Amazon: floating in inland waters

Alexander gets into the boat. These are long and narrow and sit rather low in the water.

The Cumacebe Lodge, located in the Amazon Jungle, also had a large pond. We took at least 2 trips around the pond. Once was at night, in the rain. Interesting, but I didn’t want to risk my camera! On the last day, we took an hour long float around the water, just to see what we might find.

The surface of the pond was covered in water lettuce and some water hyacinth. There were also lily pads in the shallow sections.
Birds were able to walk across the vegetation and pick out the insects and small frogs.
This pond was not particularly deep, but the water level varied widely because of rain. It was very hot and humid and the sun had begun to come out–so I had trouble with my camera lens fogging up. I was soaking with sweat long before we finished.
I saw so many beautiful birds, but it’s very difficult to get good photos without an extremely long len. These birds are the Wattled Jacana. In the Amazon River, I also saw the Anhinga (called the snake bird, a type of cormorant), herons, Plum Throated Cotinga (a small blue bird), Oropendolas (which make long hanging nests from the branches of trees), Kingfisher and eagles. I also saw the backs of both pink and gray river dolphin as they jumped from the water. These species specially adapted to fresh water.
The vegetation was so thick it was hard to paddle.
Water lettuce

There’s a toucan in the tree. Can you see it?
Can you find the toucan now?

These prehistoric birds are hard to spot and ever more difficult to get a photo of. Hoatzin live at the edge of stagnant water like this, among the spiny palm trees.

Interesting to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here!

Amazon: Hunting for spiders

This is the underside of the thatched roof of our entry “bridge” to the lodge. Honestly, I’d never spent much time looking up. Here you’ll see some of the termite “roads” on the upper supports. I often saw leaf cutter ants using the supports as a road. But that’s not all that lives here. Honestly, if I’d known how many spiders there were in this canopy, I’d have spent much less time walking here!

On our last night, Sergio said he was taking us on a very simple walk to see some spiders. We didn’t even need to put on our boots, since we weren’t going into the jungle. It turned out that we only walked to the front of the lodge and took a stroll, with flashlights, along the entrance corridor bridge, which takes you over a particularly swampy section.

First was a frog–perhaps the size of my hand. This is a large species of tree frog. The Amazon is home to the poison dart frog–colorful, tiny and deadly. I had really hoped to see a few, but didn’t.
Within 2 minutes, we saw this tarantula. Eeek! Sergio referred to him as a baby since he had a diameter of perhaps only 5 inches.
This spider was slightly smaller–perhaps 4 inches in diameter, but somehow seemed more menacing than the tarantula. We probably saw almost a dozen spiders in all, half tarantulas.
This guy was the largest–half a foot in diameter and he looked positioned to jump! I did not like him at all.
This one, our guide, Sergio, decided to knock down from the roof using this metal pole, so we could get a closer look.
He then got the spider to crawl onto his hand. You don’t grab them, since you’d get the irritating hairs to come off their body and embed in your skin.
You can really see the hairs and pink toes!

Right after I snapped this photo, the spider jumped onto my stomach! AAAhhhhggg! OK, I didn’t actually scream like a little girl, but I really, really wanted to. I stood still which Sergio removed it. Then shivered and planned a long shower.
Alexander was much braver than I!
In fact, He seemed to kind of like the little guy!
The final animal on our walk was this scorpion. I’ve seen several before, and this one was probably only 2 inches in length. Still, much larger than the ones my cats used to bring in when I lived in Texas.

Amazon: Monkey Island

This is the work headquarters.

La Isla de los Monos–Island of the Monkeys is actually a refuge for monkeys who are injured or rescued from the pet trade. The volunteer organization has about 5 full-time workers, but operates mostly with volunteer help and donations from those who visit the island.

Here Sergio guides us to the rescue center, aided by a little fellow on the railing.

Volunteer Steve, a US citizen from the Washington DC area, had been there for just 5 days, but was a wealth of information for us. Currently there are 5 species of monkeys on the island. We interacted closely with local two species– two baby howler monkeys and two woolly monkeys (one of which was SO friendly, he had to be taken to his cage).

We weren’t even quite to the grounds of the rescue center, when one of the woolly monkeys started to run toward us. Lusy wasn’t so sure she wanted to play.
Alexander had to walk the length of the boardwalk with this little guy on his leg.
He just wouldn’t let go!

Here is the history of the refuge, from their website:

“In August 1997 the 450 hectares of land that Monkey Island sits on was donated by the Peruvian government for use as a Monkey sanctuary.

The first eight years were spent rejuvenating the island by planting over 70 species of trees and fruit, and we continue to work constantly to expand the diversity of the island habitat. Now full of fauna and flora, we strive to create a self sustaining environment for the monkeys to live free. To date we have released over 200 monkeys in to the forest!”

This one, by contrast, ran away when we got to the yard!
This Saddleback Tamarin was amazing. I’ve never seen one before. There were also spider monkeys.
He was tiny–interested in people, but not the cuddly type.

I really loved Peru and will consider coming back here to volunteer among the monkeys! There’s also a butterfly farm with additional rescued animals and a rescue center for manatees, highly endangered in South America. I can see I’ll be returning here!

This woolly monkey was a little too aggressive. Steve put him away for us.
These two baby howlers are brothers and spend most of their time together. Steve was very comfortable with all the monkeys. He’s taking 10 months to tour South America.

Most of the visit, I was carrying two howler monkeys on my shoulders and a woolly monkey in my arms. But I couldn’t take many photos this way! I hope some of my newfound friends from the tour will send me some pics!

