Pacaya River and Dorado trail.

Nov 09, 2018 - Delfin II


Today we explored a very special area, the Pacaya River. Located deep in the heart of the Pacaya-Samiria Nature Reserve, the Pacaya is a marvelous and truly wild place. In order to take full advantage of this opportunity, we boarded our skiffs shortly after sunrise and headed out, looking for adventure. This is also the realm of the lowland flooded forest, and the scenery around us was a bit more open than the rainforest of previous days. Besides many familiar faces, we also had a great time finding and watching numerous new species that we hadn’t seen before. One of the most notorious was the unique-looking hoatzin, a true Amazonian icon. Well known for its striking resemblance to the prehistoric feathered reptile Archaeopteryx -no relationship, though- as a young chick, they have a clawed thumb. Hoatzin is one of those species that everyone should see in the wild at least once in their lifetime. It is also a very pretty bird, and today we had the pleasure of finding big groups of them. We saw numerous other interesting bird species like the muscovy duck, which is one of the few animals domesticated in the Americas in pre-Columbian times, and the horned screamer, which possesses a long spur on each wing to defend its nest from predators. Neotropical cormorants, anhingas and all kinds of herons and egrets were seen flying around. But the prize to the noisiest birds went to the macaws, of which we saw several species including the chestnut-fronted, the scarlet and the blue and yellow. Their abundance here in the Pacaya River is a sure sign of how wild this place is, as their numbers have diminished everywhere else due to poaching for the pet trade. Another species that is also an indicator of the well-being of the environment is the black caiman. This largest of the caimans, capable of reaching up to 18 ft. in length, is found nowadays only in the least disturbed areas and today we had the opportunity to see many of them, including some that we estimated to be 9 and 12 ft. long. We all opted to stay on board the skiff, of course!

During the late afternoon, we went ashore for an interesting hike on a trail near the Dorado River. Huge trees bordered the narrow path and gave the rainforest a cathedral-like appearance. Pretty soon the sunset arrived, and shortly afterward the forest was wrapped in the dark mantle of night. What a beautiful show of sounds, with frogs seeming to compete with insects! We found several interesting creatures like the very large smoky frog, the size of a small Chihuahua dog, a red-knee tarantula and even a kinkajou, making for the perfect ending of an extraordinary day exploring the Peruvian Amazon.

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About the Author

Carlos Navarro

Undersea Specialist

Carlos J. Navarro is a biochemist specializing in marine biology, a M. Sc. in Environmental Management and a freelance wildlife photographer/author. Carlos has spent most of the last 30 years living along the shores of the Sea of Cortez and participating in numerous scientific, conservation and environmental education projects on the vaquita, marine invertebrates, sea birds, great white sharks, baleen whales, jaguars and crocodiles. Carlos’ six years of jaguar research provided the basis of ONCA MAYA, a non-profit organization dedicated to jaguar conservation based in Cancun, of which he is a founding member and still serves as a scientific advisor. He loves being underwater, either free-diving or using SCUBA gear and have had the chance to explore the underwater realms of Alaska, Mexico, Svalbard, the trans-Atlantic ridge islands, the Caribbean and both coasts of South America from Panama to Chile and Brazil to Argentina. 

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