Spectacled Caiman


Andes to the Amazon, Peru 2005 
2-16 July 2005
by Henry Detwiler

We spent three nights in lodges along the Tambopata River, and one night camping, accompanied by the sounds of the insects and the Jaguar's growling..  

Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.   

Blue-crowned Trogon
After flying into Puerto Maldonado, we met our guide Jorge, and after a brief orientation, started out on our three-hour boat ride some 30 miles upriver to our lodge.  Along the way we stopped for park permits, where we heard, and then saw this beautiful trogon (and its mate).  The river was murky from the mud of gold prospectors washing the overburden off placer deposits until we'd moved past one of the tributaries.
The most commonly seen mammals were capybaras, the world's largest rodent.  We saw a couple of families lined up along the river bank, keeping a wary eye on us, and also for the spectacled caimans (photo on top of page) which no doubt find them an agreeable dinner. Later in our trip we were also fortunate to see a family of Giant Otters.


Leaf Katydid

Insects were common at all times, but particularly visible at night.  On our first night walk Jorge pointed out several of these leaf katydids--their bodies look uncannily like leaves, even down to the veins.

I found this Giant Roach in our room, and Jim promptly captured it for our enjoyment--Jorge says it's the largest species of roach in the world.

Giant Roach


Spiders were common along the jungle trails, especially at night.  The largest of them were the tarantulas.  Jorge and I fished for them at their burrow entrances with long pieces of grass.  The spiders would sense the movement, and then rush up their tunnel to investigate and grab the blade of grass, no doubt hoping it was some kind of hapless stick insect.
One night we camped along the Rio Tambopata, and were treated to an array of night sounds.  Foremost was the growl/grunting of a  jaguar.  Jim & I ventured from our campsite along the river, but never spotted it--but the next morning we did find many tracks.

Jaguar Paw Prints 

Urania Moths

The river banks contained many salt and mineral licks that were attractive to  butterflies and moths, which would gather there by the dozens.  These urania moths were very iridescent, and provided a wonderful show along the jungle trails and on the beaches.

Peru is home to some 1200 species of butterflies, including the huge, incredibly beautiful morphos.  We were fortunate to see these and lots of others, in a rainbow of colors.  Many of them, such as the morphos & owls, and the one pictured on the right, were nondescript with their wings closed, but very flashy with their wings opened.

Butterfly (Elanica)


Blue-headed Parrots on the Clay Lick

Visiting one of the macaw clay licks was a primary motivator for this trip to the Amazon.  Macaws and other parrots "feed" on the clay to help with their digestion. We set up across the river from the clay bank at first light, and watched as Blue-headed and other parrots gathered for their morning dose of medicine.  Although few macaws actually landed on the clay this morning,  there were lots to see flying around.

Goliath Tree Frog


Spot-legged Poison Dart Frog

We were fortunate to see a good number of frogs on our walks, including several of the Goliath Tree Frogs and one Poison Dart Frog.  This one can actually be handled, as long as you don't have any cuts on your hand!

As is to be expected in the jungle, the plant life was astoundingly varied and beautiful.  Jorge explained what many of the plants were used for, from food to birth control to disease control.  He crawled into this shell of a tree, a strangler fig that had killed its host, and I followed suit.

Strangler Fig

Hoatzin - Lake Sandoval

During our last full day in the Amazon Basin we took a canoe trip around the palm-fringed Lake Sandoval.  The noisiest and most visible birds there were the Hoatzins, prehistoric-looking birds that even have claws on their wings as babies (to help them climb out of harm's way).

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Photos Henry Detwiler