These two baby howlers really like to play–preferably fighting with each other while hanging from their tails.

Amazon: Aquatic park

Just after lunch one afternoon, we boarded a boat to go to an aquatic park that featured some of the wildlife that lives in and around the water of the Amazon.
This is the dock to the aquatic park, but it certainly didn’t look like much. I don’t even know how the guide found it.
We could see the storm coming and scurried up the bank quickly to get out of the rain!
The various ponds were really beautiful.
There are many species showcased in this aquatic park.
Just as we got to the shelter, the sky opened up and rained hard. We took shelter for 20 minutes until it became only a sprinkle.
First we went to a pond filled with a variety of fish, including piranha. They really liked the food we threw them, but the murky water makes for poor viewing.
Caiman, also spelled cayman, are Central and South American reptiles related to alligators. Alligatoridae. Caimans, like all other members of order Crocodylia (or Crocodilia), are amphibious carnivores. They live along the edges of rivers and other bodies of water, and they reproduce by means of hard-shelled eggs laid in nests built and guarded by the female. They are usually nocturnal, but these guys had learned that people feed them during the day.
I wouldn’t want to meet this guy on a dark night….or even a sunny day.
These caiman certainly look aggressive, but there were also turtles and fish living alongside them in this small pond. Most zoos prefer to keep them to crocodiles and alligators because they are smaller and less aggressive.
We got to feed these guys, locally called piache, and I bet they eat just about anything. They inhabit the Amazon basin and can weigh up to 400 pounds and reach 10 feet.
Internationally, these are better known as pirarucu or arapaima and are the largest freshwater fish in South America. They possess an uncommon quality for fishes— the ability to breathe air. This feat is made possible by a primitive lung, which arapaima possess in conjunction with a gill system that allows them to breathe underwater. They typically live in oxygen-poor waterways, so need this to skill as a suplement. Their mouths are huge and they simply suck in anything around in order to eat.
The paiche or pirarucu is huge. The photos don’t do it justice, but these three fish are each almost as long as I am tall. They are endangered mostly because they are easy to catch and delicious.
According to this article: The Amazon’s Biggest Prehistoric Fish Is Delicious and Dying
“The arapaima looks less like a fish than a prehistoric torpedo. It’s the largest freshwater fish in South America, where it can grow to over eight feet long and weigh more than 400 pounds. Because it often inhabits oxygen-depleted rivers, it breathes atmospheric air, gulping oxygen with a primitive lung called a labyrinth organ rather than gills. It feeds on other fish and, if it feels like it, will even jump out of the water to grab a snack in the form of a bird or small land mammal. Its massive scales, which act like armor as it swims through piranha-infested bodies of water, are used as nail files by people living in the Amazon. Oh, and it’s barely changed for about five million years.”
These are the largest lily pads in the world–and birds can easily walk on them.
These are nests of the oropendola bird. Oropendolas are birds associated with forests or, for a few species, more open woodland. They are colonial breeders, with several long woven basket nests in a tree, each hanging from the end of a branch. These gregarious birds eat large insects and fruit. They are very vocal, producing a wide range of songs and calls, sometimes including mimicry.
This little parrot got completely soak in the rain, but he’d been trained to talk, “Hola!”
The blue and gold macaw stayed high up and away from people.

Amazon: Ojeal Village

Naturally, we had to take a boat to this remote village, Ojeal. There are less than 800 people here and they have no electricity or plumbing. The village dock is on a tributary of the Amazon River.

This is the second of 2 villages we took excursions to. It’s always interesting to see how other people live. While they are disadvantaged by many standards–no internet, electricity, plumbing–I can say that everyone looked healthy and happy. The children do go to school here in the village and the place was clean and well organized.

Walking up the hill to the village after docking. It’s certainly quiet and peaceful here.
…with chickens everywhere. Notice the telephone/electric pole with a street light on top. This is part of a program that may bring electricity and lighting to the village. But programs in the past have made these promises, too.
The center of town, just down the hill, has a central park with benches. The grass is a type of zoysia and doesn’t need mowing.
This is the primary school. This is actually considered a “larger” village since it also has a secondary school.
There’s a nice, new sidewalk through this section of the village.

On the highest hill is the catholic church. It reads “Catholic chapel, Queen of Peace.” Most Peruvians are Catholic, of course, but many continue to practice some of the old ways, too.
Down the hill and facing the Catholic church was a Protestant church. It reads, Baptist church, of the true faith.
I don’t have any idea how people could tell their chickens apart, but this rooster was a standout, with a long “turkey” neck. I was surprised at all the different varieties of chickens, all very fat. This is in contrast to the skinny, sickly chickens I’ve seen in Vietnam, Costa Rica and Thailand.

OK, so I really liked the chickens.
This cell phone tower probably doesn’t benefit the local population much.
The views here are spectacular!
This was a type of pepper that grows on a vine. It was much prettier than my photo shows. Most homes had gardens as well as fruit bearing trees.
Except for some small stores, this was the only business I saw. It processed fish into pet food. The locals grow or catch almost all their own food. For cash, they sell fish and fruits in Iquitos.
Pet parrots.
This man and his two sons have come back from a successful fishing trip.
My guide, Sergio, was simply fantastic. His English was excellent and he was full of knowledge of the area. I hope he can start his own business showing tourists the wonders of this area!
Even a small village needs a municipal headquarters.
Their municipality symbol. From top to bottom: Municipality, central village, to Serve, to Work and to Honor.
This family was bathing and washing clothes at the dock. I expect everyone in the village does this, since there’s no plumbing.
A small fruit and juice stand, just at the entrance of the village.
Did I mention it was peaceful?