reserve is the biggest protected area of rainforest in Peru and one of the best places on the continent for seeing tropical flora and fauna.

This adventure takes you into wilderness rainforest, where wildlife spotting is its most rewarding, and to observe community projects and even assist in the scientific research undertaken by the CREES Foundation.

You’ll be driven from Cusco, climbing over Huancarani pass (3,700m), descending rapidly from the uplands, winding through a tortured rocky landscape and passing through the little traditional town of Paucartambo, the centre of ancient trading routes of the Incas, and on over another pass  at 3,500m. The views en route of rippling waves of hazy mountain ranges are superb. Eventually you enter misty, succulent cloud forest before reaching the entrance to the Manú National Park and your simple lodge, the Cock of the Rock.

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Day 6

Visit cock-of-the-rock habitat; continue deeper into the forest.
Rise before dawn and head out into the cloud forest to see one the vivid national bird of Peru, the cock-of-the-rock, and maybe watch entranced as the brilliantly fiery-orange creature performs its intricate dance in competition with other males.

Begin the journey by road further down into the cloud forest filled with the sights and sounds of the rainforest: monkeys and some of the richest varieties of birds on earth, in addition to the comical spectacled bear. Along the way, visit a coca plantation to learn about the uses of the leaves and their medicinal properties.

Later you embark on the spectacular, hair-raising, breathtaking, descent to Atalaya. Here you board a motorised canoe on the Alto Madre de Dios for an hour’s ride to the Manú Learning Centre where you wil be accommodated for four nights. These are the upper reaches of one of the most southerly feeders of the Amazon, flanked by low forested bluffs - your first impression of what will become, hundreds of kilometres downstream, the meanderings of the greatest river on earth.

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Days 7&8

Visit parrot clay lick; research projects
On the next two days you will be rising early at about 5.00am to take part in the conservation and research projects. First, join scientists and researchers on an early morning boat trip to the clay lick (collpa), to view the activity of macaws, parrots, and parakeets. As dawn breaks, be dazzled by the vivid plumage of the birds as they flock together on the walls of the clay lick. A commonplace, everyday activity for the birds; a spellbinding display for the observer. The blue headed macaw is observed and studied here, as it is an endangered species.

Examples of the projects you can get involved in are mammal tracking such as the jaguar, puma, tapir and peccary. Help set camera and footprint traps. Head out on early morning hikes using various surveying techniques for recording data as well as at night doing sound surveys. There is a butterfly project setting fruit-bated traps in various areas of the rainforest and monitoring these. Other projects include the Biomass Forest Structure project which investigates the science behind carbon sequestration.

While taking part in these projects you will be experiencing differing terrain and multiple forest types, coming across squirrel monkeys, hummingbirds and razor-billed curassows. With over 13 different species of monkeys (according to the last report on the area around the Manu Biosphere Reserve) and a large mammal presence, you will be able to observe a lot of wildlife. With over 24 km of trails this is a large exploration area. After a full day working on the projects, return and freshen up for a homemade meal. Following dinner you can talk to the scientists, researchers and other volunteers, perhaps enjoying a presentation of their latest findings, or just relax and take in the sounds of the rainforest.

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Day 9

Community projects at the Manú Learning Centre

 Once again after an early breakfast you will be taking part in some of the community based projects. The Bio Garden project serves as a model of small scale subsistence farming and reforestation. You will be taught about the different crops and be involved in planting them. You will assist the locals in implementing new and sustainable agricultural techniques, such as planting vegetables which are set alongside young trees in the same bed. The crops protect the trees in their most vulnerable stages; by the time the garden has been harvested for several seasons the trees have become established.

Another community project is the Agro-Forestry project, a reforestation plan which will provide you with the opportunity to plant away your own carbon emissions from your trip to Peru on locally deforested areas. Over the next 15 years projects like this one will generate over $US800,000 for the local community. After a full day working on the projects, overnight at the lodge, taking in the wonderful setting, having dinner and sharing experiences with others.

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Day 10

Return to Cusco.

After breakfast, prepare for departure and take the boat back to Atalaya port-town, where you board transport back to Cusco. The landscape changes dramatically as you climb up into the cloud forest towards the Andes and then descend to the city and your hotel.

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Day 11

Fly via Lima to Quito, Ecuador, overnight in Quito’s old city.
Fly to Lima and connect to Quito (2.5hrs), the Andean capital of Ecuador. The active volcano Guagua Pichincha, to the east, glowers over the dynamic city which, at 2,850m, is one of highest capital cities in the world. Quito is divided into two contrasting districts. The modern zone is characterised by towering glass buildings and houses banks, international companies, hotels, shops and restaurants, while the central colonial area has well-conserved and recently spruced-up white-washed architecture, open air markets and graceful Spanish-style mansions and churches. 
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Day 12

Full day expedition to Mindo Cloud Forest Reserve.
Take a day trip down from the chilly Andean landscape to the bird-filled cloud forest, just 2.5hrs from Quito. Bellavista Reserve is distinguished by sharp and deeply forested mountains descending to gorges with waterfalls and crystalline streams. This pre-montane cloud forest (1,400-2600m) has the highest diversity anywhere of epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants). Here you will find a hanging garden where the trees are festooned with a profusion of bromeliads, orchids and mosses.

At Bellavista 170 species of birds have been recorded and the list continues to grow: tanagers, Swallow-tailed nightjars, Plush-capped finches and Plate-billed mountain toucan are all to be found here.

When you reach Bellavista, climb to the top of the hill for fabulous views. Enjoy the vision of fluttering hummingbirds or walk into the forest on the reserve's network of trails. After lunch, there’s an organised hike where a specialist guide will acquaint you with the florid vegetation, its bird life and the fascinating adaptations to survival in this fecund environment. Return to Quito.

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Amazon Cloud Forest

Day 13

Fly to the Galápagos Islands, board MV Coral l or ll.

Fly to the Galápagos Islands (2 hrs) where you will embark on the MV Coral I or her sister ship Coral II for your 8-day cruise around the archipelago. Your naturalist guide will be waiting to take you to the quayside.  

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Frigate birds

Days 14-19

Land excursions from the cruise around the Galápagos Islands.
The Galápagos Islands emerged in the Pacific Ocean six million years ago following a spate of volcanic activity and, isolated from the continental mainland, have become home to unique plant and animal species.

The islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which formed the basis for his revolutionary book ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859. Without fear of humans, they are sufficiently trusting to allow you to approach them and observe them up close.

Although geologically constantly on the move, these islands remain suspended in time, with giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, frigate birds, waved  albatross and blue-footed boobies and a wealth of rare flora all thriving there. For many, the fascinating and unique wildlife and natural beauty of the islands are matched by the thrill of being at sea. Find a spot on deck as you make your way through the ocean, often trailed by flocks of birds and playful dolphins.

The itinerary for your days in the Galápagos will depend on your date of departure and is subject to change. There are normally two landings a day to seek out the different wildlife that inhabits the islands. 

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Giant tortoises

Day 20

Fly to Guayaquil, connect with international flight home.

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