Peruvian Cloud Forest
The Untamed Peruvian Cloud Forest Expedition takes you to the eastern slopes of the tropical Andean mountains, where rising above the sweeping lowlands of the Amazon Rainforest, lies the mystical cloud forests of Peru.
Regular swathes of clouds cloak the canopy in a dense mist, giving life to an abundance of epiphytes such as mosses, lichen, bromeliads, orchids and moreamongst the gnarled branches of the forests. Here, species such as the spectacled (Andean) bear, gray woolly monkey and the Andean cock-of-the-rock still live unmolested.
This Expedition gives you the chance to see many exquisite bird species including quetzals, mountain toucans, multiple species of tanagers & hummingbirds, the Amazonian umbrellabird, and the Andean cock-of-the rock. The expedition includes visiting a lek where the Andean cock-of-the-rock males gather and make elaborate displays to gain the attention of females.
During the trip you stay at a selection of the most comfortable and bird friendly lodges in the area!
All our Expeditions are tailor made to cater to your preferences andwhile guide you on your journey to experience the best of the Peruvian cloud forest. To make the most of your visit, we suggest a minimum of 7 days/ 6 nights.
This expedition can be combined with a visit to Machu Picchu or a visit to the Peruvian Rainforest, or for a more complete experience of the birds of Peru, check out our Untamed Birds of Peru Expeditions.
- Observation and photography opportunities of extraordinary wildlife, especially birds, some unique to these habitats
- A birders paradise with over 1000 species, from the shy ground dwelling tinamous; large, loud and gaudy canopy dwelling macaws, to the 18 species of tiny hummingbirds and
- Other wildlife such as spectacled bears, monkeys, tayra, agouti and more
- Experienced English-speaking guides with knowledge of the fauna
- Private transport throughout your trip, allowing flexibility and focus on your interests
All our expeditions are created to suite each client. We help you with the local knowledge of where to go and what to see, but you decide what your priorities are. To enjoy all that the Peruvian cloud forest has to offer we suggest a trip based on the following itinerary:
Cusco to Wayqecha Biological Station (3,400 – 2,900m or 11,150 – 9,500ft)
Having arrived in Cusco before the Expedition, have an early breakfast at your accommodation and soon after depart from Cusco.
The first stop is at the three Huacapay lakes which are surrounded by Inca, and pre-Inca ruins. Here we will see a variety of high Andean waterfowl including: Puna, yellow-billed and cinnamon teal; yellow-billed pintail, Andean duck and other wetland associated birds. The white-tufted grebe and Andean coot will be here too. Depending on the time of year some migrant North American shorebirds (waders) may also be present. We will be specifically on the lookout for the wren-like rushbird, many-colored rush-tyrant, yellow-winged blackbird, Puna ibis, plumbeous rail and Andean negrito. We may also see birds of prey species such as the Aplomado falcon, cinereous harrier, variable hawk and black-chested buzzard-eagle.
In the arid scrub around the lake we’ll look for the endemic rufous-fronted canastero and also streak-fronted thornbird, and in the tobacco (Nicotania sp.) trees the pretty, endemic Bearded Mountaineer feeding along with the giant hummingbird and trainbearers. Peruvian, ash-breasted and mourning sierra-finches will be here along with greenish yellow-finch and the blue-and-yellow tanager.
Onwards and downwards making a couple of selected stops in the inter-montane valleys, to find species of the area including the endemic chestnut-breasted mountain-finch as well as Andean hillstar, Andean flicker, black-throated flowerpiercer, chuiguanco thrush and more. Selecting a nice place for lunch between bird sihgtings, the next stop is for the endemic creamy-crested spinetail, before arriving at the last Andean pass – Ajcanacu. If it’s clear we’ll be able to look out from over the Amazon basin stretching into the distance, as the Incas did in ancient times, worshipping the sun rising over the endless rainforest.
A side stop along the Tres Cruces road may reward us with scribble-tailed and line -fronted canasteros, the newly described Puna wren and perhaps the Puna and diademed tapaculo. The afternoon will be spent birding the upper limits of the eastern slopes, working our way down the side of the Andes. As the forest becomes more continuous possibilities are numerous, but we hope to encounter mixed species flocks of tanagers, flycatchers and ovenbirds. Gray-breasted mountain toucan, collared jay and mountain cacique are among some of the many species we may find.
Overnight at Wayqecha Biological Station
Day 2 & 3:
Wayqecha Biological Station
The Wayqecha (meaning “brother” in Quechua) Birding Lodge is set within a 1,450-acre (587 ha) reserve. They boast an extensive, well maintained trail system to explore, but be prepared as the reserve is spread over a 1000m difference in elevation, with just under 450 bird species listed, an orchid garden and a canopy walkway. The lodge sports a central building, and well equipped cabins with private bathrooms and hot showers.
