Manu National Park is divided into three zones: the "intangible zone" which is only accessible to scientists and researchers, the "reserved zone" (tourism) which is only accessible to a limited number of tour operators and their tours, and the "cultural zone" which is more accessible and where local Amazonian peoples live in small communities. To enter the reserved zone, you must go with a tour operator on a multi-day trip which can be expensive.
The cultural zone is home to several native communities of Yine and Matsiguenka people who have initiated tourism projects. It is possible to go on your own to the cultural zone as long as you take proper precautions and make your own arrangements (more information below). When visiting the park, chances to see wildlife are highest in the reserved tourism zone but wildlife experiences are also available in the cultural zone. The cultural zone is the only place where you will be able to visit native communities, many of which still follow their traditional ways of life, such as hunter-gatherer traditions.
Manu National Park covers an area of 1,716,295.22 hectares (17,162.95 km2) which is comprised of mountainous areas (traversed by creeks and valleys) with elevations close to 4000 m above sea level and a portion of the Amazon Basin plains.
The park is divided into the following areas: the restricted use zone (with pristine forests and native communities, access is granted to reasearchers only); the reserved zone (for recreation and research); the recuperation zone (for the recovery of disturbed areas) and the cultural zone (for human settlement).
Climate in the park is highly variable, rainy, and depends on the elevation. The mountainous southern section has an annual precipitation between 1500-2000 mm, while in the middle section it is between 3000-3500 mm, and in the northwestern section the annual precipitation reaches 8000 mm or more. The less rainy season is from May to September, accompanied by lower temperatures.
In the park, the mean annual temperature in the lowland rainforest is 25.6°C (~78°F), while in the Andean zone it is 8°C (~46°F).
The different vegetation regions inside the park include puna grassland (in areas over 4000 m), high Andean forests, cloud forests, and lowland Amazon rainforest. This variety of vegetation types is represented by 162 families, 1191 genera and 4385 identified species of plants, with as many as 250 tree species in one hectare. A study found a total of 1108 species of trees inside the park, from several plots between the mountain tree line and the lowland forest.
Plant species found in the lowland rainforest zone of the park include: Bertholletia excelsa, Nectandra spp., Cedrelinga cateniformis, Socratea exorrhiza, Eugenia spp., Cedrela odorata, Brosimum lactescens, Myrcia spp., Iriartea deltoidea, Protium spp., Diospyros artanthifolia, Poulsenia armata, Cecropia spp., Inga spp., Margaritaria nobilis, Ceiba samauma, Solanum grandiflorum, Casearia spp., Annona excellens, Calophyllum brasiliense, Simarouba amara, Maxillaria spp., Virola calophylla, Dictyocaryum lamarckianum, Ficus spp., Sloanea spp., Trema micrantha, Hevea brasiliensis, Piper spp., Mauritia flexuosa, Clusia spp., Euterpe precatoria, Jacaranda copaia, etc. Plant species found in the mountain zones in the park include: Podocarpus oleifolius, Prunus integrifolia, Odontoglossum aureum, Escallonia myrtilloides, Hesperomeles ferruginea, Gynoxys nitida, Otoglossum scansor, Baccharis salicifolia, Cinchona pubescens, Oreopanax spp., Polylepis pauta, Alnus acuminata, Retrophyllum rospigliosii, Vallea stipularis, etc.
About 160 species of mammals have been recorded in the park. Mammals found in the lowland rainforest zone of the park include: the jaguar, the tayra, the giant armadillo, the puma (also present in mountainous areas), Goeldi's marmoset, the ocelot, the collared peccary, the giant otter, the Peruvian spider monkey, the Mexican free-tailed bat, the jaguarundi, Hoffmann's two-toed sloth, the capybara, the tufted capuchin, the giant anteater, the white-lipped peccary, the greater bulldog bat, the Southern Amazon red squirrel, the marsh deer, the water opossum, the red brocket, the nine-banded armadillo, the pygmy marmoset, the brown-throated sloth, the black-capped squirrel monkey, the South American tapir, the southern tamandua, the moustached tamarin, the pacarana, etc. Mammals reported from mountain zones in the park include: the white-tailed deer, the Andean fox, the mountain paca, the long-tailed weasel, the montane guinea pig, the spectacled bear, etc.
It has been estimated that more than 1000 bird species live in the park. Birds recorded in the lowland rainforest in the park include: the great tinamou, Spix's guan, the rufescent tiger-heron, the blue-and-yellow macaw, the silvery grebe, the harpy eagle, the blue throated piping-guan, the long-billed starthroat, the snowy egret, the king vulture, the ladder-tailed nightjar, the scarlet macaw, the sapphire-spangled emerald, the roseate spoonbill, the stilt sandpiper, the blue-crowned trogon, the turquoise tanager, the Amazonian pygmy owl, the black-throated mango, the blue-headed parrot, etc. Birds present in the mountain zones in the park include: the Andean tinamou, the great horned owl, the torrent duck, the yellow-billed pintail, the amethyst-throated sunangel, the Andean guan, the puna ibis, the golden-collared tanager, the Andean condor, the collared inca, the solitary eagle, the Andean cock-of-the-rock, the masked flowerpiercer, the mountain caracara, the mitred parakeet, the sapphire-vented puffleg, the giant hummingbird, etc.
The 155 amphibian species found in the park include: Atelopus erythropus, Bolitoglossa altamazonica, Chiasmocleis ventrimaculata, Dendropsophus acreanus, Dendropsophus koechlini, Dendropsophus rhodopeplus, Hyalinobatrachium bergeri, Leptodactylus didymus, Oreobates cruralis, Oscaecilia bassleri, Pipa pipa, Pristimantis buccinator, Pristimantis cosnipatae, Pristimantis danae, Pristimantis olivaceus, Rhinella veraguensis, Telmatobius timens, etc.
There are 132 species of reptiles in the park including: the spectacled caiman, the black caiman, the northern caiman lizard, the mata mata, the boa, the shushupe, the green anaconda, the tree boa, the yellow-spotted river turtle, the lancehead, the aquatic coral snake, etc.
In addition, 210 species of fish, 300 species of ants, 650 species of beetles, 136 species of dragonflies and more than 1300 species of butterfiles have been reported in the park so far.