After flying into Iquitos from Lima we met up with our guide and headed to the Expedition Amazon head office where we had a room with a shower waiting for us. We were only to be at the head office for an our ot so before heading to the main lodge in the rainforest. The main office, although small, and in the middle of Equitos had a surprising amount of wildlife with two large male Green Iguanas, Cocha Whiptails and two unknown species of gecko along with Black Vultures, flycatchers and Smooth-Billed Anis. One of the guides there was delighted in showing me the Green Iguanas and started throwing fruit for them so they would come closer. Eventually some of the local dogs came and chased one of the Green Iguanas which jumped off the pier and belly-flopped into the water never to be seen again. We got into the boat and soon headed to the main lodge. the boat ride was a few hours of beautiful rainforest adorned with White Egrets and passerines. Small houses and villages were far and few on the riverbanks though we did stop in one for supplies. Once we arrived at the lodge it was far from its photo, we went during the wet season meaning the entire lodge was flooded. Luckily the lodge was also on stilts for exactly this reason. Once there we ate, unpacked and headed on a canoe ride into the rainforest. This obscure experience did procure a wide array of animal life. The canoe ride allowed us to see two species of tarantula which resided on the trunk of trees, a scorpion, trogons, manikins, ant birds, parrots, an olive tree runner and a Cocha Chirping Frog. After dinner I went back to my cabin and put some batteries in our new flashlights. Looking up i soon found a rather large treefrog and an Amazon Tree Boa in the rafters. I headed around the rest of the lodge in the hopes of finding more. In the canopy of the bridges connecting all the cabins, I managed to find more Amazon Tree Boas along with a half dozen Giant Broad-Headed Treefrogs resting along the hand rail.
Waking up early, I headed over to where I could photograph some Yellow-Winged Cacique before breakfast. Afterwards we headed up river in the hopes of seeing the Pink River Dolphin. While on route to where they often frequent we managed to spot two, one was a Pink River Dolphin while the second was a smaller Grey River Dolphin. When at the spot there was one large pink River Dolphin, we jumped into the water although it soon disappeared. The water was warm and refreshing in the heat of the day and we managed to see a species of kite fly overhead. After lunch we took a boat to what would be a small lake in the dry season although in the wet season it was simply an area with less trees. We canoed in the area surrounding the "lake" and saw a Fringe-Lipped Treefrog camouflaged along the base of a tree about 1/3 of a meter above the water. We also saw various lizards climbing among the branches including a Slender Anole and slithering among the bromeliads of one tree was a thin Common Whipsnake likely hunting for frogs. The forest became filled with an unusual call which sounded much like a human yelling; "hhhaaa". The sound belonged to a bird I was hoping to see; the Hoatzin. This is a species of bird that split form other birds during the Eocene not long after dinosaurs became extinct. In its genetic isolation the Hoatzin evolved separately and differently than other birds with the young possessing a claw on their wings which they use to climb trees. I managed to see two of these prehistoric birds although one flew off before I could photograph it. We soon canoed to where the center of the lake would be, there was tall grass and among this tall grass was another prehistoric creature; a caiman. It was a small individual and well camouflaged, so much so that I could hardly see it until I was less than a meter from it. I tried to get some photos although it soon disappeared into the bog when it thought I had gotten too close. We soon headed to the other side of the "lake" where we saw lizards such as an Olive Tree Runner and soon after our guide pointed out a Potoo. Only a few meters from the Potoo was a giant white treefrog about the size of my face. I later had it identified as a Rusty Treefrog despite its white colour not common among the species. After dinner our fantastic guide; Jhonatan and I went out to look for caimans behind the lodge via canoe. Before even leaving the lodge we found a Coral Mud Snake hiding in a crevice in a partly submerged log. The log also had small Eleutherodactylus frogs on it although they jumped into the water shortly after. We bushwacked through the forest until we came across more Eleutherodactylus frogs which I was able to photograph along with a large Cane Toad sitting on a floating log. He was a well behaved toad and allowed me to photograph him up close without moving. On the way back Jhonatan noticed the reflective eyes of a snake and the forest soon relieved a large Amazon Tree Boa close to eye level, perfect for a photograph.
