Camping with Monkeys

If you never had the opportunity to pack up and bus out to summer camp as a kid, you still have time to experience this giddy event at Manu National Park near Cuzco, Peru.

Set aside and protected by Peru´s government, this slice of the Amazon Basin provides visitors with a spectacle of parrots, monkeys, anteaters, alligators, jaguars and giant otters, just to name a few.

In a six-day adventure tourists are paddled up a meandering river (which is filled to the brim with piranhas) and lead into camps at sunset where gourmet meals are served in a thatch roof mess hall and cabins are dressed with mosquito nets and candles.

Above- Sleeping quarters in Manu National Park

Above- Butterflies lick the salty tears of turtles. (Photo by Max Milligan.) This scene is common as tourists watch wildlife from their boats.

The schedule alone for this adult adventure resembles a summer camp routine, complete with a wake-up call at daybreak, organized nature treks and daily snack bags, stuffed with cookies, fruit, candy and drinks. Biologist tour guides are pumped to share their wisdom of everything from species of monkeys (capuchin, red howler, woolley, etc…) to native local customs (such as preparing and eating these same monkeys for dinner!)

Above- Birds lick the clay walls of Manu National Park in order to balance their acidic diet. Campers catch this scene early in the morning from a boat.

In the jungle, buzzing, howling, rattling and whirring noises substitute campfire songs of youth, but who wants to sit around a blaze toasting marshmallows when it is 80 degrees with 80% humidity, anyway? White water rafting replaces kiddie camp canoe trips that took place on a lake of scum and jungle zip lines glide riders into a Tarzan fantasy that charades or capture-the-flag never could have fulfilled.

And when the week is over and travelers from around the globe say their goodbyes, campers do not jump into the family minivan to be towed back home, but instead board a 14-seater plane for one final glimpse of the rainforest´s canopy, cloud forest and Andes below.

Now who said growing up stinks?

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