What do San Martín, Loreto, Ucayali and Huánuco have in common? Well, these four regions are home to the Cordillera Azul National Park. This natural area, established in 2001, as well as being home to the largest expanse of Peruvian virgin forest, is heavily focused on the conservation and protection of endemic species and endangered habitats such as high altitude swamps, biological communities in acid rock, 'spongy' forests, isolated lakes, high altitude streams and dwarf forests.
With more than 2.47 million acres, the Cordillera Azul is a paradise that has to be seen to be believed. It possesses an impressive geography and is home to diverse types of ecosystems with abundant biological richness. There is a diverse concentration of flora and fauna that can only be found, naturally, in this protected area, which also protects the river headwaters that provide water throughout the adjacent area via the Huallaga and Ucayali rivers.
Part of the enchantment of this place is the impressive route it offers through the high jungle until it arrives at the Amazonian Basin, where a huge array of mammals can be observed, such as the Andean bear, the South American tapir, monkeys, red deer, peccary, the giant otter, and large rodents like the lowland paca and the capybara, among others. In addition, it is home to Peruvian jaguars and spectacled bears, species that are at risk of extinction.
As for birds, these are the most diverse group in the Cordillera Azul. Macaws, parrots, monk parakeets, guans, curassows and large eagles are some of the more than 500 species estimated to live in this natural area.
There are also 82 species of amphibians and reptiles (8 new toads and a new salamander); as well as 93 species of fish, 22 of which are new to Peru and more than 10 are new to science.
Wonderful and diverse flora
This park is characterized by thick vegetation and mountain forests. In the western part, there are dry sectors and vegetation of the Amazon Basin; in the east, large trees such as cedar, ocotea quixos and tornillo can be found.
About 1,600 plant species have been recorded in the national park, 12 of which are new to science. However, it is estimated that there should be between 4,000 and 6,000 species. The park is also home to an interesting diversity of palm tree species, an important food resource for maintaining large mammal and bird populations.
The Chambirillo viewpoint is probably one of the great natural attractions of the Cordillera Azul, thanks to its spectacular views of the forests to the east of the national park. Likewise, you can appreciate the high altitude swamps, wetlands located at the head of the Pucayacu at 4,600 f.a.s.l. which are unique in Peru.
Another wonderful attraction lies in natural charms such as the lagoon of the lost world, in Chazuta, the enormous triangular plateaus of up to 4.3 miles long and 2.5 miles wide that, in certain sectors of the natural area, rise up to some 1150 feet above the jungle; as well as the cloud forests in the Cushabatay river basin and in the Cinco Puntos mountains.
The Manashahuemana peaks ('manashahuemana' means 'turtle' in the Shipibo language) and the Macaw Clay Licks, both on the Pisqui River, are other destinations that stand out for their scenic beauty.
- To visit Cordillera Azul National Park, you must first obtain a special permit from the National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (Sernanp).
Sources: Sernanp/ El Comercio