After breakfast we headed to San Pedro, an area commonly referred to as 'Frog Valley" due to its high population of poison frogs. Frog Valley is in the highlands which means it is well above water level so we will be able to hike. It was a long boat ride there although the beautiful amazon with its rich bird life made for a relaxing ride. Once there, we set off on the trails and soon came across a Crested Forest Toad. These toads are part of a species complex and are believed to be made up of several undescribed species. We also came across some Sharp-Nosed Toads which are some of the first toad species to be differentiated from the complex. Along the trail were water bottles cut in half and hanging from trees with wire, researchers had put these here as artificial bromeliads in the hopes of encouraging poison frogs to breed. The first one we found had a small tadpole inside which Jhonatan said was a Yellow-Spotted Poison Frog. Further along we found an Amazon Poison Frog with a reddish head compared to the Yellow-Spotted Poison Frog. Sadly it vanished into the leaf litter before I could get a shot. Not long after I spotted my first adult Yellow-Spotted Poison Frog hopping among the leaf litter. He was a well behaved frog that stopped and stayed still while I got my photos. Later we found two adults sitting in one of the fake bromeliads, and then another Crested Forest Toad. This individual was much smaller and had bright orange on its flanks and its throat. Close to it was an even smaller frog although at this time my lens had began to fog up and all photos I was able to get of the smaller frog was with my iPhone resulting in some rather blurry shots. Further along the trail was a large fallen tree that had clearly been there for some time, the inside had been hollowed out and was being used as a bat cave. There was also a rather large Smoky Jungle Frog Wedged underneath although as I tried to get closer it jumped into a little puddle that was clearly much deeper than it looked. In some rotting wood we also managed to see two Pale-Striped Amazon Poison Frogs, a male and female. The female escaped but the larger more colourful male stayed long enough to photograph. Several Crested Forest Toads and Rubber Trees later we came across a Ucayali Rocket Frog, a rather drab species of poison frog. This individual did not want to be photographed as it quickly darted away upon realizing it had been seen. We chased the little bugger and tried to herd it using a leaf which proved ineffective. Eventually we lost it in the leaf litter without getting a decent shot. The policy for the company we were staying with was that neither guests or staff are allowed to handle any animals and while this was to stop diseases from transferring, or "selfie tourism" as they described it, it made photographing herptiles rather difficult. We ate lunch there and I soon noticed we had company as a small Bridled Forest Gecko watched us. The boat ride back was just as entertaining as getting there, we also got to try some strange Peruvian fruit which Jhonatan described as "jungle ice cream". The ride back had Three-Toed Sloths, a species I was hoping to see along with parrots and we passed by an isolated Indigenous village. After dinner we headed out once again looking for animals at night. The forest was alive with the calls of insects and Gladiator Treefrogs although we didn't see any. We came across another Common Whipsnake and an Amazon Tree Boa before our lights began to die and we had to make a mad dash back to the lodge using what lights we had.
We had to get up early this morning as we were to go fishing. We drove along the river which was filled with bird life and tried fishing in a couple spots. The rods we were using were little more than sticks with fishing line attached to it and for bait we had chunks of what appeared to be raw beef on hooks, this was suppose to attract the Piranha. At the first location I managed to see a Collared Tree Runner along the trunk of a large tree before it vanished into the forest. Catching nothing we tried a few other spots including the middle of a lake which made for a beautiful place to have breakfast. That morning we found nothing but with fishing it isn't whether you catch anything its being out there and enjoying the outdoors. Afterwards we headed to the village of Chino in the hopes of finding a caecilian, a species of amphibian that looks like a mix between an earth worm and a snake. Arriving in Chino we found everything to be on stilts in the event of flooding although unlike the lodge there was dry earth. The local Indigenous Peoples here have a rich culture, as Jhonatan described with poisonous plants planted close to the homes as it was believed to protect the household from bad luck. Here, we managed to see the worms, one man there was breeding them as they were used as fishing bait. Many people in the area have worm farms as they could not be found during the wet season due to flooding. The worms were very different than those found in North America with a rather blunt end and a lighter coloured underbelly. While the species in North America are introduced from Europe the ones here are native to south American and offer a glimpse to what worms would have looked like in North America before they went extinct. Leaving Chino we went into the woods to try spear fishing. While one of the guides was able to catch fish no problem the rest of us had some trouble with the spear though we did manage to see some Night Monkeys and set up some nets in the hopes of catching some Armored Catfish.
