From rhino beetles to piranhas in the Amazon Jungle

The Amazon … the very word just oozes mystique, adventure and well, wildlife! And so I find myself, sitting in a bird hide off the Tambopata River in the Amazon Jungle. We’re on the edges, I think, not in the heart of the jungle so I’m confident I’m not going to step on a python or come face to face with a jaguar. Though there is a part of me that is forever on the lookout…

But back to the bird hide. It’s early, very early. The sun is just coming up over the river and we’re hoping, that if we stay very quiet, we’ll soon see a flock of Macaws in all their brightly colored beauty descend on the cliff face that edges alongside the river. The birds come to lick away at the salt; we’ve come for the spectacle.

And so we wait. And wait.

Gilbert, our guide, woke us before 5am to get here in time to see the birds descend. Sadly though, the Macaws didn’t wake up at the same time and they’re making us wait.

“Stay very still,” Gilbert tells us now. “Don’t move and don’t make a sound.”

He looks through a telescope, checking out the trees and the surrounding cliff top through a narrow window that stretches the length of the bird hide.

And we wait.

Slowly he waves me over.

“Shh,” he says. “Come here quietly.” He points to the telescope and tells me to peek inside.

And I see them, first one and then another. Not on the wall, but resting in the trees nearby.

I silently will them to come down to the cliff wall. To lick at the salt out in the open where we can have an unimpeded view.

But the birds have other ideas – they are wild after all.

It’s been this way over the past few days. 

Wildlife spotting takes a certain kind of skill, a focusing of the eyes, the ability to listen hard for cues and patience.

Our tour began with a short walk to a 300-metre high canopy tower. We trudged through mud and over fallen logs, Gilbert pointing out interesting trees and plants along the way. From the top of the tower we had views in every direction over the treetops of the Amazon, across to the river and beyond. We stayed to watch as the sun set on the jungle.

And then headed back down in time for dinner at the lodge – Amazon Posadas. The lodge is in a private reserve run by the local community in the Peruvian section of the Amazon. The Amazon Jungle spans nine countries, but our guide is quick to point out that the Amazon River starts in Peru, so that is really the origin of the Amazon.

We’re less concerned about the history of the river, and more interested in wildlife spotting and experiencing the jungle.

The following morning we are up early for a 30-minute boat ride, followed by a 45-minute walk to Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake for a morning wildlife cruise.

We watch as the sun comes up – always the best time for seeing wildlife – and look out for signs of birdlife and otters. We see both, but really it’s the scenery that impresses me the most. 

That is until we pull into shore and ready ourselves for some piranha fishing – yes, let me say that again, piranha fishing!


Our guides are highly skilled and make it look so easy. They catch and release piranha after piranha, holding them up for us to admire. And gently forcing open their mouths so we can see their teeth.

Then it’s our turn. 

The first brave soul feeds the bait onto the hook, and throws the rod overboard. A tug, but by the time he brings the rod back up, the bait’s gone and the hook is empty.

Our tour leader, Leo tries his luck, and succeeds in bringing in a small piranha, he poses for it briefly before tossing it back over the side. We catch another quick view of the otters, frolicking in the water just ahead of us.

We head back to the lodge for lunch. But this is the Amazon and you just never know when the wildlife will come out. Immediately after lunch we spy a huge beetle midway up a tree just next to the dining area. It’s a rhinocerous beetle and it’s about the size of my head!  

And then we are off again. This time to Centro Nape for an ethnobotanical tour. We learn about Ayahuasca, medicinal plants and even plants that can be used to create lipstick – so of course we all decorate our faces.

We finish with a toast of some of the local brews. And then head back to camp before it gets too dark to see.

But we’re not done yet. After our cultural tour Gilbert has one last excursion planned for us – a tour to check out the Amazon wildlife by night. We see the eyes of a caiman in the distance, an owl butterfly and various moths and spiders.

And somewhere among all that we managed to see monkeys and squirrels as well. Not bad for just two nights in the Amazon, hey?

Want to see the Amazon for yourself? Find out more about our tour to South America here.

Diane Squires is host with Two’s A Crowd.

This post first appeared on the blog

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