Back from the Jungle Part 1

Published: January 11th 2009
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We´re back! Our jungle trip was very exciting, starting on the 6th of January. We´re now in Puerto Maldonado in the pouring rain, so we have plenty of time to give a long account of it day by day haha.

We booked our trip through and Rainforest Expeditions planned all of it. After speaking with a guide, we learned that they form partnerships with area communities to staff and run the lodge. Profits are split between the community and the company for twenty years when the community takes it over. Everyone spoke great English and had a ton of knowledge to impart. We were along the Madres de Dios region on the Rio Tambopata river in the jungle. Enjoy!

The river-


We started out with an hour long bus ride from the airport to the port, followed by a 4 hour boat ride to the second of the three lodges the company owns, Refugio Amazonas. We met our guide, Sixto, who told us he´d been doing tours in the area for 18 years, wow. We found out some background on the company later on, that they join with a local indigenous community to staff and evenually run the lodges, sharing profits and creating sustainable eco-tourism. Very cool stuff.

The boat ride was relatively boring and cramped but we saw our first wildlife, red howler monkeys! There was a family of them eating clay along the riverbank. We also saw a type of turtle that ducks its head in one the side of its shell instead of the front, as well as a lot of birds.

Red howler monkey -

Arriving at the lodge was a great surprise, they greeted us with juice and cold towels. This lodge was very similar to where we stayed for 3 nights after, the Tambopata Research Center. Each room had an open air window, hammock, and private bathroom.

Refugio Amazonas -

Here is an example of a room-

They offered massages for a fee and had a telescope on the top, all very romantic if you weren´t sweating profusely. We also saw at the very beginning something I´d been anticipating, a blue morpho butterfly. The picture doesn´t capture the iridescence but they are absolutely gorgeous.

Blue Morpho-

We took our first of many hikes that day, seeing lots of flying macaws, and our second monkey species, the saddleback tamarin. Here is a great picture showing this monkey, which we got a lot of good looks at-

Saddleback Tamarin-

We saw vultures, herons, and other birds we don´t remember at this point. One of the night birds, the Common Pootoo, sleeps in the same place every night for 2-3 years! We also got our first introduction to the diverse, and obnoxious bug popultion with the bullet ant, whos bites give you a 5 hour, painful, fever.

Bullet ant-

We also learned about the cicada, which dives into these towers during the rainy season and emerges later- they can then stay in the ground without drowning. Very adaptable, as much of the animals and fauna seem to be there. Cicada tower-

We took a night boat ride to spot caimans, and saw only one glaring at the edge of the water. It was still fun to see the river at night and listen to the jungle.

White caiman-


All of the food was decent with amazing juices and lots of options. We woke up early this day to go to the canopy tower, which scared me and thrilled the crazy birders in our group. We got to see toucans, macaws, parrots, and parakeets, and other bright birds fly around above the tree level. Tyler spotted an agouti over the side on the ground, but I was too shaky to look over.

Canopy tower-


On our hike back, we spotted another one of my favorite animals I wanted to see, the poison dart frog. It was a male one, carrying tadpoles on its back. We also learned about the Brazil Nut Tree and how people make Brazil Nuts, which sounds like very hard work for not very much money. We finally saw my parent´s despised enemy, the red squirrel, who came to steal Brazil Nuts from the lodge. On our way out the next morning, we saw our first and only snake, a tiny whip snake on a set of stairs.

Poison dart frog with tadpoles-

After another 4 hour boat ride to our final destination, the Tambopata Research Center. It is the lodge furthest into the jungle along this river, and also serves as a large research center for scientists. The main project was about Macaws, and we learned a lot about preservation efforts and the birds in the area. On the boat ride, we saw our first capybara swimming, and then a family unit of capybara wih twin babies along the beach which was exciting. Our guide told us that it was the biggest rodent in the world, weighing up to 140 lbs., but I think it looks too cuddly to be a rodent.


Map of the area-


We took a hike that evening, seeing more red howler monkeys which make a very eerie howling noise to warn other groups away from their territory. Our guide said it can be heard up to 2 miles away! We thought it was an airplane at first. We also saw a big bird that walks on the ground, the Great Tinamou. Apparently females make noise to attract males, mate with them, leave the males with the eggs and then leave to repeat all over. A lot of gender roles seemed to be switched in a lot of species, which was interesting to learn about. We also learned about fire ants that live in a special tree. They leave you alone unless you touch them, and another type of bug lives inside the tree to produce food for the fire ants in exchange for protection. They also spit acid/poison in the area around the tree so all other vegetation dies around the base of the tree. There was only one type of bird that could live in the tree, also using the ants for protection. Symbiosis was everywhere in the jungle!

Great Tinamou-

Gross image of someone with fire ant bites, eww!!-

Continued in next post...


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