Crusin' the Peruvian Amazon
by Saronimo on September 12, 2011
Seven million square kilometers; spanning across nine nations; representing over half of the planet's remaining rainforests, and incontestably the most species diverse ecosystem. Yes, it's The Amazon Rainforest. During my time in South America, I had the choice to visit the rainforest in all of the countries I visited. I opted for Peru.
We were given an introduction to the tour and a few facts about the rainforest by our Peruvian guide, Willy, on the two-hour journey, which consisted of a car and a boat ride. We arrived, were given lunch and met the other guests of the lodge: five Canadians, two Italians, and two tarantulas.
Two. Massive. Tarantulas.
Discovering that, yes, they lived there as well and, no, they weren't leaving any time soon, I had to swallow my screams and get on with the tour.
We went out for our first boat drive and saw more species than my English brain can fathom: monkeys, sloths, a thousand types of butterfly, fish, a multitude of birds, and yet more giant Spiders.
We returned to the lodge and, keeping a close eye on the tarantulas, which thankfully hadn't moved, we wolfed down the delicious home-cooked dinner and departed for our night-time trip. Eerie and silent, there was something strangely comforting about floating down the middle of the river. It was only when we went to the banks of the river to hunt caiman that things started to get a bit tense for us and the guides. They spent the evening diving onto Caiman, wrestling with the small but dangerous reptiles, and then chucking them back into the water after we had our photos taken holding them round the throat. When we got back to the lodge, I started to wonder whether our actions that evening had been particularly ethical. My musings were interrupted, however, when one of the guides burst into the lodge brandishing a rather large snake, which he was also holding round the throat.
After a rather restless night swimming with dreams about being attacked by spiders, we embarked on our next day of rainforest sightseeing: dolphin spotting. We saw a school and, yes, they were majestic. My only problem with the experience (apart form being stuck in a huge downpour) was the guide and the boat driver banging on the boat to antagonize them in order that they would charge at us.
During the downpour, we visited some of the local villages. Fully equipped with schools, town halls, shops, and even football fields, there really was no need for the inhabitants to leave. They even seemed to acquire disposable nappies, cans of Coca Cola, and food with plastic wrappers, which were sadly discarded in the river after they had been used. On the way back, the guide spotted a sloth hiding in a tall, slim, and largely branchless tree. He seemed disappointed when we objected to him cutting down the tree so we could get a closer look at the sluggish mammal.
The afternoon and into the evening consisted of piranha fishing and watching a fantastically beautiful and colorful Amazonian sunset. Splashing across the sky and dancing through all colors of the rainbow, the reflections in the silky river added another dimension to the enigmatic end to the day.
I undeniably had a fantastic time in the rainforest. The food was delicious; the guides were very knowledgeable; and they gave us a thoroughly good time. My only reservations were concerns with a slightly unecologically-friendly tour. I wouldn't say this is unique to the tour company I went with, but this is symptomatic of a wider problem encompassing a lack of education and care that those residing in some of the most diverse and ecologically unique places in the world display.