Trip Report: Amazon Rainforest of Peru
The Amazon Rainforest always seemed like such a distant place to me. I studied it like many students in elementary school. And in the years since attending school, there have been many more insights into the challenges the Amazon Rainforest faces with climate change and deforestation.
Don't get me wrong, it is a very distant place. It took nearly three days to arrive at the river boat where our group would spend our first seven days of the tour but one of those days was thanks to a flight delay by the airline causing me to miss a connecting flight to Lima, Peru.
When I was asked by Kevin and Lee of Wildside Nature Tours if I would be interested in leading a tour in Peru, I jumped at the chance. It would be my first trip to South America and an unbelievable opportunity to see firsthand the beauty of this mysterious place as well as help the tour participants improve their photography skills to take home photos from a trip of a lifetime.
In hindsight, after witnessing the unbelievable diversity in the forest and along the rivers, the challenges to get there and the warmth of the humid air were worth every minute. To put it in perspective, here are some numbers:
I often wind up capturing about 1,000 images a day when I travel to a new destination. To put in perspective how fascinating Peru was for me, I came home with more than 19,000 frames for a ten-day trip. I have edited 73. I will be editing these images for a long time but it will bring back all of the great memories made during the trip.
On the first day, our local guides took our group on a hike through the White Coral Sand Forest. Here we saw tarantulas, heard our first monkeys of the trip and watched an assassin bug eating some prey.
By the afternoon, we had arrived at our river boat and were out on our first tributary excursion. The first three-toed sloth of the trip was seen, an animal I don't think I realized how much I would see on this trip.
Day two involved a skiff excursion on the Yarapa River, a tributary of the Amazon River after spending the night at the confluence of the Amazon River from Peru and Ecuador. We also took a short hike in Prado Village where we saw our first of a few anacondas, a pygmy marmoset, a wattled jacana, sun bittern and a greater potoo. Another excellent day.
Onto day three and we were in a new spot along the Amazon River and explored the Nauta Canyon tributary where we saw at least 60 different species, including a dark-breasted spine tail, red-banded pigeon, a squirrel cuckoo, blue and gold macaws, a yellow-spotted turtle, a green iguana and saddle-back tamarin monkeys. This image is of a white-eared jacamar, a small bird hiding in the cover of the leaves. Not the easiest to photograph but he gave us a pretty good few minutes.
Day four took our group of 17 plus four guides in two skiffs (after moving to a new spot along the Amazon River again) out to Cuenca del rio yanayacu. Again, another day seeing dozens of bird species, a few pink and grey dolphins, more leaf cutter ants, another three-toed sloth, and even saw some jaguar tracks. These photos show a bluish fronted jacamar and a male plain-breasted piculet, one of the pair working on their nest while we ate a late breakfast in our skiff (a nice treat brought to us by the river boat crew). Later that night we also went out on a night boat ride along a tributary.
Day five, our last full day along the Amazon River, was again full of various jungle species of birds, like plumbeous kite, yellow-headed vulture, russet-backed oropendolas, and greater ahni, plus a great porcupine and an olive whip snake trying to steal eggs out of a bird nest. In the afternoon, the group enjoyed a lunch with a local village of 122 people, eating many local dishes.
The next day was our last from the river boat but we still went out in the morning before departing for Iquitos and onto Lima. It was again another diverse day with ringed kingfishers, drab water tyrant, chestnut-bellied seed eater, a red-capped cardinal and a boat full of different fish, including a piranha, harvested by a pair of local brothers. Oh yeah, and another three-toed sloth, making that at least one a day for our group.
On our way back to Iquitos, the main city for the Amazon region even though it has no roads into this city of one million people, we stopped at a manatee rescue center where we again added more new birds to our list for the week. The highlight was a baby thick-billed euphonia being fed by its parents and watching manatees being fed by volunteers.
Once back in Lima, we still had two days of exploring. The first was on a boat ride along the Pacific Ocean from the town of Pucusana to look for blue-footed boobies, Peruvian pelicans, Peruvian boobies, Inca terns, and many other shore birds. The second location was at Pantanos de Beacha where we had the opportunity to photograph shore birds like Franklin's gulls, neotropic cormorants, sandwich terns, elegant terns, spotted sandpipers and little blue herons.
One of the most common questions I have received about the trip is about the bugs and the heat/humidity. Yes, there were definitely bugs. The heat wasn't too bad when we were out on the water but could be a bit stagnant when we were on our short hikes.
Because of the bugs, it is best to wear long sleeves and long pants, something most people don't like when it is hot. I found several options that worked very well that weren't very hot, had good sunscreen in the fabric and were infused with Picaridin to keep the bugs at bay. The fabric could also be sprayed with bug spray. Most days I did wear my Chaco sandals without any issue as long as I had lotion on to prevent bug bites.
I also found a wide-brimmed hat worked best to keep the sun off my face.
Bug spray with Deet can eat away at plastic on the camera. It also isn't a very good product for your health. I avoid it at all costs. What I used was Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent Lotion on my feet and hands. For my clothes, I sprayed Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent Pump Spray. It worked well on clothing and doesn't have a strong smell. As long as I remembered to put on the two products, and reapply as needed, such as if I washed my hands, it did the trick.
I also took a 24-hour Allegra pill each morning. That seemed to help prevent any itching before it even started if I did get a bug bite or two.
For clothing, I have a head-to-toe lineup.
Speaking of rain gear, make sure to bring rain gear for your camera as well. I use RainCoats from LensCoat.
I definitely brought more camera gear than I needed.
Remember to bring your chargers for the camera and the laptop as well as any dongles you need to connect iPads, laptops, phones, etc.
With camera gear, I advise keeping it in the loading and unloading area of the boat in a backpack/camera bag. Taking it in and out of the air conditioning in the rooms on the river boat may build up condensation, and it can be hard to find the right resources to take care of that in the Amazon jungle.
I hope to see you on WildSide Nature Tours next trip to Peru in 2024. It really is a trip of a lifetime that will give you a firsthand glimpse into the diversity and lifestyles in this distant region of the world.
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Keywords: Amazon, animals, bird photography, birds, eddie Bauer, jungle, nature, nature photography, nature tour, Peru, photography, rainforest, South America, tips for nature photographers, travel, travel tips, wildlife, Wildside
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