Our bus took us to the airport this morning at 6.10 am so it was a 5am start! Lima airport was complete chaos, so we didn’t have time for a coffee once we got through security but had to go straight to the gate. The service on the flight wasn’t up to the high standard we had come to expect from all the flights in Ecuador, even though it was the same airline – Latam.
Once we landed at Puerto Maldonado and got off the plane, the heat and the humidity of the Amazon hit us. It was around 32 or 33C with a high level of humidity.
We were taken by bus to the tour office, where we had to pack a few things from our luggage into a small duffle bag for the next couple of days. Then we were taken on a shortish bus ride through the town to the river.
We boarded a river-boat – like a canoe at the front and a seat either side of a central aisle with the driver at the back. The boat ride was about 3.5 hours and was incredible. The river was very wide, and ox-bow, so there were many wide sweeping turns to navigate. And each side of the river were ‘beaches’ and banks leading up to rich, lush vegetation – sugar cane and many different types of trees.
At this point we were given our lunch. We were given a package that was wrapped up in large jungle leaves and tied with string. Inside was a dish of fried rice with vegetables and mushrooms – this was a great way of serving lunch without it being in plastic containers. Dessert was 2 tiny bananas.
We were treated to some fabulous wildlife on our journey along the river. Our guides were experts with the binoculars and the driver took the boat right up close so we could almost touch some of them.
We saw so many different kinds of birds - lots of black vultures, turkey vultures, white egrets, a large white heron, hoatzin, unicorn geese (amazing birds with a horn like a unicorn on their heads) and a flock of macaws flying above us. We also saw quite a few river turtles basking on logs.
The highlights though were caimans. We saw a dwarf caiman and we were so close we could almost touch him. We also saw a couple of white caimans. We saw a troop of small squirrel monkeys leaping about in the trees – they were quite hard to see but very special. We also saw a mama capybara hiding up in the bushes, and her two babies basking in the sun on the bank. They were SO cute and again so close we could almost touch them. After a while, they got fed up of us ogling them, so decided to move and make their way back to mama.
Then we got to our Jungle lodge. OMG! This was a little paradise – way nicer than I was expecting. Several long lodge houses set in wonderful gardens. We were given a welcome drink – orange, mango and passion fruit juice and were told we had a little chill-out time before our night excursion at 6.30pm. Electricity is only between set times, so it was a case of charging from my charging banks – my camera had run out during the day!!
OMG! Our night time excursion was totally mind-blowing. First we went into a dark patch of the grounds, turned off all our torches and looked up at the sky, which was filled with clear stars and you could see the Milky Way. We saw the constellation Saggitarius and saw the most brilliant shooting star streaking across the sky.
Then we were directed to look towards the bottom of a tree trunk and there we saw a pink-footed tarantula! It was huge! I was surprisingly calm even though it was no more than a couple of meters away from us. In fact, it was even quite beautiful.
We were told that there are more than 850 species of tarantulas and the biggest ones had a limb span of 15-30 cm. Apparently the largest locally were chicken tarantulas.
Then we started walking into the jungle, which was really, really creepy! We saw a couple of different types of spider – rather large and way too close for my liking and not as pretty as the tarantula! We saw a couple of different types of tree frogs and they were SO cute! We also saw some giant black ants – so large that, at first, we thought they were a type of spider. We also saw a beautiful red bird, a collared trodan – it was fast asleep up a tree. I saw a really pretty moth with bright red eyes and then it was time to start heading back.
Then we saw the chicken tarantula! It was absolutely humungus! And this was moving – it crawled out of its burrow and stood still for a while until someone coughed and it scuttled back into its hole!
After we got back, we had dinner, which was delicious – noodle soup, followed by chicken in soy sauce with rice and a large, whole cooked plantain followed by rice pudding. I really like the food we’ve been given so far.
We had a great chat with our guide, Danilo about languages and accents then it was time for bed. Our starts are getting earlier and earlier. The alarm is set for 4.45 am tomorrow as we start our morning excursion in the jungle canopy at 5.30 am.
So – after checking the bed for bugs and spiders and ensuring the mozzie net is firmly in place, it’s time for sleep.