Expedition Stories

Our fleet navigates the world in search of adventure. These are the stories they bring back…

Previous Reports

Daily Expedition Reports

6/7/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Iquitos, Nauta & the Maranon River We have arrived! At last after so many years (the last trip of the Polaris up the Amazon River was back in 1996), Lindblad has returned with guests to the largest rainforest on earth. On landing in Iquitos airport, we were met by the natural history staff of the Delfin II in the airport, and soon enough we were off to the village of Nauta on the banks of the Marañon River. By driving to Nauta from Iquitos we saved ourselves time and the ship a long sail. By the time we boarded the Delfin II, we were only a hop, skip and a jump from the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. We were anxious to get started, so in the afternoon we put on our rubber boots and went for a walk in the Amazon. The walk took place on “terra firme,” which refers to land that never gets flooded. The annual floods occur when the snow melts in the Andes and the water rushes down carrying silt and sedimentation which later covers the forest floor with new nutrients. This walk through a rainforest was a first for many, and the humidity, greenery and lushness of vegetation was an eye-opener. Liana vines hung down, eerie calls came through from above, squirrel monkeys moved branches in mysterious ways, and mosquitoes occasionally whined near our ears. We came out near the community of San Fransisco after having seen the iodine tree useful for cleaning cuts, leaf-cutter ants carrying leaf pieces and crossing log bridges over muddy lowlands. Passing by the first raised hut, a woman was working hard on separating the fiber from the palm leaf, to be used later when dry as the tough material woven into bags and baskets. This community was large enough to warrant a big water pump for a tall tower, a paved sidewalk through “main street,” matching blue out-houses and a town “mirador,” or “look out” on the high bank overlooking the river. Those who didn't shop (or not for long) ended up playing with the town kids, who had a riotous game going of “chase the shotgun pellets” until we came along and captured their interest with our cameras and their instant-satisfaction ability to playback and see the resulting photos (see my photo below). Back on board in time for sunset, we enjoyed our cocktails at the junction of the Marañon River with the Ucayali River and where the mighty Amazon River finally takes her official name.  

Daily Expedition Reports

6/9/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Jatun Poza & Pacaya River The highlight of the morning during our dawn, early birdwatching excursion was without a doubt the time spent watching a troop of squirrel monkeys forage along the banks of a lagoon. They were in low trees, close to eye-level, for about fifteen minutes, and we watched in complete silence. Massive leaps from branch to branch and small hands stuffed mouths full with berries or insects (hard to tell); it was mesmerizing. After breakfast we landed by skiff nearby to visit the small community known as Jatun Poza, made up of perhaps 20 families at the very most. The modest homes on stilts were surrounded by fruit trees, medicinal plants and other food products. To hear about and see their lifestyle, be able to ask questions via our ship's staff, photograph and learn about these “riverside” people (“Riberenios”), was so very valuable a lesson. Of course the fun really started when we were invited into the one-room schoolhouse. All fifteen students were introduced to us, and soon the visit turned into a “sing-off”, where the children, ages 5 through 12, sang a song for us, whereupon we were expected to reciprocate! After their rendition of La Charapita (the little turtle), we managed a decent rendition of “row, row, row your boat” in a two-part round for our first attempt. Their second song of “Como están amigos, como están” (requiring an appropriate response from us as part of the chorus), was then followed by “Old MacDonald had a Farm” with cows, pigs and ducks. Unfortunately, I think farm animals make different sounds in Spanish, and as a result, we were stared at in incomprehension for the duration of this song. But yo-yos, balloons and funny-bands were easily understood and graciously received before departure. Before returning to the ship, the skiffs headed up-river until we found a quiet bit of shady bankside. Here, our simple canes with fishing line, hook and raw meat were prepared. Immediately, everyone's preconceived ideas of the ferocity and plenitude of piranhas in the rivers of the Amazon were dashed to bits. It took my boat two more locations before we finally saw success, and then it came fast and furious! Squeals of excitement sounded when the piranhas started falling for the bait, and their red bellies marked them as “red piranhas”. After the obligatory photo, they were released, of course. They were much too small to be worth keeping for eating, although they are known as a tasty white meat. No fingers were lost to this late morning activity. The afternoon was spent travelling up the Pacaya River into the furthest reaches of the Reserve we could manage. “Sloth River” could be a new name for the trip up, but the biggest treat was arriving into a huge, still lagoon and finding the pink river dolphins. It took very little time for those of us prepared to strip down and jump in, and soon enough the puffs of air and breaths were heard of dolphins coming to investigate the commotion in the middle of the lagoon. Staying in the warm top two feet was the challenge, but really it was quite comfortable. Only reluctantly did the last swimmers climb up the ladder back on board to start our return journey back home to the Delfin II waiting patiently for us at the entrance to the Reserve. As we returned to the ship down the Pacaya River and the sky darkened, I was amazed to see pin-point lights on in the forest. I realized there were lightning bugs of many, many species throughout the forest and at all levels. It was enchanting.  

