We had an amazing day today! Following the true sense of expedition travel and exploration, this morning we boarded our skiff very early and headed into the Samiria River for the first time during a Lindblad/National Geographic voyage. Located in the northern portion of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and a tributary of the larger Marañón River, the Samiria is a black-water river surrounded by a very well-preserved primary rainforest with tall trees and very few people around. We passed the only couple of very small settlements near the entrance and saw no more people during the rest of the morning, except the park rangers that protect this remote and pristine location.
Shortly after having stopped briefly at the first ranger station to show our permits, we found a large family group of at least eight giant river otters. One of the top predators in the area, the giant river otters regaled us with great views for a long time and we had the immense pleasure to watch their antics on shore and sliding down the riverbank into the water and even to listen to their calls. We found a couple more family groups later on, but this first one was the best and the perfect welcoming committee to the Samiria.
We continued exploring this beautiful river and had a lot of great and unusual sightings, including several red howler monkeys and many chestnut-eared aracaris and white-throated toucans, plus four out of five of the macaws present in the reserve: blue and yellow, scarlet, red-bellied and chestnut-fronted macaws. We watched a couple of the last ones for a long time as they were tearing apart pieces of wood digging a hole on a dead tree to build their nest. Not one but two king vultures were standing on a tall tree next to a group of the much more common black vultures. But to a raptor-lover like me, the highlight of the day were a couple of very rare sightings: an incredibly handsome black and white hawk-eagle that looked down at us for a long time, and a brief glimpse of the world’s strongest eagle, the harpy. Wow!
Back on board we enjoyed a delicious lunch and a lecture about the king of the neotropics, the jaguar, by yours truly. Then we visited an interesting private reserve called the Amazonas Natural Park. There we had a chance to hike and explore the rainforest once more to learn about the life history and traditional uses of many plants by local people, rounding out a truly special day in the incredible Peruvian Amazon.