Depending on what we are missing we may go back up to where the tree line gives way to grassland or spend a full day exploring the humid temperate forest.
This morning we will get an early start early near our lodge. Our target birds after a hot breakfast and hot tea and coffee include – the moustached flowerpiercer, tit-like dacnis, golden-collared tanager and the Puna thistletail. Here is a good place to look out for the endemic red-and-white antpitta and Marcapata spinetail, and always keep an eye out for some of the rare large mammals that live in the reserve such as the spectacled (Andean) bear, jaguar, puma, ocelots, monkeys etc.
As the day warms we’ll spend all day birding downhill through the forest looking for mixed feeding flocks for grass-green tanager, hooded mountain-tanager, black-throated tody-flycatcher, barred fruiteater, white-banded and white-throated tyrannulets and more. If we are lucky, we may see Peruvian treehunter, golden-plumed parakeet or greater scythebill.
Overnight at Wayqecha Biological Station
Wayqecha Biological Station to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge (2,900 – 1,600m or 9,500 – 5,200ft)
At breakfast we will be greeted with a varied dawn chorus with both the red-and-white antpitta and rufous antpitta (occabambae) calling. We will spend all day birding from the biological station at 2,900 meters to our next stop at 1,600 meters though pristine forest on a little traveled road except by tourist. Some of the special birds on this stretch which we will look for include: white-rumped hawk, trilling tapaculo, black-and-chestnut eagle, Andean guan and scaly-naped parrot. A wide variety of hummingbirds can be seen including; the collared Inca, chestnut-breasted coronet, violet-throated startfrontlet, amethyst-throated aunangel, purple-backed thornbill, scaled metaltail and white-bellied woodstar. Also looking to tick off crimson-mantled woodpecker, bar-bellied woodpecker, the endemic Marcapata spinetail, white-throated antpitta, barred and band-tailed fruiteaters, white-throated tyrannulet, ochraceous-breasted flycatcher, barred becard, pale-footed swallow, mountain wren, citrine warbler and various tanager species to tick off the list.
Overnight at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge
Day 5 & 6 :
Nearly halving in altitude to 1,600m, the journey down to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge allows you to observe the changes in scenery and find new bird species while others disappear. Set in luscious montane forest and protected in a 12,500-acre (5,000 ha) reserve, as its name suggests, Andean cock-of-the-rock is common in the area with a lek viewable just a few kilometers before arriving at the lodge. We will be making two visits to the lek enabling us to observe these majestic birds while at their dawn and afternoon mating rituals.
The central building of the lodge hosts the dining area and bar, with 12 large bungalows for sleeping, each with private bathroom and hot showers. The open dining area and lounge overlook a feeding station for brown capuchin monkeys and the strange tayra (a large mustelid related to the otters). Hummingbird feeders here attract several species right in front of the dining room for your viewing pleasure, sometimes including rufous-webbed brilliant and Peruvian piedtail.
Electricity comes from a generator running for a few hours in the evening and a charging station in the dining area to charge our equipment around meal times. There is no internet at this lodge. Nor electricity In the bungalows but you will have candles and solar powered lights.
There is trail system behind the lodge that enables you to see the under-story of the cloud forest first hand and facilitates seeing some species difficult to find from the road such as chestnut-breasted wren, scaled antpitta, rufous-breasted and short-tailed antthrush’s, slaty gnateater and the endemic cerulean-capped manakin. Trails exploring the surrounding forest include an area of bamboo to search out bamboo specialists. A staggering total of 685 bird species have been recorded in the reserve. Some possibilities include white-rumped hawk, solitary eagle, rufous-capped thornbill, crested quetzal, golden-headed quetzal, masked trogon, highland motmot, black-streakd puffbird, blue-banded toucanet, olive-backed woodcreeper, montane woodcreeper, spotted barbtail, montane foliage-gleaner, Amazonian umbrellabird, uniform and variable antshrikes, slaty gnateater, chestnut-crested cotinga, scaled fruiteater, Bolivian tyrannulet, Inca flycatcher (endemic), Yungas mankin, uniform antshrike, white-throated spadebill, fulvous-breasted flatbill, saffron-crowned tanager, yellow-rumped and slaty antwrens, deep-blue flowerpiercer, eruvian piedtail (endemic) and so much more. We will also do some night birding here because if lucky we can find foothill and rufescent screech-owl, rufous-banded owl, lyretailed nightjar and Andean potoo.
Overnight at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge
Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge to Cusco
After a dawn breakfast accompanied by the singing of Andean solitaires and paradise tanagers from the breakfast table, we will pack up and start our trip back to Cusco. Taking a box lunch allows us to make stops on the way to find birds that might have escaped our eyes on the way in. We will drop you at the hotel or airport depending on your arrangements.