Daily Expedition Reports

8/30/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Yanayacu & Pucate Rivers, Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve This morning found the Delfin II on the Marañon River, tied up to a tree of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve near the Ranger Station and the entrance to the Yanayacu and Pucate Rivers. These rivers originate in the interior and together form the third largest drainage basin of the entire reserve (after the Samiria and Pacaya Rivers, of course). While we had coffee and quickly became alert for the day, a green iguana was seen basking in the early light along a tree branch, just above us. For those who decided to get up early, a dawn bird-watching excursion by skiff was offered, and we left promptly at 6:00am with almost the entire complement of guests! We followed the river bank into the reserve watching for anything and everything. With cameras and binoculars at the ready, almost immediately we had sightings of unusual(for us) birds; capped heron, oriole blackbirds, black-collared hawks, Amazon & ringed kingfishers, wattled jacanas, festive parrots, canary-winged parakeets...the list kept growing. After returning for breakfast on board where exotic fruit juices were to be had, the skiffs then departed again for the reserve, this time to go further up the Yanayacu River. At this time of year the river levels are at their lowest because of little to no rains falling up in the Andes, where the waters of these mighty rivers originate. These low levels left exposed the holes made by the armoured catfish, otherwise under water for most of the year. Beautiful butterflies, Papillionidae and “Uranidae” (day-flying moths) caught our eye with their bright colors. Egrets by the dozens hung out along the shore, great and snowy, with the occasional Cocoi heron thrown in for good measure. The spectacular black-collared hawk put in an appearance as well as the roadside hawk, here known as the “riverside hawk” (tongue-in-cheek). It was fun to get folks to pay attention to the vultures which are often ignored, and in payment for our efforts we saw yellow-headed vultures! Pink and gray dolphins surfaced nearby at the junctions of rivers showing their rosy-colored flanks, while the tangarana trees seemed to blossom with butterflies, attracted to its sweet smell and nectar. A mandatory siesta played an important role for almost everyone on board after lunch. The Amazonian muggy mid-day heat is best dealt with horizontally, although from the top deck of the Delfin II, the view and breeze are generally a delight. In the afternoon we reviewed our wildlife checklist before departing for the Pucate River. By then, dark clouds had formed in the east, and a refreshing breeze backed us the whole afternoon as we explored. A great black-hawk snatched a black-fronted nunbird out of the air in front of one group, then dropped the bird into the river where it was rescued and placed back on shore – rather bedraggled, admittedly. A whip snake was seen also, attempting a crossing of the river. In the Amazon, everyone has to know how to swim. Scarlett macaws flew overhead, crimson tanagers and Cuvier's toucan were also sighted. A pair of sloths were spotted high in the tree-tops before it was time to turn around and head home. Just in time, too, as the tropical rain finally found us seconds after arriving on board. In the pampered surroundings of our cabins, we could look out at the raindrops flowing down our picture windows while preparing for cocktail hour and dinner. What a way to visit the Amazon rain forest!  

