This beautiful sunset was a nightly occurrence in the Amazon. Night comes swiftly and early, by 6:00 p.m. you are hard pressed to see your own hand in front of your face without the aid of a headlamp or flashlight. With nightfall come the critters: caiman, turtles, frogs, bats, snakes, insects of every variety and of course the ubiquitous mosquitos. If it swims, slithers, crawls, flies, stings or bites you will find it in the rainforest and along the rivers, streams and byways.
Night would find us either in our pangas searching for caiman and snakes in the waterways, or prowling the rainforest paths with our rubber boots and flashlights. It is a strange and humbling experience to be out in this primitive wilderness environment, especially at night.
Searching for caiman one night, our wilderness guide David spotted a youngster close by our panga and jumped overboard to retrieve it. In this photo he is passing it over to Sonia, his French girlfriend. In the photo below we are getting a closer look at the little fella. Caiman belong to the alligator family, as opposed to the crocodile family.
David didn’t seem to be too concerned that the dark waters were teeming with larger adults (in the 2 to 3-meter range). Simply by shining a light out over the water and shoreline you could see their shimmering eyes in the inky darkness. They seemed to be hungry eyes (or was that just my imagination). David could readily spot snakes in the nearby trees too, these were typically boas (constrictors). Back in our thatched bungalow we had our own wildlife to contend with: large beetles (up to 3.5″ long), spiders (including one tarantula), frogs, huge moths and mosquitos would inhabit our beds before we could secure our mosquito nets before sleeping. If you are squeamish about bugs then the rainforest probably isn’t for you. I don’t particularly like bugs, but after spending time in the jungles (rainforests) of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama I’ve become a bit desensitized.
During the daylight hours we roamed the waterways in our pangas, or hiked the primitive rainforest trails in our rubber boots. Everywhere we went the beautiful tropical butterflies flitted in and out of the verdant foliage, the iridescent Blue Morphos were particularly striking. In the rainforest even the plants are out to get you, if they’re not tripping or strangling you, then they are piercing you with deadly long spikes. But it is all so beautiful in its primitive way, deadly but beautiful.
In Northern Amazon Basin, Part 3 we will further explore the rivers, lakes and streams. Also, I will share more photos of the wildlife, especially the colorful birds. We spent one day amongst the indigenous people in the area, and I will include a brief description of that experience too. More to come so stay tuned. Until then adios.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler
Cuyabeno Wilderness Reserve (Northern Amazon Basin), Ecuador