World Wildlife Fund Good Nature Travel

Photo Diary: A Morning in the Amazon

  • Date: 05 December 2013
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, WWF Travel

The fourth day of our Great Amazon Voyage presented a special treat: a visit to the largest reserve in Peru. Compared to the Amazon River basin closer to the city of Iquitos, the difference in wildlife and trees found in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve was considerable. Thicker trees and of more variety. Dozens of bird species popping up at a moment’s notice. More mammals and fewer humans.

Spend the morning in the reserve with us during this slideshow diary.

  • 7:30 a.m. – And we’re off! Following coffee at sunrise on the observation deck and a hearty breakfast, we zoomed across the river, a thick curtain of forest surrounding us.

  • 7:42 a.m. – Birds emerged all around us: Black-tailed trogons, horned screamers and white river swallows in rapid-fire concession. The species appeared quicker than we could write them down or photograph them. And, lest we forget, look up, else you’d miss cool vignettes, such as these wood storks perched high on a ficus tree.

  • 7:51 a.m. – It can be hard to photograph birds in flight, but fortunately this large cocoi heron made it easy. At up to 51 inches long, the cocoi heron is widespread throughout South America.

  • 8:06 a.m. – For days we had been searching for the hoatzin, which finally appeared in a tree with a bunch of his friends. The punk rocker of a bird is only found in the Amazon and a select few other swampy spots. It sits more than 2 feet tall.

  • 8:08 a.m. – We sat for seven minutes riveted, watching a cormorant devour a walking catfish. It flipped the fish up in the air several times, perhaps making it dizzy and disoriented, before swallowing it in full gulps.

  • 8:55 a.m. – The prize we’ve been waiting for: Blue and gold macaws! I’d only ever seem them, sadly, in bird cages, so it brought tears to my eyes to see them in the wild. This couple appeared in the scene while we observed a great pooto in a tree.

  • 9:22 a.m. – This cool cherry-colored dragonfly landed on my pant leg just before we saw three red howler monkeys jumping in a tree. They moved so quickly I could barely see them, let alone photograph them. Fortunately, we’d see more later, including one climbing delicately across the spiky-branches of a ceiba tree.

  • 10:05 a.m. – We arrived at Ranger Station No. 2 in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. The Japanese-style building was like a mirage in the rain forest! A group of Peruvian and Japanese researchers built it in the 1970s; former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori used to use the house as an Amazonian vacation home, coming there by helicopter to fish in the lake behind it.

  • 10:15 a.m. – Some members of our group went on a nature walk. Along the walk, we admired fig trees and watched a hummingbird feed on the fruit of a cashew nut tree. Can you see the bird in this photo? It was well camouflaged.

  • Others went for a dip in the river – they motored via skiff to a quiet tributary and took a refreshing plunge. It was safe—not to worry—and the water was cool enough to provide refreshment on a particularly humid day.

  • 10:20 a.m. – My new friend Isabel decided to catch a slice of shade and do a charcoal sketch of the riverine vista.

  • 11:40 a.m. – It was deeply humid, so we kept our activities to just 50 minutes. We returned to a beautiful cold buffet lunch of hard-boiled eggs, salad, chicken and potatoes with homemade spicy Peruvian sauce.

  • 12:15 p.m. – Reserve ranger Tulio Ahuanari Sima happened to be in the building, so he came by and spoke to us about his work. He and his team patrol the Pacaya River to search for poachers and study local wildlife populations.

  • 12:25 p.m. – Ahuanari also told us how community members are helping to bolster populations of the endangered yellow-spotted turtle. They collect eggs and relocate them to protected beaches and manmade “nurseries.” Once hatched, the turtles are kept in water-filled buckets until they are strong enough and large enough to thrive on their own.


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