Daily Expedition Reports

9/1/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Yucuruchi and the Ucayali River We were now in the Ucayali River! Last night the ship had turned the corner from the Marañon, into the Amazon, then southwest to start up the Ucayali River for the remainder of the week. The early morning birdwatching excursion collected some wonderful new species today; Vermillion flycatcher (which was totally unexpected at this altitude and time of year), Greater anis, black-capped donacobius, marsh-tyrants, osprey carrying fish across the river, white-eyed parakeets to name just a few. The sky was bright with few clouds, so when it came time to return, breakfast and a cooling break were a good incentive to head home. After a delicious breakfast consisting of native and local fruit juices and marmalades, we set off a little ways up the river to land at a location known as “Yucuruchi”, and followed an easy, flat trail into the forest. For most of us, we had already explored this same trail once before...last night! In an impromptu move we decided at dinner to offer a walk in the woods, with flashlights, to see what we could see. The perfect location was at hand, and our adventurous expedition paid-off big-time...a beautiful boa constrictor, over 6 feet long, was found slowly oh-so-slowly crossing the trail. Pink-toed tarantulas step aside! We all got a fabulous look (and some photos) of this newly-shed reptile before she moved off into the undergrowth and out of sight. When the lights were extinguished, fireflies flashed throughout the forest from ground-level to tree-top; the night seemed to celebrate being alive. So on landing in daylight, we were on the look-out for the snake, but realistic enough to not expect to see her again in daylight. However, plenty of exiting sightings took place, among them green jacamar and white-eared jacamar, and straight-billed woodcreeper, russet-backed oropendolas and yellow-rumped caciques. Our goal was a small lagoon with the giant water-lilies, Victoria regia. On arrival they were found to be in flower, huge yellow blossoms reflecting in the still water. A surprise was found when someone pointed out a disturbance on the water’s edge. What looked like the back of an enormous frog, turned out to be a beautiful freshwater stingray with jaguar-like markings on its back. On our way back to the skiff, a female sloth with young was spotted in a tall Cecropia tree! Not too high up, we could see the youngster with arms wrapped tight around its mother, it occasionally took a peek out from under her armpit and scratched its hind leg. The afternoon took a completely different turn for some of us. About half decided on a river trip by skiff to continue the search for more wildlife along the banks of the “young islands”. These are islands that have only recently formed, and therefore attract a different group of species compared to old-growth forest. They were successful in sighting squirrel monkeys along the riverbank – fast and acrobatic, and fun to watch! The rest of us chose to land on a beach – yes, beach – of fine sand. These are depositions of finely-ground rock from the high Andes. Waiting for us on shore was an awning, benches, coolers, towels...and mud. It was fine clay of a deep gray color, dug out from the banks. We slathered ourselves with the slippery, dark mud from head to toe! Afterwards we took a walk and discovered several things: turtle tracks which had recently come up and down from the water's edge to lay eggs, and that the pools of remnant river water looked deceptively benign. It soon became apparent when John tried to help Enid who had been walking around the edge of one of these pools, that both were stuck, and well stuck, in mud up to their knees. One after another, sandals were lost, then found. I pulled, we all almost fell in. Hilarious laughter brought others our way, and soon we were heading back to the beach to partake of the second half of the treatment – a swim in the Ucayali River to wash off. Noodles were brought out as well as an ice-cold, refreshing fruit drink of camu-camu. It was good to share some deep belly-laughs with friends in an environment that has no time for pretensions. Fabulous day!  

