In the world of science, looking for creepy crawlies is called herping (defined as the act of searching for amphibians or reptiles). Now there are true-life Herping Adventures that one can join in the Amazon jungles and cloud forests of Ecuador thanks to Ecuador’s award-winning ecotourism company, Tropic Journeys in Nature, that since 1994 has led tours through the country’s most engaging landscapes.
This ecotourism program that combines science with active travel is a brand-new way to explore the rainforest while offering indigenous and local communities opportunities to learn more about their environment. For example, on a pioneer safari program the indigenous Huaorani learned that some snakes aren’t poisonous as their tradition had led them to believe.
Two safari and photography tour itineraries have been developed in partnership with professional biologists and photographers of Tropical Herping. The first involves a cooperative program between Tropic and the Huaorani, one of the world’s most isolated ethnic groups. A community of Huaorani will serve as hosts and guides on their ancestral turf, a rainforest region considered the world’s most biologically diverse and where explorations take place. (Since 2008 the partnership has been working to stabilize this ecologically threatened region.) The program includes all lodging, meals, services of English-speaking guides and instruction in the specialized field methods and photographic techniques for herpetology.
Find out more about Tropic Journeys in Nature here.
Tropic welcomes avid walkers/trekkers to join organized 7, 4 and 3-night Mountain Guardians Lodge-to-Lodge Climbing and Trekking programs exploring the tops and underbellies of four volcanoes and diverse eco systems in one of the most bio-diverse countries of the world, Ecuador.
This is another unique adventure developed by Ecuador’s award-winning ecotourism company, Tropic Journeys in Nature.
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Since 1994 Carvalho’s company has worked to help preserve the Amazon. It recently expanded its ecotourism as a tool for conservation messages into the Galapagos. “Now we want to incorporate the Andes, such an incredible ecosystem that has extreme value to the world and where all of the fresh waters sources for Ecuador are born.” This region is also home of emblematic and endangered species such as the Andean Condor and the Spectacle Bear.
Download Tropic’s newest programs here.
The adventures in the Guiana’s are now a memory gone by, as I’m on the flight from Port of Spain in Trinidad & Tobago, heading for London Gatwick, where I will arrive in the morning. I’m absolutely exhausted after the two weeks spent in the Guiana’s and what an adventure it has been!
I stayed on for an additional two days after the main group left early on Wednesday morning. I took some time to get to know Georgetown a bit better, while also visiting the Demerara Destillery, where the world famous rum El Dorado is brought into this world and nursed to the exquisite and splendid rum it is. It was an interesting visit and fun to see the very basic distillery. Apparently, the distillery has the only wooden still in the world and this could possibly be the success of the rum? A nice visit but nothing to rant and rave about to be honest unless you’re very dedicated to rum. Which I am…
The last day of my stay in Georgetown was spent with the Wilderness Explorer’s team, in a company workshop, where I did a shorter lecture on responsible tourism and an introduction to the Nordic region and the tourism industry there.
Bound for Trinidad & Tobago
As I got on the BW662 flight, bound for Port of Spain at Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Georgetown this morning, I sat back and just started to think back at what I’d experienced since that arrival in the middle of the night, in Paramaribo exactly two weeks ago. With the amount of experiences that we had during our trip, I can honestly say that it feels as if we’ve been away for much longer than two weeks. Yes, the pace has been high, but I must admit now afterwards that it is based purely on what we’ve seen, the activities we did and the nature and culture we’ve experienced with all the history attached to it.
I fell quickly into a light slumber on the flight, immediately as we took off and surprisingly I snapped out of it just minutes before we were to touch down at Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain about an hour later.
10 hours in Port of Spain
Due to a schedule change by Caribbean Airlines, my stopover in Port of Spain, went from only 2,5 hours to almost 10 hours and I wasn’t to thrilled about this fact after our stopover there on our way to Paramaribo. The airport hasn’t got much to offer and therefore I opted to head out to a nearby shopping mall to kill some time.
Traffic in Port of Spain can apparently be very heavy and I was told not to head into the city, as I would probably just get stuck in traffic jams and possibly miss my flight. Therefore I chose the un-cultural activity of walking up and down the hallways of a gigantic shopping mall, which provided me with no real excitement. It just keep on surprising me that shopping malls throughout the world are all more or less the same, except for different stores and a few different food stands in the food court area…
I grabbed a late lunch and watched a cinema in the world’s coldest movie theatre. I kid you not when I estimate it to have been close to 15 degrees in there!? Why oh why would you keep the temperature at that level? What’s the point? In order to keep people from falling a sleep? Avoiding people to get undressed? Increase sales of hot drinks? It was ridiculous and I can’t even remember the name of the movie that I saw…
Reflections at 37,000 feet
After that freezing movie experience and a few hours of waiting a the airport, I’m now back up in the air, bound for London at 37,000 feet, somewhere above the Atlantic ocean and it’s time to reflect back on the trip and the countries visited.
