Jungle of Madre De Dios (Peru)

During the summer holiday of 2018 our journey took us all the way to Peru and I usually say “to find” but in reality my mum chooses the destination and I make do for preferably I would have gone to the Pantanal to see jaguars but I probably won’t be taken to the Pantanal or any country when she reads this blog and calls me ungrateful.

This blog isn’t about any animal in particular but about all the little jungle things yet I was pretty fixated in a jaguar and I think i made that clear to my parents. We bounced along the rough jungle road for hours when the van finally came to a halt at a small riverside village where the journey still carried on but thankfully this time by boat. Wind in my hair, flies in my face, I felt free on the handmade boat zooming down the Amazon river and imagined an aerial shot of me with some inspirational music showing how minuscule I was on that tin raft just managing to keep upright battling the rough white water waves as the camera zoomed out.

We arrived at a small dug out dock and offloaded our luggage onto a dodgy looking tuk tuk and carried on the last part of our journey by foot feeling proud we came prepared with our waterproof wellington boots not letting a single drop in as we slipped along the muddy swamp. Like usual we take no time in inspecting the rooms and within five minutes upon arriving at the accommodation we were out in the jungle following the banks of a small lake that used to be part of the river but closed of by meanders. We hadn’t been here more than half an hour when a dinosaur was spotted squawking in a nearby tree. This dinosaur in reality was a Huatzin, a bird practically unchanged from its dinosaur form as an archeopteryx for it still inherits its claws on the tip its shoulder and the not-so-elegant form of flapping about while squawking before landing on a slippery branch and then falling off onto the soft padding of the fallen jungle leaves below.

Similar to the Huatzin is the macaw whose sighting was nearly the same. Three macaws sitting on one branch and in comes their friend who wants to hear the gossip about the jungle life and in doing so, snapping the branch his three friends were sitting on, sending them flying to the jungle floor but with some well mastered acrobatics, like fighter jets flying in formation, they take lift at the last second and fly up in unison to land on a much more sturdy branch hopefully having learnt their lesson.

A couple of days later we headed out on boat to a small lake where in the mud, fresh footprints telling me the activities of the night before such as tiny footprints followed by larger ones indicating that a family of otters had passed through to change lakes and a tapir had walked by almost digging a cavern with every heavy footprint it made and the heavy stomping of a deer indicating it was trying to show it still had energy to whatever predator was stalking it. We arrived at the lake and looked puzzled at our guide when he said we couldn’t take the punt for a spin so what exactly had we paid for because I’m pretty sure a 10 minute boat ride doesn’t cost 150$. After much nagging he let us use two of them probably to stop us annoying him anymore than we already had. We punted around with much difficulty and little patience until the ride ended and we came back. In the trek back to the easier-to-maneuver boat with an engine we spotted a group of monkeys hopping around from tree to tree making for a hard-to-capture shot (for me) of a monkey in mid air diving down.

Vicuñas of Peru

During the summer 2018 on a bus journey From Chivay to Puno (Peru) the larger part of our journey was through a national park.

We started moving midday and set off with the bus company through the jurassic park like gates. Within the first few minutes it didn’t seem to me like anything could live in that baron wasteland but the sight of a herd of vicuñas met my eyes as soon as the thought came into my head. I thought I had missed the only herd in about a thousand miles but in the corner of my eye another group skipped happily over the plains. Than another. Than another. Than of course, another. So fixated in the amount of vicuñas there were which I can only imagine was a fraction of that of the wildebeest migration, Id forgotten to take my camera out so without further due I plonked the device on the window ledge and found just how hard it was to take pictures on a shaky bus. I’m not much of a photographer and would much rather just enjoy the moment so as quickly as I had taken the camera out, I had put it back to stare out of the window for the next six hours immersed in pure nature.

I’m still confused as to what these mammals eat or drink and how they manage to sustain a diverse food chain ranging from the biggest puma or condor to the smallest snake or mouse.

Penguins of Paracas (Peru)

During the summer holiday of 2018 our journey took all the way to Peru and I usually say “to find” but in reality my mum chooses the destination and I make do for preferably I would have gone to Patagonia to see pumas but I probably won’t be taken to Patagonia or any country when she reads this blog and calls me ungrateful.

We set off early and arrived at the docks and after what seemed like hours of haggling and being swapped around boats, we found our guide, Larsen, who looked like he belonged in a grumpier version of Baywatch and we hopped on our boat. We bounced around the waves until we arrived at the “Islas Ballestas” off the southern coast to see a white colored island covered head to toe in bird dung. A mixture of boobies, cormorants, Inca turns and of course a waddling group of a dozen Humboldt penguins greeted us along with a raft full of researchers and conservationist studying the species faeces. What a lovely job! We toured the islands and were bombarded with bird crap along the way. We ended our journey and sped off into the distance. As we did so, the driver pointed at a pair of eyes bobbling eyes stared at us. “Awwwwww! What a lovely seal.” the crowd exclaimed in uni sim. The driver, unphased by its cuteness, didn’t make and attempt to swerve and ran the helpless creature over turning our once “Awwwwww!” into an “ Aaaaaaaaaah!”

Crocodiles of Costa Rica

during the summer of 2016 we went to Costa Rica. While we were there I heard of the crocodile bridge and, following my secret love for crocodiles, I asked my parents if we could go. Conveniently it crossed the path of one of our hotels to the other, so basically, it didn’t make a difference if I had asked or not.

We approached the bridge and there was so much traffic because everyone was getting out of their cars in the middle of the road on a bridge with crocodiles underneath so instead we decided to park the car, get out and walk. The species under the bridge were American crocodiles and being the third biggest species of crocodile in the world, they were massive! I expected the bridge to have one or two or even zero crocodiles underneath, and that the reviews and videos I had watched were rare moments in history where crocodiles had gathered to numbers of 20 to 30 individuals. I peered over the railing of the bridge prepared to be disappointed but I was wrong, very wrong indeed. I was awestruck to see around 15 to 20 crocodiles lying both in and out the water and given that crocodiles can hold their breath for up to 3 hours there were probably many more underneath the murky water. The place didn’t seem the ideal for 20 crocodiles and that’s because they don’t prey on live animals but instead rely on tourist throwing in fish or road kill that they’ve picked up on the way to the bridge. The crocodile bridge definitely lives up to its name and I highly recommend visiting it.

 

The quetzal of Monteverde (Costa Rica)

In the summer holiday of 2016 we went to Costa Rica. While we were there, we stopped by at a place called monteverde to look for hummingbirds but mostly to see a quetzal.

I was watching “The great British bake off” when my dad came into the room with a big grin on his face. He said he had seen the rare bird in somebody’s farm in an avocado tree. I sort of sighed because birds weren’t usually to my taste but my dad said there was a cafe, so I got up and left. We walked about ten minutes over to this guys farm and went up all the way to the avocado tree which was at the border of his property and there in the tree was not one but seven quetzals! We then went down to his cafe and stared at the photos of quetzals on the wall. As we left we passed a small shop and at the back, in a glass frame, was a quetzals feather. I said earlier that I didn’t really care about birds, but this one was impossible not fall in love with, everything about it was beautiful: its green chest, its red belly, its long tail feathers…

Its rare enough to find 1 quetzal let alone seven in one tree and especially rare to see a magnificent male with large tail feathers like the one pictured above. Local people in monteverde loved the quetzal too and it looked as if their economy was based on it because every restaurant, every shop, every bar and every hotel had something that resembled a quetzal.