Waking up early, we headed into the canoes and into the rainforest to check the nets we put out the day before. The nets were filled with Armored Catfish with at least two different species not unlike the bottom feeders used in aquariums. upon returning to the lodge I went to see the bats collected during the night. During the stay there were a number of bat researchers collecting bats for a study on the populations in the area. One of the bats they collected was a pregnant female and we watched as it gave birth. It was unfortunately a miscarriage, the mother bat soon ate the embryo so not to waste energy. After breakfast we packed our things and headed deeper into the rainforest to the Amazon Research Centre (ARC) where we would stay for the next few days. The boat ride to the centre was short compared to the one to frog valley and had a wide variety of wildlife such as large herons, flycatchers, different species of sloth and Titi Monkeys. The ARC was significantly smaller than the main lodge although did offer private cabins. The whole lodge, like the previous one was on stilts although the water was not nearly as deep with the river bottom being clearly visible. This lodge had large amounts of fish swimming beneath the cabins and even the occasional tadpole. There were also trees along the walkways where I noticed some orchids growing. While photographing the orchids, I was greeted by the local cat; Tiger. After lunch we headed off in the canoes once again to see what wildlife we could find in this part of the flooded forests. The canoe ride did not have as much wildlife as previous rides but we did manage to find a small mantid and recently metamorphosed treefrog, the species of which I am still unsure. The intention of the canoe ride was to find some dry land to hike, we did not however find any land and soon got turned around with me now at the front of the canoe. Canoeing back I found it to be quite the challenge avoiding the many trees in our way but we managed to get back to the lodge which is the main thing. In the middle of dinner Jhonatan told us there was a caiman, the other group overheard and soon there was a crowd to see the caiman. I jumped in a canoe trying to get a good photo before it dipped. After dinner we went in the canoes to spear fish and to see what animals we could find. We found some eels and a Coral Mud Snake which mainly feeds on the eels. I was fortunate to see another one as I had not gotten any good shots of the one we saw at the previous lodge. We also found stingrays and in a little island found a Crested Forest Toad.
The next morning, some of the guides were cleaning some fish and tossing the remains into the river, this caught the attention of a Black Caiman which we watched swim from across the river to the fish carcasses. After breakfast we headed out once more in our quest for dry land, this time we headed to a spot down river. Switching from motor boat to canoe we headed deeper into the rainforest along what were once paths in the dry season. During this canoe ride we found parrots along with some Olive Tree Runners and a rather large caterpillar. We eventually found dry land and were able to hike. After some bushwacking we came across some plants which Jhonatan says are used by some if the Indigenous Peoples of the area for mosquito bites as the sap from the plants has large amounts of iodine in it. Sure enough, we grabbed a leaf and put some on one of my many bites. I would soon need much more as the mosquitoes were rather thick in this area of the jungle. on land we found a few lizards such as what is either a male Bridled Forest Gecko or an Amazon Pygmy Gecko, the two look very similar during this time of year. Heading back to the canoe we came across a parrot on the forest floor. The parrot was a young individual that had fallen from its nest, it was clear Jhonatan did not want to leave it although the policy of Amazon Expeditions is that we cannot touch any of the animals (except for some insects and fish) so we had no choice but to leave it. Luckily with many birds, the parents will still look after the chick even after it has fallen from the nest. Heading back out of the flooded forest we came across a rather large Tailless Whip Scorpion and some arboreal rodents. After lunch we headed down the river in the motor boat to see what animals we could find. There were Paradise Tanagers, Four-Toed Sloths, Blue and Gold Macaws along with Pygmy Marmosets, the smallest monkey in the world. We headed back to the lodge before dinner and I was able to charge my camera and phone before another night ride after dinner. After dinner we headed via motor boat down the river to see if we could spot the glowing eyes of a caiman as it reflects off of the flashlights. Before heading out there was a symphony of frog calls, some of which were coming from a floating laundry barge belonging to the lodge. We landed there and within minutes found at least two different species of Leptodactylus frog such as the Peter's Jungle Frog and the Dwarf Jungle Frog. Heading away from the lodge we did not find much but Jhonatan did find a treefrog sitting in some shrubs, the treefrog was a Red-Snouted treefrog, closely related to the Fringe-Lipped Treefrog we found earlier on the trip.
