All the animals except for man know that
the principle business of life is to enjoy it.
Technology has failed me today so all I can give you is the Sights and (words about the) Sounds of the Jungle. Please bear with me as I try to paint a sufficiently lively picture with less than a thousand words.
On our recent trip to Ecuador we stayed at Napo Wildlife Refuge on a tributary to the Amazon. I have been in tropical environments before but there is always something new to see and hear in locales this exotic. The afternoon that we arrived there was a heavy but brief rain shower. We changed out of our wet clothes and shoes, and then relaxed on the veranda of our cabin halfway up the slope. As the afternoon progressed the trees around us came alive with the calls of the birds all around. I took a video of the scene – more to catch the sounds of the bird life than to get visuals. The failed technology mentioned above should have allowed me to insert a video here so that you could hear what sounded like dozens of good-sized, gossiping birds chattering loudly to each other. As it is, I can give you this still picture of our scene.
The elongated bag nests you see hanging from the trees were everywhere. They look like giant-sized Baltimore oriole nests – and rightly so. These nests belong to Weaver birds, bigger cousins of the orioles we know. Weaver birds are bigger, louder, and very active in protected spaces such as this. In time the chatter faded away and the scene became very peaceful.
Two days later we were wakened before daylight by what sounded like gale force winds. It took me a few groggy moments to decide that there must be a raging storm outside. Strange, because there had not been any indication of bad weather in the near future. There was just enough light in the sky to see the trees around our cabin. All were perfectly still, not tossing about in near-hurricane winds. It was as though someone had put the wrong soundtrack on for this day! We eventually realized that we were hearing the howler monkeys claiming their territories in the forest around us. They must have tremendous resonating capacity in their small lungs and throats to raise such a sound!
Our most exciting sights of that day provided only a few sounds. As we were ending an afternoon session of wildlife viewing we came upon a pair of giant river otters feeding in a small creek. They looked very similar to other otters we have seen, only bigger. They would surface on one side of the canoe, huff and snort, then dive again too quickly to get a picture. Then they would pop up again a few feet away, or on the other side of our canoe. One surfaced with something delicious to eat (apparently). He crunched it with enthusiasm; it sounded to me like a small crab with a shell that wasn’t quite strong enough to protect it.
Our guide told us that the local otter population was down to only three or four as they are being killed off by black caimans. I had been under the impression that caimans were miniature alligators. Not so! They are generally smaller than alligators but now I know they are not small. After following the otters for several minutes we returned to the lake at the center of Napo village. Our guide spotted a caiman logging in the middle of the lake – so off we went to get a better view. The picture below is the closest one we got of this fellow, just waiting for something interesting to come along. The plates standing up along his tail made him look formidable and nasty.
After a minute or so watching and waiting we left him alone and returned to shore. Later we learned that other guests had been watching our encounter from the observation deck
at the top of the main building, wondering if they were about to see something really exciting. That evening our guide (who had been in the front of the canoe) told us that Carlito in the back of the canoe had a very scary experience with a caiman a few days before, when the reptile suddenly burst into action and headed toward the canoe. Daniel said that while he was paddling forward this afternoon, Carlito had been paddling backwards! Smart fellow.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
28 January 2016