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Trip Report Stay away from Manu Nature Tours

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I went to Manu Nature Tours this past summer and I recommend using a different operator.

To summarize:
-the service is absolutely terrible, starting with the uniformed, disorganized guide who was unfamiliar with the area
-unsafe practices such as not carrying anti-venom because it's too expensive and not carrying maps or compasses
-understaffed facilities: we had to grab and push our boat through rapids once the motor died (we gave our spare motor up in order to carry several hundred pounds of bananas so that they could squeeze more money out)
-no maintenance: think broken boats, moldy wood, holes in every net and fence, and broken fixtures. That's just for starters. All of the pictures on the website are VERY dated.
-blatant lying by the office in Cusco - promises of activities that simply aren't offered

Remember, you're paying the HIGHEST prices in the area, so these things shouldn't be issues. Just you someone else, you'll be better off. At least they care about their clients. There are some terrific agencies in Peru; this is NOT one of them.

If you are still interested in using Manu Nature Tours, please read the 1750 word complaint letter that I sent them following my return from their trip. I highly encourage you to read it if you want to use them.

I am writing to express my disappointment and to request a full refund, not only for myself, but for each person on the 29Aug-03Sep Manu trip because I believe that you grossly misrepresented your services. I wasn’t sure how to group my complaints, so I decided to use your words to organize my issues. I pulled each quotation off of your website on September 4th, 2012.
According to your website, your “philosophy” is to “strive to offer our clients with the best possible quality of infrastructure, accommodations, meals and interpretation services.” I’m going to add safety to the list as well, even if it isn’t one of your priorities.

