Peru is a place of incredible biodiversity and very much worth the trip. Though most people go to Machu Picchu, and there is some good wildlife there, I would strongly recommend the lowlands, especially of the Amazon basin. When planning a trip to Peru, consider that there are 1,800 bird species there, as compared with 500 for all of North America. Also keep in mind that the country is incredibly rich in mammals and reptiles.
Our tally at the end of the trip was 230 bird species and 27 mammal species.
Our trip began at Tahuayo, a 2.5 hour boat trip from Iquitos. This lodge was a truly remote experience. All day trips began with a boat ride from the lodge. Trails were typically fairly primitive and muddy. Our guides were excellent at finding the wildlife. I would note though that at 5’7″, I am not used to thinking of myself as tall. That changed in the rain forest. With guides cutting trails with machetes being significantly shorter, there was always a branch to duck under … or walk into forehead first. Don’t grab for handholds on the trails either. Many of the plants have nasty thorns that leave little bits in your hands. And, do take the lodge up on their rubber boots. Standard hiking boots, even gore-tex ones, are just a tad low for that level of mud.
The wildlife was phenomenal and well worth it. This was where we saw the Amazon Pink River Dolphins, locally called botos. They are beautiful and not as hard to see as one might imagine. But, they do not stay up long. If you want photos of them, you will end up with a lot of photos of empty water. This would be OK with digital photography. We were using film. This was the best one we got.
While there we also saw many kingfishers of various species, three toed sloths, hoatzin, and this Pygmy Marmoset who posed for us for quite some time, long enough to set up the tripod and put extenders (1.5x & 2x) to get an effective 1200mm lens (mirror lockup required).
From Tahuayo, we went to the Manu Biosphere preserve. Manu is very different than Tahuayo. This is a luxury wilderness lodge in a huge protected area. From the lodge, there are many trails to just walk right out in the forest. The lodge staff sweeps these trails for a fairly large radius removing dry leaves so that even the clumsiest of us can walk fairly quietly.
This photo is significantly cropped from the original framing of the image. It is probably about 25 to 30% of the original frame. (I will try to note whenever the photo is not truly as original.)
Unlike the photo above, this photo truly is as originally framed. I always enjoy when I can get a full frame or near full frame of a fairly small animal like this bat.
Though you can’t see the eyes of this Three Toed Sloth, I love the laid back give me a beer type pose.
I cannot remember what our guide said about how he knew this. But, he claimed that this female tarantula was about 18 years old.
At Manu, there is a parrot lick where you can see blue headed parrots, mealy parrots, and macaws. This photo has the two types of parrots. The mealy is the larger bird sideways in the middle of the photo. The rest are blue headed parrots. The parrots are eating the clay for its salt content. This is viewed from a floating blind on the river. You get there by boat and wait for the parrots to come.
Manu also has a mammal lick where animals come to eat clay for the same reason. Typically, people go there at night. The place is set up with individual mattresses in bug netting. You go and lie quietly at night for some number of hours. The tapirs can be heard from quite a distance. The guide waits until he he hears the tapirs actually at the lick. In a second, you go from complete darkness where you can’t see a thing to a bright spotlight on a tapir and can get a photo like this one.
Unlike most guests, we also asked what we might see if we went during the day. They did not know as most people do this only at night to see the tapirs. We sat during the day and were rewarded with an estimated 125 collared peccaries. As we have better photos of them later without all of the mud, I will post one of those. However, seeing them at the lick was quite a treat. If you have a particular interest to see a very muddy peccary, please request it and I’ll scan one.
Though we had seen the hoatzin quite well at Tahuayo, we saw them again at manu and got slightly better photos here. This is a very odd bird. They are considered among the most primitive of birds due to the hatchlinks still having claws on their wings. The point of a bird’s wing that looks like an elbow is actually where a single finger begins and goes to the end of the wing. The chicks of the hoatzin have the four other claws coming out of this point. We did not get to see this. Here is a photo of an adult hoatzin.
This was our first really good view of a Capybarra, the world’s largest rodent, a member of the cavy family (caviomorpha) that includes guinea pigs.
Our travel plans were supposed to take us by plane from Manu to Machigenga. However, at the time of our trip, there were just two planes that make the trip. One was broken; the other had been coopted by the military for some reason. We left by boat and went instead to the Cock of the Rock Lodge. On the river, we saw a herd of peccaries swim across and later saw a snake swim across. Here is a photo of pecarries crossing the river.
And, here is a picture of a Cock of the Rock at the lek. A lek is where male birds congregate so that females may look them over to select a mate from among them. The cock of the rock is actually not a member of the chicken family at all. It is in the cotinga family, a very beautiful family of birds.
They also feed bananas to the wild capuchin monkeys here.
Cock of the Rock Lodge was quite a fortuitous accident for us. Here we met professional photographers Pete Oxford and Rene Bish. These wonderful people were also leading a trip to Botswana to get to the Mombo camp, a place we missed on our first Botswana trip and were anxious to get to. They had a last minute cancellation from another couple who couldn’t fly on Thanksgiving and offered us the spots. We jumped at the chance, despite the need to find a way to take extra vacation time and find a pile of money. That is for another write-up.
When we left this location, we spent a couple of days on the coast. Our primary purpose was to rack up another penguin species. The Humboldt Penguin was our eleventh penguin of the original 17 species. Though they are further dividing some of the penguin species, we still go by the original list and have now seen 12 of the 17. This is the Humboldt.
The Inca Tern is the most beautiful tern I’ve ever seen. I doubt this photo does it justice. But, I will end this write-up with it anyway.