Friday morning, January 25, 2019
As usual, we started out on the skiffs before breakfast, this time with a beautiful rainbow above. Did I mention this is the rainy season? I need to get a waterproof backpack and a strong rain poncho.
We passed by some more giant lily pads on our way to register at the local ranger station for the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve. The reserve is home to two species of endangered aquatic turtles: Charapa and Taricaya. Reserve staff 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.
The guides had forgotten to bring our tickets, so they took one of the three skiffs and returned to the boat, while we did some exploring on the Pucate River. We were treated to the sight of a couple of Hoatzin Birds, one of the most unusual species in the Amazon, in that it is only species in its family. Closely related to Cuckoos, the Hoatzin is the size of a turkey, and looks almost prehistoric, with its long tail, feathery crest and bright eyes surrounded by vivid blue feathers. They like to hide in the foliage, making it difficult to see them. The Hoatzin has a claw on its wing, which aids it in climbing. When Hoatzin babies are threatened, they drop to the water below, then use the wing claw to climb back to the nest.
There were Neotropic Cormorants, Yellow-hooded Blackbirds, more White-eared Jacamars, and Red Howler Monkeys. The Red Howler is the only monkey that can see color, helping it to locate the fruits it wants to eat.
We had breakfast on the skiffs, quite an elegant affair, then headed down a shortcut to our destination. The rising water creates many shortcuts, allowing us to explore areas that aren’t accessible during the dry season. Dry season means only 6 inches of rain per month versus 12 in the rainy season. This shortcut proved fortuitous since the normal route was blocked by vegetation (it was open only a week ago.) The vegetation grows quickly, and rises as the water level rises.
A little while later, we stopped to use the toilet facilities as a ranger station. It was a bit primitive – to flush the toilet, we filled a bucket from a barrel and dumped it into the toilet. This made us appreciate our Totos at home! While there, we managed to spy a toad and some type of racer lizard while waiting there.
Our destination was a black water lake on the Pacaya River, where most of us took a dip in water that was about 85 degrees. Pink dolphins were swimming nearby. Too soon, we had to return to the boat. When we arrived at 11:30, it was hard to believe we’d been out for five hours, as we had experienced so much in that short time.