The excitement of our 5-day trip into the Reserva Nacional Tambopata has lingered over a month, with thousands of photos to wade through and post-process, a variety of creatures to identify, amidst the mundane rhythm of daily life.
The Inkaterra folks had set our expectations pretty high, after a short forest walk followed by an evening boat ride the day before. Not the part where they shone a flashlight into the foliage looking for nocturnal creatures, but the setting of the diamond-studded black sky reflecting over the lake, and the constant clickety click of unidentifiable creatures. It gave us a sense of how alive the forest is at all times, and though you may not spot them, animals can feel your presence and wisely keep their distance.
Early next morning we set off for Lake Sandoval, hoping to spot birds and monkeys, and we were not disappointed. The hike from the river to the lake is roughly 3 km. As we walked along the path, me getting used to the new 400mm lens, and Souvik carrying the rest of my stuff, our guide, Javier, looked out for creatures of interest.
The first one we ran into was the bullet ant – named as such because it is supposedly the most painful sting of all insects in the world. The one we saw was almost dead from being stepped on, and one of its mates was waiting nearby to drag it away.
Next, a group of monkeys swinging through the tree canopy above us – tamarins traveling with howlers. Tamarin monkeys are tiny fellas, and they made friends with the larger howler monkeys for protection while moving through the forest. I learned that they perform a critical function of reforestation and rehabilitation by spreading their droppings rich in seeds that grow over a period of time.
At the jetty we had our pick of boats and Javier expertly guided us through the mangrove out to the open water of the lake.
We did our best to stay quiet, heat and humidity forgotten for a couple of hours, peering into the heavy foliage to spot shapes and identify them. Javier did most of the spotting, but Souvik was not bad either.
The return hike back to the river was as thrilling, to see dozens of butterflies waking up to the warmth of the day and flitting about. The excursion was accomplished by 10 am, which left the rest of the day for us to lie around in our hammocks and beat the heat with beers and a book.