The Best Manu Jungle Tour

O learning about the Amazon

If you want to go on a Manu jungle tour and experience the Amazon firsthand, you have to go with Bonanza Tours. You just have to. We loved our time with this family tour company. No affiliate links here, just wanted to share our amazing experience.

First, let’s talk location

Manu National Park is located in the regions of Madre de Dios and Cusco in Peru. We started our Manu jungle tour in Cusco. The tour company picked us up from our hostel at 6 a.m. in a small van. The drive from Cusco to Manu National Park takes about 8 hours. But please rest assured that after the first few hours the trip becomes very scenic. We got out of the van several times to spot sloths, toucans and monkeys.

Manu National Park is divided into four sections. However, only two of the sections, the reserved zone and the cultural zone, are open to tourists. When selecting a tour, you will be choosing between a cultural zone tour and a reserved zone tour. The cultural zone tours are shorter because you do not go as far into the jungle. We selected a cultural tour with Bonanza Tours. If I had the opportunity to do it again I would op for a longer, reserved tour. Yes, the reserved tours are more money and are for more days. But getting to the Amazon is a trek, and we definitely left wanting more days to experience its beauty. What I wouldn’t change: booking with Bonanza Tours.

The Structure of the Tour

The four day Manu jungle tour is busy. On the four day, three night tour, you are already moving a lot. On the first day, you travel by van from Cusco to the edge of Manu. That evening you stay in Bonanza’s private rainforest lodge, which consists of small cabins with their own bathroom.

The second day you head into Manu. The day’s travel begins in the van, but switches fairly quickly to an amazing boat ride. Your boat destination is deep in Manu National Park to the Huamani’s home, which is noow turned into the reserve lodge. Once you arrive at the main lodge in Manu, you drop your bags, get a snack and head out to their Camouflage house. Tonight you will sleep under the stars at a popular mammals clay lick.

On day 3, after an unforgettable experience in the jungle. You hike back to the lodge and take a day trip to the observation deck to birdwatch. Day 4 is boat and van back to Cusco.

The Best Little Tour Company to Manu National Park in Peru

To be clear, we actually haven’t tried any other tour company so we might be a bit biased. However, our experience with Ryse Huamani was one of the best travel experiences of our lives. Even though we were only on a 4 day Manu jungle tour with Ryse, we fell in love with him and here’s why:

Bonanza Tour Company is Family Run

Ryse turned his family home into a eco-friendly retreat, but Ryse and his family grew up in this place and have lived on the reserve since the 1980s. Ryse had so many stories of his childhood in the jungle. When you experience the jungle with Ryse, you know he had been climbing those trees since he was a child (something he challenged my boys to and Matthew was pretty impressed with himself that he could climb as high as Ryse). Ryse is expert at knowing what plants can heal you when you get an ant bite (which we did), how to spot a pair of macaws or find the biggest spider–not my favorite part. The company only uses guides who have grown up as Ryse did (heck, you might even get Ryse as a guide) and it was as authentic an experience as I can imagine.

Matthew impressed with himself and his tree climbing skills.

The Overnight Stay at the Camouflage House

Okay, let me be real here. When I first heard we would be sleeping in the middle of the jungle on a platform high above a salt flat where my 12-year-old had to be absolutely silent for 12 hours, I was nervous. Okay, I was more than nervous. I was afraid. Could O do this? Where would I pee? This one experience deserves it’s own post, but just know that there is something remarkable about being with a small group of travelers–all of whom were strangers to you not more than 24 hours before and being in silence in one of the most biodiverse places in the world. 

The Camoflauge House
Camoflauge house

The Lack of Ziplines

To be clear, we love a good zip line. We have gone ziplining in Ensenada, Mexico and Monteverde, Costa Rica. Bonanza reserve does not have ziplining or slacklining or hot tubing (in fact, in full disclosure, it is a cold shower waiting for you when you get back from camouflage house). The lack of stuff is exactly why we loved it. Over a delicious meal (one of many), Ryse said the family had at one point considered putting in these experiences to attract more Western tourists, but I am so glad that when we got back to the lodge, all O had the option to do was lay in a hammock and be. 

Manu National Park
O on the boat on the way to the Bonanza Ecological Reserve

Travel is our passion and as someone new to the blogging scene, I understand that bloggers often travel places through paid partnerships (which I totally understand, people got to eat). We are far, far from that level of travel bloggers. We found Bonanza through Trip Advisor and took a chance with this lovely, family company, and it turns out it was one of our best travel experiences yet. So if you have plans to see Manu, you should absolutely see it through the eyes of the Huamani family. You will not be disappointed.

Know Before You Go: Bugs in the Amazon are real. Take serious bug spray and long sleeves and pants to protect yourself and your family. Recommended Kid Age: At 12, O was the perfect age for this trip. He could have done it maybe a year later and could certainly do it now, but 12 was a great sweet spot because he was so into the experience and didn’t miss a 4-day hiatus with the world (or technology) one bit. 

Matthew resting at the Reserve Lodge
Matthew relaxing before our hike to the Camouflage house

Read more about our trip to Peru and our age recommendation for traveling with kids to Machu Picchu.

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