Monday morning, January 21, 2019
The Pacaya-Samiria Reserve is a protected region covering five million acres of forest in the Loreto region of Peru. Bordered by the Marañón and Ucayali rivers, it is an area of low hills and seasonally flooded forest covering about 15% of the total land mass of Peru. The Reserve is know for its biodiversity, and is home to pink dolphins, spider monkeys, South American turtles, jaguars, and alligators, plus hundreds of bird species. It is part of the National System of Natural Areas protected by the Peruvian Government.
Most of the region floods between October and April, and part of the rainforest remains flooded most of the year. We are visiting during the rainy season, which means the river is quite high. It has probably risen about 20 feet so far, but can go to 40-50 feet at its peak in May. We can see many branches and trees floating down the river.
The reserve is home to two species of endangered aquatic turtles: Charapa and Taricaya. Reserve rangers gather the eggs that are laid along the banks of rivers between July and December, then incubate them and return the little turtles when they are better able to survive.
There are 208 communities of ethnic Cocama-Cocamilla peoples living in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, with a population over 9,000. They make their living from fishing, farming, hunting and gathering, as well as making crafts for sale to visitors.
Our wake up call was at 5:30am so we could head out on the Marañón River to search for monkeys and birds before breakfast. The crew uses skiffs to transport us on the water. We’ll be exploring the area along the Marañón for a few days, then return to Nauta to begin sailing up the Ucayali River.
After heading down one tributary, we managed to see some noisy night monkeys, also called owl monkeys. We also spotted some Spider Monkeys, which are hard to follow because they move so quickly through the trees, looking for food.
Among the birds were a Silver-beaked Tanager, a Gray-backed Tanager, a Black Hawk, a Short-tailed Parrot, and a Wattled Jacana with several chicks. The Jacana has extra long toes which allow it to walk on top of the vegetation. Some people call it the Jesus Bird because it appears to “walk on water.”