Daily Expedition Reports

9/3/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Atun Poza community and the Pacaya River As informed by our Naturalist guides, this part of the Amazon rainforest has suffered a drought for about 10 days. However, after the plentiful rain yesterday, clouds and mist hung low over the tree tops, and temperatures were cooler than we've had so far – very comfortable! The early morning birders saw more than they thought possible, with sightings of Monk sakis, a species of very furry monkey with long, thick tails. They were still asleep when we spotted them, but deigned to raise their heads to get a good look at us. Two morphotypes of the Southern Amazonian red squirrel were a surprise as well: red and black! On our return to the ship for breakfast, when we stopped by to view the Monk sakis again, a troop of squirrel monkeys started moving in a fruiting tree near shore! On our way over to the community of Atun Poza later in the morning, we stopped by interesting-looking structures floating in the water, tied up near shore. They turned out to be large pens used for the collection of armored catfish. Large balsawood logs were tied up around the edges to keep the pens afloat. Inside, the catfish were kept alive (and therefore fresh), for transportation downriver to either the closest town of Requena, or perhaps even all the way to Iquitos, which would require a week-long trip, with probably the whole family along for the ride. Once on shore, we were greeted by many children and were invited into private family compounds by the local people to see and hear about their way of life. Chicks roamed between our feet, we were allowed to try our hands at husking rice grains, photographed catfish on the grill, learned about manioc (“yuca” not “yucca”) and various types of green bananas on the stem. An additional walk to a huge ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra) was delightful, following a level path. Muddy in places, we saw beautiful butterflies, miniscule grasshoppers, massive fig trees both strangler and other, white-tailed and black-headed trogons, and heard the horned screamers and saddle-backed tamarins, though as hard as we tried we couldn't catch a glimpse. Before returning to the Delfin II we stopped by the one-roomed schoolhouse. Class was not in session because the government-placed teacher was in Iquitos, but that didn't stop the children of school-age from inviting us inside to meet them. The afternoon saw us on our way up the second-largest drainage river in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve...the Pacaya River itself. A relatively narrow entrance, the river goes a very long way into the heart of the reserve. We followed it for the next couple hours, finding red-mantled howler monkeys, Monk saki monkeys, squirrel monkeys and brown capuchin monkeys – it was quite amazing! Apart from those delights, we saw sloths, horned screamers booming, parrots and all our friends from this past week like the black-collared hawk, Cocoi herons, great herons and yellow-rumped caciques. In Yanayacu lagoon the intrepid swam in water made black from the tannins of all the vegetative material dropped daily by the tropical rainforest. Pink dolphins came to investigate the commotion, but kept their distance, as best we could determine, to around 5 meters minimum. Of course bubbles appeared closer, but if they were made by dolphins, we could never confirm it. As the sun got ready to set, it left a pink glow matched only by the pink skin of the Amazonian River dolphins as they surfaced to breathe nearby. Returning at night along the Pacaya River, lightning bugs lit up in flashes throughout the forest top to bottom, twinkling points of light that matched the stars appearing from behind the clouds.  

Daily Expedition Reports

9/13/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Rio Marañon To begin our exploration of the upper Amazon Basin, many of us set off in the skiffs for a sunrise wildlife excursion. Being at the junction of the Rio Marañon and the Rio Yanayacu, both species of river dolphins accompanied us in our expedition. What a great way to start our trip! Egrets lined the shore while terns flew overhead. A gorgeous sunrise welcomed us on our journey. After breakfast we all boarded the skiffs to head up the Rio Yanayacu to further explore this region. Some green iguanas were spotted sunning themselves on large branches. After passing the guardhouse of the national reserve, some kids welcomed us in their dugout canoe, surfing our wave as we passed. Kingfishers seemed to be on every dead branch, while numerous pink and gray river dolphins were again spotted. Cercropia trees and caño bravo lined the shore, but further along many large trees loomed overhead. After lunch, we again headed up the Yanayacu, but this time we went much further and branched off into the Pucate River. A three-toed sloth was spotted high up in a kapok tree, and actually moved around a bit. As the sun got lower, bird activity increased and a rainbow of birds were observed. As we descended back towards the Delfin II, some monkeys were spotted along the shore. Saddleback tamarins are tiny black monkeys and it was exciting to watch them scamper through the vines and trees. With a fiery sunset behind us, and a distant lightning storm to our side, we returned back onboard very content with our first day here in the Amazon.  

