Wildlife travel: What animals can I see in Peru?

More famous for its ancient ruins and associations with a storybook bear, Peru is also a wildlife delight, with actual bears, dolphins and petite, powerful and prehistoric birds.

Illustration by Dawn Cooper

Illustration by Dawn Cooper

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1. Giant hummingbird, Rîo Chonta, Cajamarca

Südamerika, Peru, Anden, Chivay, Colca Tal, Colca Canyon; spanisch Cañón oder Valle del Colca, Riesenkolibri (Patagona gigas), auch Riesengnom, en: giant hummingbird, es: picaflor gigante, auf einer Bromelie, Puya weberbaueri

Giant hummingbird in Colca Canyon in the Andes © westend61 / Getty

It’s dull by the usual standards of these birds, but the giant hummingbird – as its name suggests – is as big as a starling. The Río Chonta is a good place for sightings.

2. Amazon/pink river dolphin, Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Iquitos

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Amazon river dolphin underwater © dennisvdw / Getty

Also known as the boto, these dolphins can be grey, brown or pink. They’re friendly and often approach boats and swimmers.

3. Hoatzin, Lake Salvador, Manu NP

Hoatzins (Opisthocomus hoazin) perched in rainforest, Tambopata Reserve, Peru, South America.

Hoatzin in Tambopata Reserve, Peru © Konrad Wothe / Nature Picture Library / Getty

Hoatzins are unique among birds for possessing a digestive system like a cow’s, and unusual for the wing-claws sported by the chicks for the first weeks of their lives. Look for these oddities in the trees by the lake edge.

4. Andean condor, Colca Canyon

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Andrean condor © Patrick Gijsbers / Getty

Twice the depth of the Grand Canyon at its deepest point (3,400m), Colca is the most reliable place in South America to see Andean condors. Enjoy close-up views of them riding thermals from the cliff edge.

5. Humboldt penguin, Ballestas Islands

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Humboldt penguins on the Ballestas Islands near Paracus, Peru © Oleksandra Korobova / Getty

The Ballestas are worth visiting for their rich marine life, which includes Humboldt penguins as well as fur seals and sealions, sustained by the fertile waters of the Humboldt Current.

6. Andean bear, Chaparrí Reserve

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Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear © Musat / Getty

While there is nowhere in the world that has reliable wild Andean bear sightings, this dry forest region – untypical of this species’ usual haunts of cloud forests and soggy moorland páramos – is better than most for glimpses of the real orphan from Darkest Peru.

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