Coming on this trip, I knew very little about the region and the countries here. I had no real expectations apart from a very rich and untouched nature, which would provide us with true wildlife experiences and witnessing dense primary rainforest. That was about it, and apart from the countries being former colonies of France, Netherlands and England, I knew very little.
What have I learned?
So what do I know now after two weeks in the region? Well…It’s hard to know where to start, but I’ve learned a lot during the trip and I’ve realized how much interesting, eventful and tragic history that exists there. Since the first explorers came upon ‘The Wild Coast’ in the 16th century to where they are today, with the uncomfortable past of slavery (only abolished in Suriname by the Dutch in 1863) and the mix of different cultures that today make up the countries and the untouched nature of the interior with its wildlife and spectacular landscape…I’m blown away and I really question how the region only have so little visitors given what is on offer.
I expected a real nature experience from the trip, but got double fold (at least) of that in return, together with the addition of a melting pot of cultures, an intriguing history and remarkable food. The blend of different ethnic influences – Indian, African, Chinese, Creole, English, Portuguese, Amerindian, North American – gives a distinctive flavor to everything in the region, not to forget to mention the fact of all the different religions living side by side without much issues.
Did my expectations live up to the experience? Many times over and these are my true words as an experienced traveller, having visited quite a few places around the world. Yes, one must admit that the tourism related products that are on offer, sometimes aren’t of the highest quality and some are quite undeveloped, but this is what you can expect from such a young tourism destination as the region is.
I think I wrote in one of my first posts that Guyana attracts about 2,500 tourists a year while Suriname gets approximately 60,000 Dutch visitors. That’s not a lot and though success of tourism mustn’t be measured by volumes, it becomes very evident that destinations with this raw and authentic potential, needs more tourists in order to develop the tourism related products and provide important income and much needed access to foreign currency for the countries.
Invest and lead the way
On Tuesday night we attended a debriefing and media event at the home of the British High Commissioner where the Director of Tourism in Guyana also attended. I listened carefully to the presentation held, where Guyana’s tourism development plans were introduced. I’ve attended and listened to way too many presentations in the past, to become enthused, but all the right things were said and Guyana wants to develop into a definite ecotourism destination with community owned products and projects in order to secure a sustainable future of the tourism industry. It sounds promising, but so far the words are only words in a presentation and in order for them to become reality it means investments and strong leadership.
I believe that the potential is already there but a decision needs to be made if tourism is something to invest into, and if so, which way should it go? Small-scale tourism products that sustain what is there, with local ownership and development based on what is present and manageable, or an easier way out, to rely on foreign investment and a quick fix solution? There is only one way to go and I hope that the Ministry of Tourism soaked up the feedback given from our trip, to cooperate within the region and to develop a united Guiana development plan with joint marketing efforts. Each country is too small to make it all on its own and the whole region would benefit from cooperation.
Waiting for you!
This region has nothing artificial about it and nothing is laid out for tourism. It is real and it is truly genuine. I will do my part to spread the word and message of the Guianas to everyone I know and beyond. Guiana has affected me and influenced me in a positive way and it will forever be a part of me. I will be back soon and I’m already looking forward to it! Question left to be answered is…When will you go?
Fair Travel was part of the delegation that met with the British High Commission and Ministry of Tourism in Georgetown, Guyana after a famtrip as the new representative of Wilderness Explorers. The full article can be read here
The last day in the interior of Guyana was upon us and I made the most of it with an early visit to a lake followed by a sweaty hike up the Awarmie Mountain before flying back to Georgetown in Top Gun fashion. The last night together with the rest of the group was spent with a debriefing and media event at the British High Commissioners residence before going for drinks and trying out the Georgetown nightlife.
I’m gonna miss all of this
A long nights sleep worked as a charm after the fatigue and cramps from the bug that kept me broken for 24 hrs. I think that the sleep last night was the best sleep I’ve had on this trip. I’m really going to miss the sounds of the jungle. I find it very soothing and comforting. By now I don’t care much about the humidity, the smell of myself and clothes and nor do I care much about the mozzies, although the bites I’ve acquired during almost two weeks is reminding me at times…
I’m going to miss the jungle and all it has to offer and I already do, but I must also confess that the luxury of a hot shower and aircon does sound quite appealing…
Breakfast by the river
We had our breakfast served right at the bank of the river with freshly baked bread. Even though the internal digestive system was still not 100% and the thought of food wasn’t that intriguing, the breakfast was spot on and the surrounding really helped out. On the river, with all the birds…Few places can compete with that!