Daily Expedition Reports

6/8/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Dorado River, Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve The Pacaya–Samiria National Reserve is one of the largest protected areas in Peru with an area of more than 2 million hectares (7,700 ml², 20,800 km² or the equivalent of the state of New Jersey!). It is also the largest protected seasonal flooded forest in South America. This Peruvian reserve is made up of three hydrographical basins: the Samiria River drainage, the Pacaya River drainage and the Yanayacu-Pucate drainage. Two big rivers delimit the borders of the reserve: the Marañon River to the north and the Ucayali River in the South. At the junction of these two mighty rivers, the easternmost corner of the reserve, the Amazon River is finally born and baptized, and as she grows with each additional tributary, makes hers journey (starting at 340 feet / 04 meters above sea level) for another 1,926 miles (3,100kms) to the Atlantic Ocean. As everyone has heard, the Amazon rainforest is renowned for its biodiversity. Just within the Reserve, research so far has found that the reserve harbors over 500 species of birds (which makes up almost 64% of the total birds recorded for Peru and includes five of the eight species of macaw and the primitive-looking hoatzin), 132 species of mammals (this includes the pink and gray river dolphins, several monkey species and giant river otters), 240 species of reptiles (including the giant anaconda and black caiman), 58 species of amphibians, 259 species of fish (includes the famous giant “paiche” and armored catfish) and well over 1,200 species of plants with more being described every day, many of medicinal significance. We saw just a fraction of this today, and even so, it is almost overwhelming. An early pre-breakfast outing and our later post-breakfast expedition up Belludo Cano added greatly to our wildlife list: Monk saki monkeys, pink river dolphins, squirrel monkeys, blue and yellow macaws, crimson tanagers, great black-hawk, all kinds of kingfishers. Bromeliads were flowering, some trees are seeding, the kapok red seed pods prominent (one tree had several eaten out by parakeets for both food and a very comfortable nesting place). One encounter with a small boat manned by a fisherman allowed a close look at the famous armoured catfish of the Amazon. It is practically a staple of all who fish in the area, and as the river levels lower, the living quarters of the catfish in the banks are exposed in the form of numerous holes. Another family was transporting a dugout up-river in a motorized vessel. Traffic can get busy in some of the smaller tributaries! That afternoon we repositioned to the Dorado River and travelled even deeper into the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Hoatzins, those seemingly primitive birds we found deep along one shore of lagoon. The horned screamers were making their booming and far-ranging calls from the tops of the canopy. Cocoi herons, black-collared hawks, and many others were spotted, and later in the dark, spectacled caimans and Great Potoos were found as well as fishing bats, the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross with attending Centauris.  

Daily Expedition Reports

6/10/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Pto. Miguel & Nauta Our brief excursion into the Peruvian Amazon was coming to an end, but there were a few delights still ahead of us before we would have to disembark in Nauta and continue onto Iquitos and the airport. As usual there were the hard-core early risers who left at dawn to cruise a nearby river for wildlife. We succeeded with numerous beautiful bird species, some at this point quite familiar such as the black-collared hawk. We returned to the ship for breakfast and then disembarked yet one more time to visit the small village of Puerto Miguel. These people have become very adept at woven handicrafts, and so we finally got to meet the folks who had made the decorations for each and every table setting. Using the seeds from the calla lily and other tropical flora, the fiber from palms and the dyes from a variety of plants, they produce unusual and beautiful designs. By chance, one of the naturalists found out a family had found a young three-toed sloth in the woods nearby, too young to survive on its own, and so brought it back to the village. Found at two weeks, it was now three months old and seemingly doing well. Around a year old it will be returned to the forest, hopefully to disappear quickly into the treetops and live a normal sloth life for the next 15 years. Too quickly all has come to an end with this abbreviated expedition up the Ucayali, Maranon and Amazon Rivers. Come August we have our first week-long expedition...and I can barely wait!  

