Our first outing started with monkey feeding. Here, one of the kitchen staff brings small bananas out to the monkey feeding station. The very fat chickens seemed to spend a lot of time here as well.
Almost as soon as we arrived at the Cumaceba Lodge (the name is a type of rain forest tree), we started doing excursions. The initial activity was just a walk around the area of the lodge to orient ourselves to the grounds and introduce us to some of the wonders of the Amazon Jungle. Our guide, Sergio, was also called Jungle Boy (
Nino de la Selva) as he’d grown up in one of the small villages nearby, speaking Quechua (the primary native language of Peru and much of the Andes) until he attended primary school, where he learned Spanish. He was in college before learning English.
While there are a half dozen different types of monkeys, these squirrel monkeys were typical around the lodge. They are small, fast and not very aggressive.
Almost immediately a half dozen monkeys appeared from nowhere to grab bananas. They usually didn’t sit and eat them on the platform, but ran up the tree to devour the fruit.
They were fast! Only slightly larger than a squirrel, too.
Squirrel monkeys live in the tropical forests of Central and South America in the canopy layer. The common squirrel monkey is captured for the pet trade and for medical research but it is not threatened. Two squirrel monkey species are threatened: the Central American squirrel monkey and the black squirrel monkey are listed as vulnerable.
Miss Baker, an ‘astronaut’ squirrel monkey, rode into space as part of the United States space program, and returned safely.
I really enjoyed the two hammock platforms, but learned that if I wanted a space, I’d best grab one quickly. Hammocks were popular napping spots.
Here, Sergio shows us a tree that grows large, gourd-like fruit. It’s not good to eat, but it’s easy to carve.
Carving one of the tree fruits.
Bromeliads were everywhere and there were often small frogs and (sometimes large) spiders inside them.
A strangler fig will eventually kill the tree it surrounds.
I quickly was convinced NOT to touch anything. The underside of this leaf had a few hundred tiny wasps clumped together, right at face height. I’d hate to think what would have happen if I’d touched them! Other trees or vines have spikes or biting ants patrolling them. We also saw many long processions of leaf-cutter ants, waving a green umbrella, three times their size, cut from high up in the tree canopy.
Much of the “temporary” forest looks like this, with spiky palm trees that grow tall in a single season. These trees lined the small lake near the lodge. The odd Hoatzin bird lived in them. I was never able to get a good photo of one, but they are an almost pre-historic bird and not far removed from a feathered reptile. Their chicks still have small claws on their wing joint. Like the cormorant, they have no oil on their feathers, so spend much of their time drying themselves. When wet, they can’t fly. Unlike the cormorant, they eat plants.
This is a termite colony and they are EVERYWHERE in the rain forest. Most of the wooden, outdoor supporting posts had long termite tunnels on them, too.
The dock to our small, stagnant lake. On the first evening we took a boat paddle around the lake, starting well after dark. In the pouring rain, I decided not to take my expensive camera. By flashlight, we could see the eyes of caiman, half submerged along the edge of the water. Spooky! We also saw lots of bats, who ate the bugs attracted to our flashlight beams. Though we heard hundreds of frogs, I only saw one tiny green one, tucked into a floating head of water lettuce. I’m glad I went, but we were wet and miserable by the time we got back to our rooms. Even with a rain poncho, you get drenched–if not by rain, then by sweat.
Jungle Boy swings on a liana vine, like Tarzan!
Creepers, vines, and lianas (woody vines) are abundant in the canopy and make up a significant proportion of the vegetation in tropical rain forests. There are over 2,500 species. Some giant lianas are as thick as trees and seem to hang in the middle of the forest, independently. Some of the larger woody vines may exceed 3,000 feet in length. Rattan, a liana, is well known for its use in furniture and ropes. Rattan also produces large, edible fruits—a favorite of primates. Lianas are also a good source for clean water when you’re lost in the forest.