After breakfast, we took a boat up the Rewa River and then a 15-minute hike to Grass Pond. This pond or lake is about 3 kms long and is a beautiful setting with Victoria Amazonica and has a good population of Arapaima, the largest fresh water fish in the world. The arapaima was surfacing continuously, but never offered any good sight of the huge fish.
The Arapaima can reach lengths of more than 2 m, in some exceptional cases even more than 2.5 m and over 100 kg in weight. The maximum-cited weight for the species is 200 kg. It is one of the most sought after food fish species in South America.
Aside from its immense size, perhaps the most peculiar trait of the arapaima is a fundamental dependence on surface air to breathe. In addition to gills, it has a modified and enlarged swim bladder, composed of lung-like tissue, which enables it to extract oxygen from the air. This means that it requires the arapaima to surface for air every 5 to 15 minutes.
Caimans and birds
We also spotted a great deal of birds in the pond together with a few Black caimans that hid amongst the logs and Victoria Amazonicas. We got some good sightings of the Green Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher and Orange-winged Amazons.
No pain no gain!
Next up what the hike up the Awarmie Mountain. I must admit that my body was still not fully recovered and my knee was swollen from the previous hikes. Overall not at all in any peak condition and I probably should’ve sat this one out, but after all, this was the last hike in the jungle and I just didn’t want to finish this all off with the whole food poisoning event being the last thing to remember from the trip to the interior. I therefore chose to do this together with three more of the group.
A proper sweat!
We packed up our stuff and left Rewa Eco-lodge. We headed out by boat along the Rupununi River, into an oxbow lake where we began a hike up the Awarmie Mountain. It might’ve been the fact that we were still a bit sick but we were all sweating heavily as we climbed the steep first few sections. I often sweat quite a lot, but this was something out of the ordinary.
Jazzhands on the top
We had a plane to catch and therefore we had to keep a steady pace to the top, which we eventually reached. By now we were soaked in sweat but it was all worth it. I didn’t feel great, but as we reached the top and sat down to take in the view overlooking the Rupununi 360 degrees, it was all worth it and we sat there with smiles on our faces, sweaty as hell and probably stinky enough to keep the wildlife away!?
The view was absolutely stunning with the majestic rainforest and the distant mountains. There was a small plateau on the top of the mountain and in one direction, there are uninterrupted views back to the Rupununi River, some patches of savannah and across to the distant Kanuku Mountains. In the other direction, there is a near vertical drop of at least 200m and the view is across great swathes of undisturbed forest to the distant Iwokrama Mountain and much closer, Makarapan Mountain.
It was a great finish of our adventures in the interior of Guyana and a sweaty (and smelly) group photo was a must and we even got one with jazzhands!
We worked our way back down and caught a boat at full speed towards the village of Apoteri for our flight back to Georgetown. That breeze was a much-appreciated welcome in order to dry our sweaty clothes…
The flight was waiting on us together with the rest of the group and we quickly got onboard for take off. It was a welcome whiff of Nature that we brought onto the flight to much appreciation of the rest of the passengers! The flight took off and as if picked right out of Top Gun, the pilot banked hard to the right just as we took off, taking us at low level just passing over the canopy and in over the Rupununi River, flying just above the river surface! It was like we were in a canyon and were in a dogfight…Thank you to the Rupununi and everyone that had treated us to these adventures. It’s been one hell of a ride!
Debriefing and media awaits
We flew back to Georgetown and transferred to Cara Lodge where we would spend the night. It’s now time to freshen up and get prepared for the invitation to the British High Commissioner for a debriefing with the Ministry of Tourism and a media event.
It was a broken group of people that woke up to the sounds of the Rupununi life this morning. Grunts and pitiful sounds could be heard from each room. It had been a long night without much sleep, which required some time to recover and regain the strength for the last part of the journey in the rainforest that would take us to Rewa Eco-lodge.
Change of plans
We were meant to take a hike at dawn in the foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains on the Panorama Trail, but due to the events during the night, everything was cancelled as no one could muster such an event. It was hard enough to get out of bed and to be able to force some fruit into the belly. It was such a pity that this happened, but not much to do about it apart from just resting.