Daily Expedition Reports

8/31/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Marañon River, San Francisco community and the Amazon River Today is packed with excitement. We have our early morning birdwatching skiff run and, after breakfast, a rain forest walk. We also have plans to visit one of the local communities (named San Francisco) of people who live along the banks of the Amazon River. How exciting! The early morning birdwatching ride on the skiff was amazing – which is to be expected when birdwatching in an area with one of the largest varieties of animal species on Earth. We barely got on the skiffs and went more than a few feet when we saw ten or twelve different kinds of birds. We saw an Amazon kingfisher having a breakfast of fish, and we saw orioles and parrots trying to raid villagers' rice fields. A solitary sandpiper was scrounging for food on the riverbank while parakeets flew in paired flight formations overhead. This is a birdwatchers dream come true. I don't think a person's morning could start any better! After breakfast, all of us donned our boots for our first jungle walk. Rennie, one of three Naturalists with us on board the Delfin II, asked a local gentleman to help us with the landing for the walk. Being the dry season for the Amazon with low water levels, the river had tall muddy slopes on either side, which we would need help climbing. To our amazement, in a mere half-hour, the man transformed the muddy river bank into reinforced steps, complete with handrail! One of many instances which showed the resourcefulness of the Amazon's river-people. On the walk, I was in awe. The Amazon rain forest is full of life, both plant and animal! Some of the plant life we saw were bromeliads, giant mimosa trees with their beautiful bark, rubber trees with their stretchy sap seeping from the trunk, and various fruit trees, which sustain the birds, animals and people who live along the river. Butterflies were bold and danced around us tempting me to try and get closer and closer pictures! Amid the constant (and mesmerizing) bird chatter, I noticed a blue morpho butterfly which simply took my breath away. The visit to the San Francisco village gave us an opportunity to get a taste of the Amazonian way of life. The school children were darling and so happy to see and welcome us. Tourists are a chance for the communities to make some much needed money and this was no exception. The women exhibited their handicrafts and many of us bought a memento or two to take home. One should always carry a few soles, just in case. The afternoon brought us more of the same amazing animals contained within the great and vast Amazon. After having traveled on the Marañon River all day yesterday and this morning, the afternoon was spent sailing on the most famous of all, the “real” Amazon River, formed by the joining of the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers. In celebration of our presence at the junction for sunset, someone arranged a spectacular sky with colors as we raised a toast to the mighty Amazon itself. At dinner, we were surprised to learn we were going to partake in a night walk into the jungle! Keely, another guest, had suggested the night walk earlier during our previous day’s walk, so an impromptu hike was organized. I was excited since I had done one elsewhere and seen so many animals from a totally different perspective. The walk started with the sight of a pinktoe tarantula, followed by frogs, bats, and katydids. Suddenly, Adonai, one of our natualists, said “Oh my god! It’s a boa!” We looked at the marvelous creature, beautiful with a bright red tail. The snake was big, approximately 8.5ft long. She slowly slithered into the jungle, our signal to make our way back to the skiffs by way of a pond which had Giant Amazon lilies. These are the largest lilies in the world, Victoria regia, and can grow to 6ft in diameter. Also, the lily flower only blooms at night and lasts for only 48 hours. Thankfully, the lilies were in bloom during our nightwalk and we were lucky to snap a few photos. Before it was time to go back, we stood in total silence for a couple of minutes listening to the sounds of the night. Reluctantly the day ended and it was time to fall into a beautiful satisfying slumber only a place like the Amazon can provide!  

