Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ecuador - Day 2

Don't expect to sleep in when you visit Napo.  They have early wake-up calls (ours was at 5AM) and early breakfasts (6AM).  That's to take advantage of the prime wildlife viewing times.  We were in our canoe and heading out by 6:30AM.

Typically, Napo combines guests into groups of eight.  This is so they can ensure that each group doesn't do the same activity at the same time.  There is always an early morning activity until lunch and a late afternoon activity until dinner.  We knew about the grouping of guests in advance and were worried about a large group impacting our ability to see wildlife, take pictures, and have some flexibility with our schedules.  So, we hired a private guide which ended up being the best decision of the trip.

Our private English speaking guide was Delfin and our local Spanish speaking guide Melaton.  The four of us pretty much spent the entire week together including most meals.  On the morning of day 2, the four of us were off to Napo's 130 foot high canopy tower.  On the way, we cruised down one of the small rivers that empties into the lake and enjoyed the bird life which is really remarkable.  They have 600 species of birds in this part of the Amazon.

Female Snail Kite (Yes, they pretty much only eat snails...the snails here are BIG!):
 Female Snail Kite

Capped Heron:
 Capped Heron

Striated Heron: Striated Heron

After the short canoe trip, we hiked a bit until we reached the tower.  It was a loooooong way up!

Canopy Tower

After sitting on my butt for most of the last two days, I was itching for a little exercise.  Well,  after 115 steps I came to regret scratching that itch.  Especially because after 115 steps we were only HALFWAY up! Once we reached the top we were able to see quite a few birds through the scope but none came close enough for pictures.

After about an hour our guides demeanor changed a bit.  From 130 feet in the air, they could tell that a pack of White-lipped Peccaries was wandering about below.  Before they even asked, we were taking off down the stairs.  At the bottom, they had us drop all our gear because we were going off trail.

Melaton led the way with machete in hand and he was moving fast.  As experienced rainforest hikers we know to always watch where you step and to not grab the plants since either one could have "uncomfortable" consequences.  Well, those rules were quickly broken as we ducked under vines and leapt over fallen trees just to keep up.  After a while the guides motioned to slow down and crouch.  We could hear the grunts of the peccaries now and through the brush we could make out at least a dozen dark objects.  As we crept closer, the alarm call went up and the peccaries bolted.  But, not before we got some pretty good looks and one picture of peccary hind legs.  Despite the lack of photos, it was a great experience and there was absolutely no way we would have known these peccaries were around if not for our guides.

On the hike back to the canoe, we had very brief looks at Red Howler Monkeys and Golden-Mantled Tamarins.  Both are gorgeous primates that we hoped would come within camera view before the trip ended.  We also saw both Tapir and Tayra tracks.   Right where the trail ended and we hopped aboard the canoe a Southern Two-toed Sloth was high up in a tree.  Its location made pictures impossible unfortunately.  While the monkeys and sloth didn't cooperate for pictures, some other critters did.

Walking Stick:
Walking Stick

Millipede: Millipede (4 Inches Long)

 Amazon Poison Dart Frog (Don't lick it):
Amazonian Poison Dart Frog

After lunch we spent some time on the lodge grounds which were alive with activity.

Red-capped Cardinal:
Red-Capped Cardinal

Yellow-spotted Amazon River Turtle with a hitch-hiker that choose a sloooow mode of Yellow-headed Amazon River Turtle

Pollination in Action:
 Flower Pollination

The afternoon's trip was a paddle up another of the lake's tributaries.  It was extremely relaxing and provided some good wildlife viewing including a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl that our guide called in with his voice.  After a week with Delfin we realized that there was virtually no rainforest creature that he couldn't imitate.  He was amazing.

Black Caiman:
Black Caiman

South American Lance Head (A great encounter from the safety of the canoe):
South American Lance Head

More Hoatzins:
Hoatzin Pair

After dinner we tried our luck with another night hike and this time we actually had some luck.


And this frog that seems to have no common name.  Its Latin name is Leptodactylus lineatus.
Frog (Leptodactylus lineatus)

The highlight of the day was certainly the whole peccary tracking experience.  It was hard not to talk about that as we lay in bed listening to the night sounds of the rainforest.

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