Pacaya Samira
National Reserve
Biosphere Reserve
National Reserve
Show More

Peru: Wildlife Destinations

Wildlife Highlights of Peru

1. From the jungle city of Iquitos delve into the Amazon at Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
2. Huascaran National Park offers spectacular hiking in the Cordillera Blanca, with the chance of spotting Andean condors, viscachas and, if you’re particularly lucky, puma.
3. Scoured by the Humboldt Current, the rocky peninsula of the Paracas National Reserve has sea lions, inca terns, brown pelicans, Peruvian boobies and Guanay cormorants. Whales can be seen offshore around the Ballestas Islands.
4. The Colca Canyon is one of the best places in South America to see Andean condors.
5. Tambopata National Reserve is part of the great Tambopata Madidi Wilderness on the Peru-Bolivia border, protecting some of the most species-rich forest on Earth.
6. Manu Biosphere Reserve rivals even Tambopata for biodiversity – its habitats range from high-altitude grassland to lowland tropical rainforest.

Pacaya Samira National Reserve

Pacaya Samira's star species: Amazon river dolphin • Three-toed sloth • Black caiman • Hoatzin


Covering 20,000 sq km, Pacaya Samiria extends east from the official source of the Amazon (where the Ucayali and Marañon rivers meet). The world’s largest flooded forest, it is only accessible by boat from December to April when 85% of the reserve is inundated. Wildlife is prolific with nearly 1,000 species of plants recorded, along with 450 species of birds, 102 mammal species and 130 varieties of reptiles and amphibians. Pink river dolphins use sonar to navigate through the flooded forest, while hoatzin can often be seen perched in trees over lagoons and oxbow lakes. Four species of caiman – black, white-bellied, smooth-fronted and dwarf – can be found lurking among rafts of floating lettuce or basking on fallen tree trunks. 

Getting there Directions 180km southwest of Iquitos along the Amazon River.
Getting around Riverboats operate from Iquitos. One of the longest established is Delfin which operates two vessels – one with six cabins, the other with 14. Hiking is possible in the reserve during low-water season.
When to go The flooded season (Dec-Apr) has temperatures of around 30C and rivers running 7m higher than normal.
Things to do River cruises, canoeing, boat trips, fishing.
Places to stay In addition to riverboat cruises, accommodation includes the Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge located in the reserve’s buffer zone.


Manu Biosphere Reserve

Manu's star species: Scarlet macaw • Giant river otter • Emperor tamarin • Tapir • Cock-of-the-rock • Howler monkey


At 1.5 million hectares, Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru is quite possibly the most species-rich protected area on Earth, with an ever-increasing inventory that features 1,200 species of plants, 850 varieties of birds and 200 different mammals, including 13 monkeys and over 100 bats. Part of the reason for this extraordinary biodiversity is Manú’s range of habitats, rising in tiers from lowland tropical rainforest, through cloud forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes to puna grassland at 4,200m above sea level.


You can reach the jungle heart of Manu by taking a light aircraft flight from Cuzco, followed by a riverboat trip, but the overland journey is far more rewarding. After crossing the high-altitude puna and cresting a pass in the Andes, the first night is spent in a cloud forest lodge, close to courtship leks of the Andean cock-of-the-rock. From there, it’s a long drive on a gravel track that spirals into the Amazon basin, passing remote communities like Pilcopata before reaching the Manu and Madre de Dios Rivers. Transferring to motorised longboats you then navigate shallow rapids and flood-stranded driftwood to reach rainforest lodges, like Manú Wildlife Centre, six hours travel downstream.


The Manu Wildlife Centre has canopy towers for spotting Manu's birds and primates, a tapir-viewing platform (for observing this largely nocturnal creature at close quarters) and excursions to a riverbank clay lick that attracts flocks of macaws and parrots. Boat trips to a nearby oxbow lake often reveal giant river otter, howler monkey, three-toed sloth and black caiman.

Getting there Directions Fly from Cusco or travel overland.
Getting around Jungle trails, boat trips, canoeing.
When to go Late March through December.
Things to do Birdwatching, boat trips, jungle trails.
Places to stay Cloud forest lodges include Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge and Manú Paradise Lodge; rainforest lodges include Manú Wildlife Centre

Tambopata National Reserve

Tambopata's star species: Macaws • Parrots • Giant river otter • Capybara • Harpy Eagle • Primates


Renowned for its clay licks (attracting up to 260 macaws and a dozen species of parrots), Tambopata’s Heath River and Sandoval Lake are also rich in wildlife.

Getting there A 25-minute flight from Cusco, Puerto Maldonado is the departure point for boats to various lodges in the reserve.
Getting around Jungle trails, boat trips, canoeing.
When to go August through April; clay lick best August to October.
Things to do Birdwatching, boat trips, jungle trails.
Places to stay Heath River Wildlife Centre is close to a floating hide overlooking a clay lick and also runs night-time caiman-spotting trips; Sandoval Lake Lodge.


Read the latest posts on South American wildlife travel

wildlife travel essentials: Peru


Flights to Lima are available with American Airlines, KLM and Iberia.


Owned by non-profit conservation group, Peru Verde, InkaNatura Travel runs jungle lodges in Manú and Tambopata and can organise specialist birding and archaeology tours as well as biology workshops and treks. For international operators covering Peru, visit


Temperatures in the jungle remain at a fairly steady level in the high 20s and you can expect short, intense bursts of rain at any time of year. It tends to be hotter and drier, however, from April to October. The reverse is true for the coast which is driest from December to April.



Accommodation ranges from Amazon riverboats and jungle ecolodges to city hotels and camping on the Inca Trail.

Further information:


I post regular wildlife travel features, destination guides, reviews and news. Sign up below to be notified of the latest posts.
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Wildlife Wishlist was founded by zoologist, conservationist and award-winning travel writer and photographer William Gray. Sharing his passion for wildlife and recommendations for responsible travel, Will has spent around 30 years tracking down the world's best wildlife holiday experiences.