“The Amazon’s beauty is a holistic experience,” advises Roger Harris in Amazon Highlights. And we have indeed enjoyed it as a whole, with its sounds, its rain, its heat, its birds, and fortunately enough, with some of its mammals.
We kept our expectations in proportion, but during our skiff rides, both in the morning and afternoon, we found four different species of primates, pink and gray dolphins, and, the big highlight for me, a capybara, the largest rodent of this planet.
We were at the very heart of the Pacaya-Samiria—a huge reserve. We explored the Pacaya River as well as its black lake, Yanuyacu lagoon.
Squirrel monkeys showed up both in the morning and afternoon. The skies were painted by several amazing birds such as the Blue-and-Yellow, Scarlet, Chestnut Fronted, and Red-bellied Macaws. There were Festive, Orange-Winged, and Mealy parrots, and a new species for me, the Orange-Backed Troupial, as bright as the flowers of the flame trees that grow on the Pacaya riverbanks.
By 8:30 in the morning we put the three skiffs together to have breakfast in the wild. This was an opportunity to celebrate Reni’s birthday. We had brought a cake and followed the tradition of blowing out the candle, eating the cake, and delivering presents. It was a complete surprise for him! We gave part of the cake to a little girl who sat along the riverbank. It was a sweet moment!
Not too far away from our breakfast spot we found a tree crowded with Hoatzins. We were glad to meet them after the meal, as they have the reputation of delivering a rather unpleasant smell, and hence, their unkind nickname, “stink birds.” Their oversized crop stores a diet of 60% leaves. Gut bacteria ferment the material for up to 4 times longer than most birds, so the by-product of this process is believed to be responsible for the hoatzin’s “unique” smell.
During our afternoon ride, the guide on my skiff, eagle-eye Adonai, discovered a couple of ears and nostrils crossing the river. It was a swimming Capybara that ran out of the water to disappear in the dense vegetation.
Red Howler, Monk Saki, and White-fronted Capuchin monkeys were the other creatures of our successful mammal day. Then sunset, and once on board, the noisiest and most marvelous storm. A holistic experience it was!