Wildlife Stories

Read trip reports, stories and experiences from the field.
  1. It was in 2012 when we visited the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon.

    We were in an amazon lodge about an hour (by boat) away from Manaus. Sitting in the "restaurant" of the lodge, we were looking back at an adventurous day. It had started with a long trip by canoe, where we explored the countless water ways amidst the thick vegetation of the Amazon. We eventually settled with the canoe in a shady place to fish for piranhas. We did so for about 90 minutes, caught about 15 of them, and were then taken to a local tribe's chief who instantly prepared them for us to eat. I don't even like to eat fish, but this was the best I've ever eaten.

    After that heavy lunch, it was time for siesta. We killed some time at our private lodge. At around 2PM-4PM, the Amazon is simply unbearable. I'm usually the last to complain when it's hot, but the 100% humidity combined with the high temperature squeezes every drop of sweat out of you, even when just sitting still in the shade. Showering is pointless, and you can barely keep up with drinking water. An interesting creature appeared on the porch of our lodge, causing some distraction:

    Giant Silkworm Moth Caterpillar (Lonomia obliqua) Listed as the world's most deadliest catterpillar, or "Assassin Caterpillar", this is not a bug to mess with. It's main body color is black, it has about the length of a male human hand. It has yellow feet and red spots on its body. The spikes at the head and tails are several centimers long. <br />
<br />
One of our fellow travellers stepped into one and cried. With the help of the identification of Joost Thissen that incident is not as funny as it was back then, the man should have gotten medical treatment.<br />
<br />
This one was found at the Amazon village, a lodge near Manaus, Brazil. Amazon,Brazil,Caterpillar,Geotagged,Giant Silkworm Moth,Insects,Lonomia obliqua,Moth,moth week 2018


    A cheerful caterpillar. I didn't have a macro lens back then, so I simply got as close as I could, using a normal kit lens. Only back home I found out this is the deadliest caterpillar on the planet. Whoops.

    As the late afternoon brought some much needed relief, we went with our guide on a walk in the rainforest, how incredibly exciting. The guide was English and a very heavy drinker. We could smell the booze on him. Either way, he was knowledgeable enough. On our walk, the Amazon surprised us in a few ways.

    This being a place with probably the highest biodiversity in the world, you expect to be overwhelmed with wildlife as you set foot in the forest. Yet, the opposite is true. The high canopy blocks almost any light, so it's very dark. Most birds and mammals would actually be near that canopy, which is usually out of your sight, totally blocked. So instead of an abundance, you're looking at thick, dark pathways of green, with at a first glance, little life.

    Yet life is everywhere, it is only hiding. And much of it can hurt you quite badly. For example, you should not lean on this tree:

    Tree of Thorns Trees in the Amazon jungle are amazing in their diversity and defense mechanisms. I found this one to be kind of an extreme case of passive aggression. Unfortunately, I don't know the official name of this tree.<br />
<br />
The background gives a good impression of how dark the Amazon jungle is even during daytime. Amazon,Brazil,Geotagged,trees


    Or any tree, for that matter. You should also not accidentally stump against any tree with your feet, because perhaps this loaded gun gets triggered:

    Bullet Ant rage in the Amazon Bullet Ants are known to have one of the most painful bites of all insects, causing 24 hours of pure agony. They are everywhere in the Amazon jungle, usually at the base of trees in populations of a few hundred. In this case, our guide tapped this tree to wake them up. This results in a panic in the nest, with soldiers attacking the source of the noise. They are incredibly fast and very large. Beware. Amazon,Ants,Brazil,Bullet Ants,Geotagged,Paraponera clavata,insects


    And if you see little hills or holes near your path, be careful where you place your feet:

    Goliath bird-eater Spider attack position The impressive Goliath Tarantula in attack position. Unlike popular belief, they are harmless to humans, even when bitten.  Amazon,Brazil,Geotagged,Goliath bird-eater Spider,Tarantula,Theraphosa blondi,invertebrates,spider


    Yes, in the Amazon you keep your arms to yourself and your eyes to the ground, because everything seems to have an interest in you. You should also wear a hat, unless you want certain insects planting a nest right inside your skull.