What is included:
- Guide for duration of expedition (from airport meeting to drop off)
- Transport between Cusco and cloud forest lodges (any special/extra activies may require additional costs to cover fuel)
- Accommodation for the duration of the expedition
- All meals from the departure point until drop off at end of expedition
- Safe drinking water, tea and coffee
What is not included:
- Soft or alcoholic droinks
- Tips for guide and lodge staff
- Additional snacks
- Travel and health insurance
- Air fares or other transport before arrival to Cusco
About The Area
In Peru, the cloud forest is found on the eastern slopes of the Andes, a continuation of the lowland rainforest but where clouds regularly form at canopy level, shrouding it in a blanket of fog. Of shorter stature than lowland rainforest, and they may be of lower woody plant diversity but supports an abundance of mosses and other epiphytes.
So, while overall diversity may be reduced, endemism is typically high in both flora and fauna – with roughly 53 mammal, 110 bird, and 110 anurans are endemic to Peru, 17 mammals, 29 birds and 42 anurans of which are found in the cloud forest.
The rapid change in altitude also creates different habitats, which in turn supports different species, in a relatively small area. Visitors can make the most of by travelling from the highlands of Cusco, down through the cloud forest and into the lowland Amazon basin of Madre de Dios.
This is an excellent option to combine with a visit to Machu Picchu and exploring the culture and cuisine of Cusco.
Waycecha Cloud Forest Biological Station is owned by the Amazon Conservation Association which studies cloud forest ecology and management. Located at approximately 3,000m, the 1,450 acre reserve boarders the Manu National Park. Established in 2005, they have created a trail system of 15km and a canopy walkway to explore the cloud forest and encounter some of the 625 fauna species recorded, which includes over 200 bird species.
They have shared rooms and six private cabins with their own bathroom available, hot showers, and electricity that runs on generators at set times of day.
Cock-of-the-rock Lodgeis part of a 12,350 acre private conservation area adjacent to Manu National Park at an altitude of 1,100-2,700m. The lodge area has a dining, bar and kitchen area, with 12 bungalows, each with their private bathrooms. Accommodation and facilities here are simple but clean with electricity provided during he evening in communal areas, hot water in the cabins and meals. Sugar water and fruit feeders around the lodge to attract birds, and most importantly – a Cock-of-the-rock lek in the vicinity!
What To Expect & Packing List
A moderate Expedition due to altitude and cloud forest terrain. Generally each morning and afternoon outing will be several kilometers long, and along trails which while well maintained, can be over steep terrain, so a basic to moderate level of fitness is required and may not be suitable for individuals with mobility restrictions.
Come prepared for both hot and humid, and cold and wet weather. Higher elevations can get cold at night, though during the day the sun can be strong, so cooler, but protective clothing is required. Long-sleeved shirts, walking trousers, wide brimmed hats or caps, sunglasses etc. For the evenings, a warm fleecy jacket. In the cloud forest, a perpetual cloak of mist can envelop the forest, or deposit its water content in the form of downpours, so waterproof walking shoes, trousers, jacket and for any equipment you might have is highly advisable.
As we reach lower elevations, the climate becomes more tropical. In screened areas, shorts and sleeveless/ short-sleeved tops are most comfortable, but long trousers and shirts when out and about to protect you from the sun and insects.
All the regular beasties are present – mosquitos, ticks, chiggers, ants, wasps, bees etc. If you have any allergies or reactions to bites, bring medicine and have it with you on every outing. No recent outbreaks or mosquito borne diseases have been reported.
Chiggers are small but highly annoying skin mites. Very difficult to see, in good light they can be identified as tiny red dots the size of a pinpoint, usually in the middle of a red rash the size of a fingertip. Their saliva as they feed causes a reaction that is very itchy but does no real harm unless you scratch too much. Alcohol supposedly helps kill them, and anti-itch cream will help with the effects.
Ticks are present, but it is rare that guests get them, especially if taking precautions such as tucking in trouser legs, not sitting on your bed or wearing clothes you have been out in for a long time, and checking yourself for ticks. No diseases are reported.
Sun and insect protection
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Long trousers
- Wide-brimmed hat / cap with neck protection
- Sun cream
- Insect repellent
Rain & Cold
- Waterproof jacket
- Thick pair of trousers
- Waterproof trousers
- Comfortable, waterproof walking boots
- Sandals / Flip Flops
- Comfortable clothes for relaxing in
- Small day pack or camera bag
- Camera equipment
- Re-fillable water bottle
- Head torch
- Toilet paper (some roadside facilities will not provide toilet paper)
- Cash in Peruvian Nuevos Soles
Two pronged (round or flat) adaptors for any three-pronged or foreign plugs