This was our last full day in the rainforest so we tried to make the most of it by going out early in the morning to see some birds. The people studying bats were also going on a birding trip although while there was a large boat crammed with people, the boat I was in was just the guides and I. I think we were able to find more with two families of Saki Monkeys, Trogons, Woodpeckers and two species of Cotinga. After breakfast we found a stingray just floating under my cabin along with some Proboscis Bats that took roost on the poles many of the cabins were standing on. One of the researchers told me that the bats often hang in a vertical line and shimmy from side to side when they sense a predator so that they mimic a large snake from above. While plugging my phone in, I also heard someone yell out snake which immediately caught my attention so I ran out to see a large black and grey banded snake swim between the lodges and disappear in to the rainforest. A guide said that it was a Black Coral Snake and while the head did match that of a coral snake i could not find any species fitting the description. After breakfast we headed on another trip into the forest further down river. As soon as we got into the forest, I noticed a large stick insect that others missed. We soon began to smell something rotting, turning around we fond that it was a large Aquatic Coral Snake that had sadly deceased. I would have loved to see a live one although I was able to get a decent enough photo of it to add to my reptile and amphibian photo arc on my website. We soon came across some geckos in the trees along with large millipedes that were everywhere throughout the flooded forests, aquatic snails, Tree Creepers, Manikins and the Waka. The Waka, Jhanotan explained, was used by Indigenous fisherman as the sap would paralyze fish and by putting it on the bait, it made them easier to catch. There was also a large semi-aquatic snail which stores water during the dry season enabling it to live on land. The forest was also filled with young Treefrogs that had just grown their limbs and climbed out of the water. Some had large tails left while others only had a little nub. I later found out these were some species of Gladiator Treefrog. Jhonotan soon pointed out a small snake curled up on a tree trunk. It was a Banded South American Water Snake, or as the locals knew it as; the Yacu Jergon, meaning viper of the water in reference to its similar appearance to the venomous Fer-De-Lance Viper. Sitting on a log further along was another species of Leptodactylus frog although half way through photographing it, my camera memory card become corrupted and none of the photos afterwards would save. Luckily, however, I had a back up in my underwater camera. As we got back to the lodge we noticed what at first looked like a large yellow rope floating in the water. As we got closer it became apparent that it was the underbelly of a large snake. At first the guide said it was a Bushmaster based on the size but as we lifted the head out of the water I knew exactly what it was; a Yellow-Tailed Cribo. Unfortunately it was dead for reasons unknown. After lunch we went on a ride down the river to see what was along its sides, we found a Cocha Whiptail along with Brown Creepers and a family of Titi Monkeys. Heading back we came across a massive moth which I had identified after the trip as a White Witch. I got to see a toucan for a split second and a family of Saki Monkeys. After dinner, as per the custom at the lodge we were given a cake as it was our last night with Amazon Expeditions. Later on we went out once again at night to look for whatever we could find. I tried my hand at spear fishing and we managed to find some small islands of land, on these islands were Crested Forest Toads, Smoky Jungle Frogs and Bullet Ants. As we were traversing by foot we could cover more ground and I managed to spear fish a Wolf Fish and an Oscar, a species common in aquariums. In the middle of the lodge there was an ant hill which became a small island when the water levels rose and on the ant hill was a large cane toad making use of the free buffet. Afterwards I walked around the lodge where I found a large Pink-Toe Tarantula, some roaches and an arborael species of rodent.
In the morning we watched a large Black Caiman float around before breakfast. During this time, we were the only guests left at the ARC and were given more food than we knew what to do with for breakfast. Afterwards we headed into the boats back to the main lodge to sort out our bar tab. While waiting for the boat to take us back to Iquitos, I went on a short canoe ride into the rainforest one last time. I manged to see what the guides described as a Spectacled Caiman, a Cane Toad in a tree along with some Night Monkeys. We loaded into the water taxi and headed back to Iquitos. The driver back was described to us ahead of time as being "crazy" and we soon found out why as the boat was at a 90 degree angle half the time as it sped through the river's turns and bends. As we got to the main Amazon river I noticed some Pink River Dolphins jumping by the side of the boat. The weather soon turned and we found ourselves in the middle of a storm. It felt like the intro to an Indiana Jones film with all the luggage in the back, we were only short a few chicken coops. As the weather soon subsided we found a large rainbow had formed above the Amazon River. In Iquitos we had some time until our flight home so we visited some of the areas around the city. The first place we visited was a local market where piles of turtle eggs along with BBQ Caiman could be purchased. Avoiding the poached meat, I did try the fried beetle larva which were rather large but tasted not unlike popcorn with a rather crunchy head. we went around the city to a war memorial for the War of the Pacific between Chile and the Bolivian-Peruvian alliance. While my father was interested in the history I was more entertained by the species of gecko I found at the lodge. One of which was a Tropical House Gecko which was introduced to the area from sub-Sahara Africa.