Into the wild in the Peruvian Amazon
Kate Walker explores the Tambopata National Park in the
Peruvian Amazon in search of its thriving wildlife, including the
Hundreds of dragonflies dart haphazardly around me, fracturing the
silvery pink light. They snatch at small clouds of gnats and
unsuspecting mosquitoes as afternoon turns to evening. The humidity
slowly drops. Standing in the ‘open window’ that is my bedroom wall, I
witness the sounds of larger forest life quieten and the smaller insect
world increase in crescendo.
I can hear distant laughter and the tinkling of glasses. The sweat on
my arms and face dries as the air cools. It’s now the twilight. The
dragonflies feed with less abandonment, the forest with her large palm
fronds and the vines near to me, morph into one giant silhouette against
a now blue-black night sky. The last of the light disappears and
standing in the dark I reflect on what an amazing place I’ve landed in.
I’m in Tambopata National Park in the South East of Peru with the award-winning ecotourism outfit - Rainforest Expeditions.
I’m here to experience the Amazon, to search for the elusive Jaguar,
Anacondas, the very rare Giant River Otter and the Harpy Eagle. These
four species are considered, by my guide Aldo, as the top four
endangered predatory creatures in the area.
Squinting at the glow of my watch I realise I’ve almost missed
sundowners at the lodge bar. With the smell of dinner in the air I grab a
torch, stroll the walkways to the main hub of ‘Refugio’ (the lodge) and
find some of the guides and other guests already at the bar, tucking
into Pisco Sours and discussing the coming days’ activities.
Life, in this part of the world, is at its busiest early in the day;
I’m up each day at around 06:00am to the awakening calls of Howler
Monkeys and within the hour, walking the forest trails with a belly full
of breakfast and in the footsteps of Aldo.
His incredible ear for faun calls and eye for the tiniest of movements
sees me witnessing Saddle-back Tamarinds for the first time, different
species of Tucan, teasing Chicken Tarantulas out of their ground burrows
(this is not for the faint-hearted) and learning about the stranger of
beasts (Screaming Pijas and Hoatzins to name a couple) in this huge
conservation area. We pass Walking Trees, Strangler Figs and
Kapoks – the incredible and majestic trees that inspired James Cameron
in the making of the film ‘Avatar’.
Tambopata NP really is a special place. It has one of very few Macaw
research/conservation and protection centres in all of South America and
along with Colombia it is ranked the top spot for bird watching in
Tambopata lies within the larger region of Madre de Dios (Mother of
God) where 52 per cent of the forests are protected by the government.
Of the 120 ‘world climates’, 80 can be found in this setting and wider
Peru. This nook in the world is all about halting development and
promoting conservation – it’s fantastic to see.
Traipsing the forest trails and crushing dry vegetation underfoot is
not conducive to glimpsing some of the more shy fauna in the region. So
this is where the Clay Licks come in handy. A Clay Lick is an area,
usually on the edges of a riverbank, where creatures great and small
gather around exposed soil and eat the nutrient-rich clay to assist in
their digestion of fruits and other vegetation. Some also believe it’s a
place where Tambopata’s 1,800 species of bird come to socialise. And,
Tambopata is home to the largest ‘Clay Lick’ in the world.
Perched silently in a hide overlooking the clicks, I watched vibrant
yellow, red and blue Scarlet Macaws socialise and parakeets group
together in their tens. Bird enthusiasts can sit glued to telescopes and
high-tech binoculars for hours, so if you’re all about the avian world –
this is the place to be.
Afternoons saw me scaling canopy towers allowing a peak at the expanse
of green I’d been moving under for days. By night there’s the
opportunity to go Caiman spotting – these creatures that grow up to two
meters long are far more active at night. And if the reptiles are
proving difficult to hunt out then a boat ride with your head hung over
the side is just as good – the stars and clarity of night sky in this
corner of the planet is incredible.
Sadly, I never got to see any of the mentioned top predators but I saw a
huge array of other wonderful species and I’m far richer for the
exposure. Refugio’s guides and staff make the experience; the lodge is
an oasis of comforts in what is a wild, remote part of the world.
By Kate Walker
For more information on Rainforest Expeditions and their tours visit www.perunature.com