South America Day 65 - Cuyabeno Reserve

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March 14th 2019
Published: March 16th 2019
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Today’s schedule consists of a 6.30 am birdwatching session on the observation tower (basically our bedroom roof), a jungle walk and a canoe trip which combines swimming and caiman spotting. Why anyone would want to do any of these things is beyond me. It’s going to be a long day.

We go to the roof at 6.30, as scheduled to look for birds. In 90 minutes we spot 7 vultures, 6 parrots and 5 toucan. The old man is so excited, he plays bridge on his tablet while the rest of the group look for birds, then goes off in search of coffee.

After breakfast it’s time for the jungle walk. I decide it’s not for me and spend the morning with my book on the balcony again. I’ve definitely made the right call; 40 minutes after the group leave, the heavens open and give a demonstration of why it’s called the ‘rain forest’.

A man (Herman) comes to clean the room. He’s from one of the local villages. All the staff (lodge staff, tour guides, canoe drivers) come from the villages on a rotational basis, staying between 5 and 22 days, then go home to their families and a replacement comes. After their days off, they return to work at one of the 12 lodges. It sounds like a very fair way to distribute the income generated through tourism.

A few minutes later, Herman calls me to go to the observation tower. A huge group of squirrel monkeys are passing by, so close I can almost touch them. They are followed by black tamarins, capuchin and finally titi monkeys.

As if 4 species of monkeys isn’t enough excitement without leaving your bedroom, then the army turn up to perform a search. We’re right on the border with Colombia in prime drug smuggling territory. The rest of the group return. During my exciting morning, they have walked through a swamp in the rain looking at native plants.

The afternoon’s activity, following 2 hours of torrential rain, is another canoe ride, finishing after dark so we can look for caiman, which are easier to spot at night when their eyes reflect torch light. A few metres from the lodge, we spot a 3 metre long caiman. Then we spot several sloths hanging in the trees to dry.

At dusk we return to the lake where we saw the caiman and are offered an opportunity to swim. Funnily enough, no one takes up the offer. We watch the sunset, then skirt the lake looking for caiman. Our torches attract hundreds of insects, which in turn attract dozens of bats, swarming around the boat feasting on the insects.

Finally we spot a caiman; two red spots glowing in the undergrowth. When we pull over, we can see piranhas swimming in the shallows round the boat. Two white lights glowing in a tree overhead indicate a tree boa observing with interest. Then we return to the lodge for our final night in the Amazon.

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