On our first morning at the lodge, we were up at 5:35 for our 6 a.m. excursion on the boat for birdwatching. The number of birds in the Amazon Basin is almost uncountable and it would be ridiculous for me to list all the types we saw this morning or any other. We also saw a couple of three-toed sloths way up high in the trees that border the river’s edge.
The highlight of our morning birdwatching excursion was several long-nosed bats that Moises pointed out to us on the trunk of a tree at the river’s edge. They are so amazingly well camaflouged that it took us several minutes of staring at the spot (2 inches in front of our face) that Moises was pointing at before we were even able to see them at all! They looked exactly like the tree’s bark.
After our morning excursion we headed back to the dining room for our breakfast complete with scrambled eggs and fresh juice. Then it was back on the boat for another excursion. This one involved us towing a couple of small canoes behind the motored canoe so that we could better penetrate the jungle.
The Amazon Basin is so amazing! During the high water season, a person can get almost anywhere on a boat. Inagine the most dense forest you have ever been to and then imagine it flooded with a few meters of water and you have an idea of what this area is like. This canoe trip was almost exactly how i had pictured the Amazon Jungle since i was 4 years old. This is a place i had fantasized about since i looked at pictues in my parents’ National Geographic books 26 years ago. The only thing missing from my fantasys was snakes and other reptiles literally crawling on top of each other. There’s lots of wildlife in the Amazon but a person has to look for it. As the guides say, its not a zoo. Its sometimes difficult to find the animals.
During our mid-morning excursion, we saw a Giant Tree Rat, many birds, a skink and some squirrel monkeys. Some of the trees are also incredible. Enormous Ficus trees wrapped with vines and tenticles dangling into the water.
After our lunch at the lodge and a couple of hours rest, we went out on the boat again. This time we went only 10 minutes upriver before turning off into the forest to look for a hiking trail. After 10 more minutes of careful boat driving and swinging machetes, we found the “trailhead”. This is when the mosquitos were at their worst. I put on my rainjacket, pulled my hands inside, put the hood up and velcroed the piece across my face so that only my eyes were visible. This was the only way to avoid receiving abot 10 bites per minute because no matter how much 100% DEET i put on, the mosquitos always found a tiny spot i missed. Here’s what i looked like…
During this walk we saw a couple of Pygmy Marmosets (tiny, tiny monkeys), a small lizard and a Bullet Ant nest. Our guide casually jabbed a stick into the ant nest to stir them up a bit. And out they came! We were also amazed at the leafcutter ant trails we saw all over. What is really incredible to me is that these ants actually trample down small paths from walking back and forth over the same path so many times. Its actually possible to see a well stomped trail! How could these ants which probably only weigh a gram or two each possibly trample down the leaves like that!??!
When we got back, we waited a short while for dinner and were then scheduled to go back out on the boat to hunt trantulas. Steve, who apparently isn’t very fond of spiders, opted out of this trip. We saw many fisher bats, a water snake and then about 15 minutes up river from the lodge, our guide found the pink-toed trantula he was looking for. It was about the size of the palm of my hand (and yes, it had pink toes!) After a few minutes of us shining our lights on it, it retreated to the hole in the dead tree it was sitting on. Just seconds later, a huge wasp started buzzing around the tree. The wasp was actually a bit more impressive than the trantula because it was the biggest we had ever seen — about 2-3 inches long. Moises explained to us that this wasp actually KILLS tarantulas. It hunts them, stings them to death and then lays its eggs in the tarantulas body. When the eggs hatch, they feed on the tarantula!
Shortly after the excitement with the tarantula and the giant wasp, we headed back to the lodge and were again asleep before 10:30. This adventure was exhausting!