    So we had our fun with the piranhas, and our tense yet exciting walk. After dinner time it was dark, and we went out for another trip. This time our guide took us by canoe into the dark to search for cayman. Navigating a pitch black Amazon by canoe gives a surreal atmosphere and tension that is hard to express. Low and behold, our guide found a cayman! He stranded the boat on a small patch of land and told us to wait, and keep our flashlights off.

    We knew it was a fraud. The only other couple at the lodge had told us about this experience, which they had the night prior. Plus, us having to wait whilst not seeing anything means he was hiding something. Yes, of course there was a cayman. He has it in captivity, which is why we're not supposed to see that. We just let him do his acting, and went along with playing the role of idiot tourists. These circus acts are not new to us, in many countries guides want to "score" at all costs.

    Still, all in all a day well spent. We were having a final drink at the restaurant accompanying our guide, who was even more drunk now. I asked him where I could go the next morning, before breakfast. He gave me directions to a place which had an open spot in the canopy, where I could possibly see parrots.

    "And bat monkeys".

    What? What kind of monkeys? He went on to explain that a mysterious creature exists in this part of the Amazon, and only here. It is half bat, half monkey. Being the drunk fraud that he was, I figured this was another one of his crazy tales. I laughed it off, and we settled for the night.

    The next morning I was up at 5:30 AM, which is easy enough if you go to bed early. Plus, I was excited to go on a walk by myself, hoping to see the parrots. Henriette needed a bit more sleep, so at around 6PM I exited the door of our lodge, planning to make my way to the open spot.

    The second I opened the door and had a glance outside, I saw a troup of white creatures rapidly moving through the canopy, very high, as fast as birds. I had no idea what they were and was stressed, as I did not even have my camera entirely ready. Rushing intro readiness, they were already over me. I started focusing at maximum focal length yet failed repeatedly due to the low light and these creatures being so damn fast. Nothing upsets me more than missing a shot altogether. I lost all hope when they were at the very end of my line of sight and I still did not have a shot.

    And then it happened. One of the creatures stopped. It turned around and looked directly at me. In a place where nothing of the thick canopy was blocking. The whole event took 2 seconds and I got exactly one shot. And gone it was.

    I cheered. For having the shot, still not knowing what exactly I captured. I checked the photo on my camera's LCD screen. I zoomed in and I zoomed in, as the creature was very far away. I finally had a glance at the creatures' face. I shivered. What...the...hell:

    http://www.jungledragon.com/image/3182/pied_tamarin_saguinus_bicolor.html/zoom

    It was the mysterious creature. The bat face monkey. It exists! And it really does only appear in this part of the Amazon and is extremely rare. The drunk was bloody right. The photo arguably is not great, but to this day I consider it one of our most memorable wildlife spottings. The rareness of the creature, the tales surrounding it, and the incredible odds of seeing it, and it looking back for just those 2 magical seconds. A highlight in our travel.
    Replied 4 years ago, modified 4 years ago
  2. I tell you, the talent of writing is within you. Another one ! Captivating to the end. And what a creature ... I have never seen it before, even after having at least 10 000 hours of National Geographic television behind me. Must be as elusive as a headache-free morning for your guide.

    Fantastic, love it. Keep them coming. It is for me a new world ... . Can't wait to cross that next mountain.
    Replied 4 years ago
  3. @LivingWild: Thanks so much for the encouragement! Indeed this is an elusive species, it only occurs near Manaus and one other area, and there it is outcompeted by another species. Replied 4 years ago
  4. Another fantastic story Ferdy, you definitely have the talent for writing. Is there anything you are not good at? ha!
    Anyway, you have no idea how jealous I am of you right now, seeing such a rare primate.
    Replied 4 years ago
  5. @Claire: I am a deeply flawed being, not good at many things. I am pretty good in hiding those though :) Replied 4 years ago

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