Daily Expedition Reports

9/2/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Belluda Caño and Rio Dorado We absorbed the sounds in silence; pink Amazonian river dolphins breathing nearby, horned screamers hooting and booming far, thunder approaching from the east, parrots chattering in their tree top. The early morning outing had all of these and more...wood storks flew overhead in numbers, red-capped cardinals, gray-breasted martins, southern rough-winged swallows, and black-headed parrots were a real highlight, as their bright yellow plumage contrasts so starkly with the black and green on their heads. Good, wide-angle binoculars are key to penetrating the mysteries and sights, for discovering who is making the sounds, and general understanding of this deep, complicated ecosystem we know as the Amazonian rainforest. Just as breakfast was getting underway, the rain started to fall – a good, heavy Amazonian downpour. However it lasted just until we needed to board the skiffs, and so we did – in the sunshine. Toucans and blue-and-yellow macaws were spotted as we arrived at our landing site on the banks of Belludo Caño...and so did a rain cloud. It was fascinating to see a literal “wall” of rain cross the river from one bank towards us, giving us just enough time (about one minute), to distribute ponchos and throw them on. Five minutes later they could be removed, and were no longer needed for the remainder of our morning's visit. Welcome to Amazonian rains! The walk was a delight, along a narrow path with the need for machete use every now and then. The long walkers were finally foiled in our attempts to take a circuit trail because of tree falls, but we managed to see the blue-and-yellow macaws once more, as well as walk around one of the huge ceiba trees, with arches between the enormous buttress roots. Those who explorations covered less ground saw squirrel monkeys as their prize for the morning among a variety of other interesting things. Back on board for lunch, we were treated to a spectacular tropical thunderstorm which we could watch from the comfort of the dining room and its three-sided picture windows out the stern. The wind was ferocious, the lightning flashed, the rain pelted down, and we stayed nice and dry inside. Just in time for our afternoon excursion, it let up, and away we sailed off up-river, leaving the Delfin II to continue her stately way up-river behind us. Because of low river conditions, and exceptionally low levels this year, our entrance into the Rio Dorado had to be experienced to be believed. I would never have thought our drivers could get the skiffs up the 2-meter-wide torrent of muddy water pouring down between muddy banks titled with blocks of deep clay sediment. But they did, and we arrived at the top into perfectly flat, calm waters of a river channel that when the levels rise in a few weeks, will be a breeze to enter with a lazy turn and not a thought beyond. A sun bittern was almost the first sighting we had – an extremely good omen for the rest of the afternoon. Parrots, Cocoi herons, hawks and a pygmy kingfisher were all spotted, as were squirrel monkeys and a spot-breasted woodpecker. A bizarre scenario played itself out at the junction of a small tributary stream: piranhas were coming to the surface long enough for us to see their red bellies well. Then the evening got darker and lights came out, with which we searched for spectacled caiman, and found not only these, but a boat-billed heron eating a piranha and a bufo marinus (marine toad) out on shore as well as a great potoo no longer pretending to be an extension of a woody snag, but on the lookout for dinner. The potoo we could only briefly view as by then the skiff was on her return journey down the muddy toboggan run into the Ucayali, and there really wasn't the chance to stop for a better look at that moment in time! Today has been everything a rain forest should be: unexpected, wet, sunny, and filled with unusual sounds and sights – especially when we all got up and danced after dinner!  

Daily Expedition Reports

9/4/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Rio Zapote and Rio Tapiche Everyone was an early-bird today! The skiffs left in the fresh air of the morning, the smell of the rainforest coming to us in waves of green. We soon reached the mouth of the Zapote River which lies on the south bank of the Puinahua Canal – a name given to a stretch of the Ucayali River. At some point in the past, the river split, then joined downstream, leaving a 100-mile long island in the middle. The northern route has now become the principal route for vessels plying the river. This means those communities who established themselves on the southern stretch now have to travel great distances to catch the ferries going by. The Zapote River originates in the interior of this immense island, and the entrance was another adventure that needs to be seen to be believed! Like a couple days ago, the low river levels typical of this time of year have reduced the mouth of the Zapote River to a narrow, fast-flowing almost-rapid (not enough elevation gain to be a real rapid). After an exciting entrance with our expert drivers at the helm, we made it safely inside a delightful narrow river with birds calling on all sides. Masked crimson tanagers, cream-colored woodpeckers, little-billed cuckoos, tanagers, squirrel monkeys, various hawks (a great black-hawk attempted many times to snag a sungrebe, but the grebe managed its escape again and again). A long-nosed bat was discovered inside the skiff under the slats, and a tiny frog hoped onto a lifejacket from who-knows-where. This was discovered because we had stopped…for breakfast! Out in the skiffs, the staff and crew pulled out the stops and served us breakfast out on the river. Juices, coffee and teas, breads and eggs with silverware and ceramic plates...what a treat! Afterwards we moved up a bit to try our hand at fishing, which was somewhat successful if catfish were the targets. Two piranha were caught (one each boat), and sufficed for the photographers. The afternoon was spent traveling up the Trapiche River by skiff. We reached a small town where locals paddled quickly to offer us the use of their dugout canoes. What a hoot! No-one fell in, many paddled, some in circles. The sunset was one of the most spectacular we have seen this week. As we skimmed the water on our way home, large flocks of egrets flew in formation; dugouts were coming home loaded with produce and people. One largish canoe with thatch called us over to ask for a few gallons of gasoline. They had been coming down river for six hours, and had one more to go before reaching the larger town of Requena, but were running low. Of course we helped them out, and meanwhile conversed with some of the curious folk inside (mostly children, it seemed like). Our contacts with the locals this week have all been of a very positive nature. All the “riberenos” have been welcoming and friendly – everyone on board unanimously agreed with that. So with this ending, our week has come to a close. We've had some amazing times, and eyes have been opened to the marvels that exist here. Surprises were had as well; how large the rivers are, how immense some of the trees, how warm, yet not too. How “fat” the rain, how quick it passes; how noisy the insects, how beautiful the calls of birds. How chittery the voices of monkeys; how clean and rich the air. How variable the river levels; how fragile the banks of clay. How temporary the course of the river, how powerful the flow. So many new sights, sounds, smells and friends. So much more still out there to find!  

