Cocha Salvador in Manu National Reserve
The Amazon jungle is best known for extensive, wild rainforests. However, the Amazon basin also hosts a few cities, many towns, countless streams and rivers, remote palm swamps, and other habitats. One of the most important and distinctive of Amazonian habitats is the oxbow lake. These quiet wetlands are found near large lowland rivers and act as important habitat for many fish species, Black Caiman, Giant Otters, waterbirds, and species that live in flooded forests. Cocha Salvador is one such body of water and is the largest oxbow lake in Manu National Park, southern Peru.
Cocha Salvador is situated 6 hours upriver from Boca Manu, the main entrance to the Manu reserved zone. As with every site in the wild, roadless Manu area, it can only be reached by boat and a hike through some of the most remote rainforests on the planet. Salvador is about 6 kilometers in length, one third of which is covered in marsh vegetation. The lake is shaped like a loop in the river and indeed, at some distant time in the past, it used to be one of the meandering curves of the Manu River. As with other oxbow lakes, Salvador formed when it was “cut off” from the main channel of the Manu River during a rainy season. In being separated from the river, Cocha Salvador lacks strong currents and has dark, tannin-colored water.
The remote location of Salvador make it an excellent place to see a variety of wildlife. Most visitors look for the following signature species from a floating platform:
Manu's Endangered Giant River Otters: This most endangered mammal of the Amazon basin is one of the key species at Cocha Salvador. Several of these 5 foot long otters live at the lake and are often seen by visitors. These intelligent, social mammals only thrive in pristine, unpolluted lakes like Salvador. Watch for the heads of the otters as they come above the surface of the water, and listen for their unique mewing calls and snorts.
Pygmy Marmoset: This tiniest of primates lives in the floodplain forests around the lake. It feeds on insects, many of which it catches by scratching the bark of certain trees and catching the bugs that come to the flowing sap. This can be a difficult species to see well but local guides may know which large, vine-covered trees they have been frequenting.
Squirrel Monkey: Another of the 14 species of primates that live in Manu National Park, this small monkey moves through the edge of the rainforests that surround the lake. It is often seen in groups of 50 or more individuals. To see them, listen for their squeaky, bird-like calls and watch for moving branches at the edge of the forest.
Black Caiman: This large crocodilian can attain a length of 5 meters and is one of the top predators on Salvador Cocha. It shares space at the top of the food chain with the Anaconda and Giant Otter. Since the Black Caiman poses a threat to young Giant Otters, members of otter families don’t hesitate to drive caimans away from their territory. Watch for the eyes and snout of this species as they protrude out of the water. You may also see the smaller, more common Spectacled Caiman.
Hoatzin: This bizarre, nearly flightless bird is common in vegetation around the edge of the lake. Watch for it as this folivorous bird picks and eats leaves, and clambers around the vegetation. The local name for this strange species is “stinkbird” on account of the smell given off by its leaf-fermenting gut.
Blue and Yellow Macaw: This big, spectacular parrot is hard to miss as it screeches and flies above the oxbow lake. Once in a while, it perches in the tops of lakeside trees. This beautiful bird has gorgeous, blue and bright yellow plumage.
Enjoy visits to this exciting jungle destination during stays at jungle lodges near Manu National Reserve.