In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle

Sure enough, we rose to a beautiful sunrise, and set off in our canoe to see more of the Amazonian jungle.  We immediately saw some grey dolphins, which are a species that originally came from the Atlantic Ocean, and swam upstream over 1,000 kilometers to get to this area. Over time, they have adapted to life in fresh water. There are also pink dolphins here, but they are true river dolphins. Hopefully, we’ll see one while we’re here.

All around, it was dead still on the river, and the reflections of the trees and an occasional house were beautiful!  While we all hope to see a jaguar or an ocelot (and hence, the ungodly early rising time), we’ll probably have to content ourselves with the tropical birds and butterflies, or possibly a caiman (a relative of an alligator).  Notwithstanding Jim’s grumbling, I’ve packed my tripod and my long lens to see what I can capture on film.

Our naturalist, Hugo, called out each bird to us, and I tried to photograph each one. However, as you can tell from these pictures, I still have a lot to learn about photographing birds!

We toured around for a couple of hours and then returned to the ship for breakfast. Immediately thereafter, we changed into our heavy duty jungle togs, and headed off for first jungle hike.  It’s the rainy season here, so the jungle was pretty damp.  The forest vegetation is so thick that without someone regularly re-clearing the path, you could not get through. Even then, Hugo had to use his machete from timeimage to time so we could pass.

We had been warned repeatedly not to touch anything without asking first, as there are countless varieties of insects and plants which can sting, bite and/or poison you. Needless to say, I’m not exactly thrilled about this aspect of the trip. However, a pleasant surprise has been that there are very few mosquitoes, largely because the water from the Rio Negro has such an acidic ph that their eggs can’t hatch (although in this wet climate, they still seem to do OK).

Right away, we see some of the gorgeous big blue Morphos butterflies, but I wasn’t quick enough to capture them on film in the midst of all the underbrush. Unfortunately, our next find was a HUGE tarantula!

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We hiked further into the jungle, and heard numerous birds, but didn’t see anything other than some parrots which flitted by in the blink of an eye.  Our naturalists demonstrated some jungle survival skills, including how to make a fire with a machete and a piece of steel wool, as well as how to make a blow gun and darts.  It started raining hard while we were hiking, but with all the jungle canopy above us, not much rain got through. The humidity was thick enough to cut with a knife, though! After a couple of hours, we returned to the ship, where we jumped off the ship to cool off in the Rio Negro, and have lunch.

In the afternoon, the rains returned and rained so hard that our afternoon canoe expedition and our night expedition were both cancelled. However, the captain sailed further upriver to Anavilhas Archipelago, which is the largest fresh water archipelago in the world. The good news is that we saw some amazing bird life from the covered third floor deck on the ship, and I didn’t even  have to worry about my camera getting wet!  We loved just listening to all the different bird calls, and seeing the orchids blooming high up in the trees.

Because it was still raining after dinner, the crew scrubbed the night canoe trip, but we have another one planned for 5:30 a.m. tomorrow. Since we’d be getting a full night’s sleep, we could eagerly anticipate our next day in the Amazon!

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