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!