The children at Woodridge school have followed our journey and sent us some questions! They asked me to tell them about more amazing animals & insects I’ve seen, after they enjoyed my posts about hairy caterpillars and piranhas.
We’ve travelled through the Amazon rainforest from Belem in Brazil on the Atlantic Ocean, through Columbia and Peru into Ecuador by river.
It’s been an amazing journey – hot, fun, tiring, lots of bugs, lots and lots of water, lots and lots of trees and getting sick!
The Amazon rainforest has more insects, birds and animal species than anywhere else in the world but when you travel there, what you expect to see and what you actually see can turn out a bit differently!
We’d have loved to see Sloths, Armadillos, Bears and Jaguars but we knew it was pretty unlikely. they don’t hang out by the river looking for humans to spot them and they are endangered species which means they must be rare!
These are the weird and wonderful creatures we DID meet and they were probably more unexpected!!
One of the most exciting animals we saw was a caiman – like a crocodile! We went out in the canoe at night with Sami our guide on the jungle trip and he shone the torch in the water looking for the reflection in their eyes, then just grabbed it!
The first one he grabbed was huge so he let it go and then got a smaller one which we took back to the lodge for a few minutes for my Mum and Lara to see and so we could hold it… Sami put string round its mouth but then tickled its tummy and made it go to sleep which was amazing! Although it wasn’t so pleased when it woke it up again!
After that, it was a lot more scary swimming off the boat, even though Sami said we were in safe places with no caiman or piranha, but it was so boiling we believed him, although we got him to jump in first a couple of times!!
One night on one of the big boat on the Amazon. This giant moth appeared. It seemed to like people and kept landing on us!
Other nights we suddenly got plagues of moths (and another night black beetles) that must have been attracted from the shore by the lights on the boat – they flew round like crazy and went in our eyes and mouths! The Crew were swatting them and Zoe and I joined in whilst Mum, Dad and Lara ran off to hide from them in our cabin! In the morning there were thousands dead on the decks!
On our small boat coming up the Napo we saw this tarantula – it was right above out heads – huge and hairy and when Frank got it on a stick it to get rid of it, it waved to us! Did you know Tarantulas aren’t actually very poisonous and don’t want to bite unless they have to !
We saw lots of herons which are usually white, but the most unusual one we saw was a jaguar heron on the jungle trip! Sami said they are rare!
We didn’t see parrots though we were meant to go and see thousands landing at dusk in a park in Columbia – they arrive every afternoon but it rained so hard we missed it and had to leave early next morning for another boat into Peru. The only parrot we saw was a talking one that wandered about at the hotel in Coca, said ‘Ola’ and followed us around, making the girls a bit scared!
River dolphins were amazing – we saw pink and grey ones in different places on the rivers – they are unusual because they live in fresh water. They jumped right out of the water but it was impossible to get good photos!! Most dolphins are blind or very short sighted – they use sonar but then sometimes they get killed from bumping into fishing boats or nets. We saw one that had done this at a village on the Amazon. It still looked amazing!
We saw quite a few frogs – one or two stayed in our jungle lodge shower and jumped around in it. Tree frogs I think!
One of my friends back home, Elana, was doing a project on the Amazon Rainforest and she wrote to me with questions. She asked about was the poison dart frog. It uses its poison to protect itself – it’s the most poisonous animal in the world. Some Amazon tribes would get the poison out of the frog and put it into a dart or a spear for hunting! I think I saw one in the hotel garden in Columbia! I’m glad I didn’t go too close! It was dark but they look very bright to warn off anything that might try to eat them!
In a Village on the Napo river we saw a tortoise being cut up for lunch! Our guide told me it was a special treat for them but looked horrible – I was glad they didn’t offer to share it!!
The other thing that’s popular is eating guinea pig – they are often being roasted on a spit by the roadside in Ecuador and they look awful!
You wouldn’t have thought you’d see wildlife in hotel but in Manaus, the biggest city in the Amazon we stayed at a lovely hotel in the middle of the city with a small pool and patio and most mornings we’d see huge iguanas come down in the tree and eat leftover fruit from people’s breakfast. They really do change colour to camouflage themselves!
At the hotel in Coca at the end of our river journey we stayed in a big, slightly unusual hotel on the river called Le Mision… It had three swimming pools and a water slide as well as a huge aeroplane and double decker bus each made into boats! And there were loads of monkeys, tortoises, peacocks, rabbits, tamarin (like a tiny monkey with a face more like a bear!) and guinea pigs just wandering about!
Lara and I got chased by two monkeys the first night – one touched Lara’s bum and she screamed like crazy, stranded up the steps of the water slide with them trying to touchr her! And we all got followed by the parrot that kept saying ‘Ola’!!!
We really wanted to see sloths (two toed ones or three toes ones – we didnt mind!) And we thought we might, partly because they are slow and sit around in the tops trees ! We spent a lot of time peering into the top of trees!
We knew the kinds of trees to look in by the river where they climb up high to eat the young shoots of the leaves – we even saw that a lot of those leaves were gone so sloths were definitely about when we went to the jungle lodge and our jungle guide, Sami explained about the trees and leaves – but in the end we only spotted some howler monkeys jumping around! We heard them much more – they scream through the jungle – one of the noisiest animals in the world.
Later, on the Napo river, our guides tried to spot sloths but we found out that they are probably getting eaten because the river is more and more polluted, there are less fish, so the people look for something else to eat. Its quite easy (though not for us!) to find a sloth by looking near the trees where they’ve been munching those young leaves and easy to catch because they’re so slow! Pretty bad as sloths are already an endangered species.
In Quito, when we’ve been to the Natural History museum, where, apart from an amazing giant mammoth skeleton, we finally saw a sloth – even with its baby…AND a spectacled Bear – but stuffed! It was interesting to see them but not exactly like seeing them in the wild!
We went to a vivarium in Quito too where they have loads of different snakes, iguanas and frogs that have mostly been rescued from animal traffickers – it was cool getting up close to them and getting to wrap a boa around my neck!
But the most unexpected creatures (and unwelcome) we’ve encountered so far were in our feet!! When my Dad decided to cut open a little lump on my toe, my Mum’s zoomed in picture showed a Jigger Sand Flea had got inside and laid its eggs in my toe – yuk! My Dad got it all out – I really had to grit my teeth!! Sorry about the photos!
And then my sister Lara got a Larva Migrans, which is a parasite, in her foot which we could see moving a little each day under her skin – she had lots of people look at it, use jungle medicine and try different creams but the second doctor she saw in Quito, finally knew what it was and gave her a single tablet to get rid of it!
Tomorrow we are going to fly to the Galapagos islands – they are 800km from the mainland of Ecuador and are part of Ecuador. The islands are volcanic and full of unusual and fearless animals which we can’t wait to see and blog about! Its going to be a lot better than going to the zoo and unlike the Amazon, apparently you can’t miss the wildlife! But we will keep our flip flops on!