Safety is non-existent. Our guide made it quite clear that if one of us were to get injured, there was no contingency plan. Without a map or a compass, our guide seldom knew where we were – we would often ask and he would give inaccurate replies. Fortunately, one of the other clients did bring a compass. Your site states that your trips “have been carefully tested and designed for people of all ages.” This simply isn’t true. When we entered Manu Lodge, we had to make a 20-minute walk in the dark while carrying our bags and supplies through the forest without our guide waiting for us. He later informed us not to walk around in the dark because of the possibility of getting bitten by snakes. When asked if anti-venom was on hand, he said that it wasn’t. Besides that, I doubt that “people of all ages” could haul their own gear and extra supplies in the dark – can you imagine retirees doing that? Luckily, our group was young and fit. We had our other large safety violation when we left. You state that you “always carry a spare motor” – this was true until you decided to get rid of it because of weight, instead choosing to keep 100 kgs of bananas to sell for your own benefit. There were multiple times when all of the males on the boat had to enter the water to manually push the boat up the river, partially because of the extra weight. Does that sound like a trip for “people of all ages?” The kicker was when our guide left two of our guests behind while we sped away in a boat; it took another guest 2 minutes to convince the guide that this was an issue!
The “only full service lodge” doesn’t really offer any service, as I cover in the last paragraph. You state that you “use new and strictly maintained vehicles to transport our clients across the Andes from Cusco;” does a new and strictly maintained vehicle break down in the middle of a river, forcing us to turn around? Does a new vehicle mean covered in dirt and rust? We’re in fresh water, so salt water corrosion isn’t an excuse. You also write that you “have been using new aluminum speedboats imported from Brazil which allow our clients to cover the same distances in half the time used by conventional dug-out canoes.” We saw these rotting out in front of the resort in the jungle, thrown away like a piece of trash. We used wooden boats, so this is a blatant lie.
You may have the only permanent structure within Manu and perhaps at one point in time, it was terrific, but because of your neglect, it’s clear that your accommodations are in worse conditions than those of your competitors. We had to borrow supplies from other camps, so I was able to make that comparison.
As I mentioned, there are two rusted, inoperable boats, one rotting away in the water, the other rotting away on land. This captures how once upon a time, you may have had a great operation, but your lack of care and your neglect have let the resort rot while you rake in the money. Your website shows what the resort used to be years ago – add holes, mold, dirt, and rust to everything and we have a better idea of the resort today. Lots of this could be fixed with a quick cleaning with water, but I guess it isn’t worth it to you because you could care less about your customers. For example, the dock outside of Manu is still actually a dock in the photos on your website; now you just have some rotting pieces of wood (without a deck) sticking out of the lake. I’m glad to see that you’ve done the environmentally friendly thing and thrown your trash into nature. Your “spacious lower level containing a bar” was stocked with…nothing. There were a few empty liquor bottles with flies around them. You write that “the entire lodge, including both blocks and porches, is screened” – what you omitted is that there are holes large enough to stick a baby through, making the screens useless. This was the same for our bed mosquito nets, ensuring that we received many bites when we were in the lodge. The best part was that there were some old patches, showing that you cared about repairs once upon a time, even if that is no longer the case. Other highlights include only having 1 in 6 light fixtures work and toilet bowls without seats (another easy 5 minute repair). In the Cloud Forest Lodge, the lights to our room didn’t work, so we requested a new room. After asking multiple times and waiting, we finally were able to get a new, lesser room, with wet, moldy beds – we opted to sleep on the floor.
You write that “many clients have said that our food is the best they've had in Peru;” does that include unrefrigerated dairy products, fruit with worms, and leftovers? I backpack as a hobby and I’ve eaten much better with fewer resources. Every corner that could be cut was cut. Foods that needed to be refrigerated weren’t refrigerated, such as cheese, despite having electricity available. I tried to eat my orange for lunch one day until I saw that there were worms in it; on other occasions, I was given rotten apples. Our lunch from the second day consisted of leftovers from the prior day (including cheese) simply getting diced and then served to us gain. We only had the cheapest ingredients in the cooking and we were lucky to get a source of protein in each meal a day. The worst part was that we never knew when a meal was coming! We would be told that dinner would be at 7:30, only to sit down two hours later.
Interpretation services
I’m not sure what interpretation services are, so I’ll assume that you mean service in general. You declare that your company creates “a first-class experience with first class leadership that will look after all your needs.” Apparently, our needs didn’t include requests for turning on a generator, moving supplies, or anything resembling organization. When we arrived at the Manu Lodge, we had to wait for the power to get turned on, despite the fact that someone lives there full time! Call me crazy, but is it too much to ask for a little preparation? This was after we had to walk our own bags and supplies for the lodge in the dark without any sort of guidance; one of our guests (still not old enough to vote) carried 40kgs in food! My biggest issue came with general organization – simple questions such as “what are we doing tomorrow” wouldn’t be definitively answered until an hour later, showing that there simply was no plan! Our guide would have to ask other people such as the cook or the boat driver what the plans were, even though they had no idea either. When we asked for a time horizon (ie how much longer until we reach our destination), we would be told something like 30 minutes, then find out 3 hours later that we were still trying to find our destination. This segways into my second issue: you state that your “guides are dedicated conservationists, and well trained biologists with many years of experience in Manu.” If this is the case, then why did our guide never know how far we were from certain destinations or not know where certain basic destinations were? Our guide’s lack of knowledge regarding our location became an ongoing joke – on one occasion, I asked him how far until our next stop, at which point another guest replied “40 minutes” as a joke, after which our guide used his answer as a reference! We had another 5 hours to go in case you were wondering about a possible coincidence. When we asked where a certain animal had its nest, a given location that the boatman knew, our guide literally had no idea and instead recommended that the group simply stay in the shade to avoid the heat after we had to pay an extra fifty dollars to visit the site. You claimed that we would be “led by an expert and knowledgeable guide throughout the trip;” I think that I’ve presented enough evidence to show that this is false information, as your guides are simply freelance guides who can be hired by any agency, including the extremely cheap ones that you see in Cusco; there is no internal standard, as our guide was unfamiliar with the area! In general, the trip was understaffed, saving you money at the expense of your guests.

Remember, we paid the highest prices in Manu for a substandard package. This MIGHT be acceptable if we were paying 50-100 a day, but you aren’t. – we were paying 300+.
Don’t bother writing an excuse such as “this is the rainforest, things are supposed to be like this” or “the park won’t let us make repairs.” Regarding “this is the rainforest” – I’m fine with the heat, humidity, bugs, and simple accommodations; I take issue with the indifference and incompetence to repairs, safety, organization, and standards. As far as “the park won’t let us make repairs” – this is a clear lie, as there were some repairs in mosquito nets (patches) and other places where we stopped that didn’t have same problems. I doubt that you aren’t allowed to wash a surface with water either.
You’ve grossly misrepresented your trips on your site and I look forward to letting the rest of the world know the truth about your company.

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