Daily Expedition Reports

9/14/2010

Read

Delfin II

From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Marañon, Amazon and Ucayali Rivers This morning a full skiff left early for birding along the banks of the Maranon River. We had some excellent sightings of a plum-throated cotinga, silver-beaked tanagers, hooded blackbirds, oriole blackbirds, yellow-rumped caciques, short-tailed parrots and quite a few more! By the time we returned, we were more than ready to breakfast, knowing that it included, as it does every morning, a selection of exotic Amazonian fruit juices. Have to admit camu-camu wins hands-down for me. After breakfast everyone found rubber boots standing sentinel next to their cabin doors. We left prepared for the first visit inside the rain forest. At first the trail led through open areas, obviously being used by the nearby community members as their field for growing banana trees (many varieties), papaya, beans and who-knows-what-else, in a tumble of exurberant leafy life. As we moved under the canopy, the temperature dropped immediately and dramatically. To a comfortable 85ºF – but with high humidity, of course. The forest floor was covered by fast-decomposing leaf litter, so footfalls were soft and muffled. Layers and layers of leaves of many shapes and sizes stood all around us. Strange fruits and flowers peeked through the branches, a trogon called and was spotted. A spotted tody-flycatcher flit from one tree to the next. We snacked on a stem of wild ginger to refresh us as the humidity climbed. By the time we reached the school in the community of San Fransisco we were more than ready for the ice-cold bottle of water waiting for us. The children whose turn it was to be in class were totally distracted by our arrival. Everyone knew we were coming for a while (since early morning), so the talented artisans, mostly the women of the village, had their wares laid out in the shade of the outside corridor. Since only mad-dogs and Englishmen get out in noon-day sun, we left about then to return to the luxurious air-conditioned cabins of Delfin II. Lunch was exquisite as always, siesta was now a routine, and an afternoon presentation about the Amazon basin and river was given by Jesus, one of our Naturalists on board. The afternoon was effortless, some choosing to swim in the Amazon River, Maranon River, and Ucayali River all at the same time. Yes indeed, we took a skiff out to the very point in the junction of the Maranon and Ucayali rivers where the combined rivers from then are known as the mighty Amazon. The water was a delicious 82F, (see the radar screen) so we drifted, floated and cooled off in this most remarkable location. Sunset cocktails on the top deck to celebrate the river saw a wall of rain approach from downriver, (always from the east). During dinner it arrived, a massive rainstorm which made us think we might not get out later, but it calmed down just in time for us to take a night hike with flashlights where we saw a number of diffferent tree frogs, pinktoe tarantualas and lots of kataydids. More impressive possibly were the sounds and sights of lightnings bugs throughout the forest from floor to canopy, and the chorus of night sounds from across the pond. We all turned out our lights and kept quiet. The reward was something we won't hear again anytime soon.  

Showing 12 of 1849