Yanayacu River & Amazon Park, 10/7/2022, Delfin II
We departed in the early hours for our exploration of Yanayacu River, a tributary of the Marañón River. As soon as we boarded the skiffs, we spotted pink river dolphins foraging in the shallow waters with neotropic cormorants. At this time of year, the landscape is dotted with different species of birds, including large flocks of great egrets.
We entered the kingdom of the endless forest, through which most of the rivers flow to form larger ones. The Ucayali and the Marañón Rivers eventually merge, giving origin to the mighty Amazon. This jungle is vibrant and full of life, from birds to monkeys. This morning was a special one, as hundreds of egrets mixed with cormorants, wood storks, and kingfishers. All of them foraged in the early hours.
In the afternoon, we visited Amazon Park to explore the forest and suspension bridges. This forest is a pristine one, as no tree has ever been cut. The ecosystem is just like it was thousands of years ago. This is the kingdom of the giants! All the trees in this forest are around a hundred feet tall. We were happy to visit such a pristine spot in the Amazon. Indeed, we felt small as we walked under the canopy. There is so much foliage that there is not much light near the ground of the forest.
Juan Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador. He spent part of his elementary schooling in the province of Cotopaxi, a beautiful area in the Ecuadorian Andes ringed by volcanoes. In 1989 his family moved to the Galápagos and settled in the highlands of San...
Our last expedition day in the Upper Amazon was marked once again with great wildlife encounters! Our morning started with a quick skiff ride in a narrow creek known as Iricahua. This location is only accessible when the water level is high, and it might be the very last time we are visiting this place until next year when the levels rise enough to make it accessible again. The water level of the main river and the tributaries drop as much as 30 feet from the highest level to the lowest in this flooded forest! What an amazing feature! The beginning of May usually marks the time of the year when levels start to drop. By the end of May, levels are so low that many creeks are too shallow to enter, or the amount of debris accumulated in the bottom of the creek becomes an obstacle for skiffs attempting to penetrate this intricate ecosystem. Today was a lot of fun, as our skilled drivers took us through the meandering creek while we were still immersed in a thin morning fog, giving the excursion an extra layer of “Indiana Jones” adventure. Later in the morning, we continued our navigation down river and reached an area known as Flor de Castaña. The seasonal flooded forest has created a fair competition between the large tree species in this area, which allows for an additional ecosystem of dead trees within the lakes. This feature creates additional nesting areas for certain birds that will only nest inside the cavities of dead trees. At the same time, many aerial plants grow right on top of the remnants of trees, creating a unique “garden” within the lake. This feature, coupled with the stillness of the water, creates unique opportunities for mirrored photography. Our last skiff ride of the trip was just as amazing as the first one we had seven days ago. Once more, we enjoyed the skilled driving, the naturalists’ explanations about wildlife, and, in general, the beauty of an unforgettable and unique part of the world!
We awoke on the Pacaya River to explore the furthest reaches of our Amazon trip in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which is largely protected from the development of its petroleum resources. This protection means an abundance of wildlife and diversity. The morning’s outing was a different kind of adventure. Instead of returning to the Delfin II for breakfast, we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the “Jungle Cafe.” Our guides served breakfast aboard the skiffs. As we floated along the edge of the riverbank, a group of capybaras, the world’s largest rodent, crossed the Pacaya right in front of us! They, too, were headed for breakfast, a thick meadow of grasses and river lettuce emerging from the waters. Our appetites satisfied, we continued our exploration of the reserve in an area nicknamed the Jungle Mirror, so called because the waters are so black that they create beautiful reflections of the surrounding forest. We looked for monkeys and birds along the way. Several jabiru storks, tall birds with white bodies, black heads, and red throat pouches, walked the riverbanks, taking flight as we passed. Horned screamers chorused from the trees with their donkey-like calls, and a troop of squirrel monkeys whistled from behind the leaves. We didn’t stay too long, though, as we had a different destination in mind: the black waters of the lagoon. It was here that we got to take our first dip in the waters of the Amazon. The calm, black waters are safe to swim in, and our guests are nothing if not prepared for just such an opportunity. We leapt from the boat into the mostly warm, sometimes cool, then warm again waters of the Pacaya. Rainbow-colored pool noodles bobbed everywhere, and Fred promptly started to swim laps. Our guides set a floating tub piled high with beer and soda, making a swim up bar in the Amazon! As we enjoyed the refreshing dip, pink river dolphins surfaced nearby, keeping us company from a respectable distance for the entirety of our swim. Before we knew it, it was time to return to the Delfin II where another meal and a presentation about the culture and history of the Amazon awaited. Come evening, it was time for an exploration of Magdalena Creek. The songs of birds surrounded us as we traveled up the creek. A pair of drab water tyrants, which are anything but drab, flirted with us from branches jutting from the water’s surface. Their tiny bodies and sweet faces cocked from side to side as they considered these strange visitors. They are only found along the edges of rivers and lakes. The evening belonged to the birds as we spotted greater anis and nunbirds and the charming iridescent countenance of blue and white sparrows.
We are right in the middle of our expedition in the Upper Amazon, and we have had many amazing wildlife sightings so far. Today was no exception. Our destination was Supay Creek with a pre-breakfast skiff ride to explore this intricate ecosystem. We were pleasantly surprised by an unusually higher number of sightings of the pygmy marmoset, the smallest primate inhabiting this flooded forest. We overheard their calls in many places, but the “speedy” primate was elusive until a couple decided to just sit and contemplate our approaching skiffs! What a delightful moment we had when they started to ignore us and behave as if we weren’t there. Occasionally, they checked on us, but they quickly continued with their mutual preening and caring for each other. In the blink of an eye, they disappeared into the dense vegetation, leaving us all with great pictures! We continued looking and searching for wildlife. We took photographs as we took in all the aspects of this beautiful place. Once on board, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast while we repositioned the ship to our next destination, Belluda Creek. We were all rewarded with sightings of one of the rarest monkeys found in this forest, the saki monkey. This furry monkey sat on the upper branch of a tree and kept looking down at us. As it observed us, it was clear that it was just as curious about us as we were about it. Satisfied with our photographs, we moved on and continued to be amazed by the immense diversity of this beautiful forest. Our afternoon was just as great. We traveled farther up the Ucayali River until we reached El Dorado River. This location was a perfect spot to meet some of the local people, who eagerly approached us and showed us their daily catches. Piranhas and catfish are part of their daily diet, and the river provides lots of those! Today’s outing finished with a special “night caiman hunting.” We had great encounters with caimans and other night-associated species that left us content and anxious for tomorrow’s exploration!