At one point we even considered staying on to recover fully, but the show must go on and we decided to soldier on for a nice finish of the trip. This was the last full day in the interior as we are to fly back to Georgetown tomorrow afternoon. This shouldn’t be the end of it and we all gathered enough energy to repack our bags and get on the truck that would take us to the landing for our two hour river cruise to Rewa Eco-lodge.
I can’t really say that anyone was thrilled about the fact of being stuck on a truck and small boats for the next three hours with some unreliable body functions, but the group handled it very well and it became all part of the adventure with jokes and laughter’s. We just felt really sorry for leaving Rock View Lodge without having seen and experienced what they had to offer.
We moved out and back on the road just after noon and the sun was really scorching hot and didn’t really comfort our already broken souls. But the trip went by quite uneventful and the breeze of the river with Herons darting the riverbed proved to help regain some energy and we did eventually arrive at Rewa.
We were now back in the deep forest again and Rewa Eco-lodge is beautifully located in a small clearing of the forest just by the river, with a few simple and rustic open-air cabins with attached bathrooms. I fell in love with this place straight away as I saw it! There’s something very special with the atmosphere here while the hospitality – as with all the places in the interior – is excellent.
Sustainable ecotourism business model
The Amerindian community of Rewa is located where the Rewa River runs into the Rupununi River in the North Rupununi. The surrounding area is rainforest, mountains and oxbow lakes and teeming with wildlife birds and fish.
The community of approximately 220 persons is predominately Macushi with a few families of the Wapashani and Patamona tribes. Villagers practice subsistence farming, fishing and hunting with little opportunity for cash employment. In 2005 the community constructed the Rewa Eco-Lodge so that they could establish a sustainable ecotourism business. The lodge remains virtually unknown with 82 visitors in 2007, only 57 in 2008, 80 in 2009 and 136 in 2010. That’s quite a growth but they would still benefit from a few more.
The lodge itself is situated on the riverbank overlooking the Rewa River with views down river to the Rupununi River. Along the river bank tables and benches offer a relaxing location to enjoy the river.
An early night to regain fitness
Since the group was still in recovery from the events of the night, we took it very easy this afternoon and went to bed early to regain the energy for a proper finish of the time in the Guyana interior. Tomorrow there is an early boat ride to a grass pond to check out the Victoria Amazonica and population of Arapaima, and a few of us have decided to follow up with a hike up Awarmie Mountain. Must get some sleep now to be fully fit for tomorrows adventures!
The rain stopped to fall and we headed for Rock View Lodge where the day took a turn for the worse, as all more or less fell down with a tummy bug during the evening, putting most us out for the entire night and much of the following day. It happens sooner or later, and when it does, it usually takes down the whole group.
Capuchin Monkey and Kingfishers
After a good night sleep we divided into two groups where one group did a climb up Surama Mountain and my group took a boat ride on the river. Before getting into the boat we had to walk to the landing. It was a good and easygoing activity, where we managed to spot quite a few birds and some monkey activity. We had a perfect spotting of a lone Capuchin Monkey having a late breakfast.
Got some great bird spotting action with Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher and the colorful Orange-backed Troupial. Birds are really underestimated and for some reason we seem to take them for granted. I love spotting birds and I will probably have to confess to becoming a real bird fanatic in the future.
We had breakfast at Surama upon or return, before a much-needed break in the open-air lounge in the hammocks. Pure bliss!
We packed up and got back into the cars to head for Rock View Lodge where we would have lunch and spend the night.
We eventually reached Annai, in the North Rupununi, its northernmost community. The Rupununi Savannah is to Guyana what the Gran Sabana is to Venezuela, an extensive area of grassland with termite mounds and scattered or riparian woodland. It differs in that much of it is devoted to cattle raising, though the large ranches are not very productive.
Rock View Lodge
Near the village of Annai, between Annai and Rupertee where the Pakaraima foothills meet the tropical rainforest, is Rock View Lodge. The resort with its tropical gardens and flowering trees, resembles an oasis in the savannah, and attracts many species of birds, particularly nectar feeders and frugivores. Amazonian Troupial, Amethyst Woodstar, White-chinned Sapphire, Long-billed Starthroat and several Hermits patrol around the grounds. Nearby forest patches are home to Amazonian Scrub Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and a variety of antbirds.
Rock View Lodge offers comfortable lodging, outdoor and cultural activities with an authentic Amerindian hospitality. The lodge has been around for over 20 years, welcoming visitors to the savannahs and rainforests of Guyana’s Rupununi since 1992. The lodge is an integral partner with the local Amerindian community to build economic opportunities, provide professional development, preserve traditions, and improve a sustainable tourism infrastructure in Guyana’s pristine interior.
A home away from home
We settled into our beautiful rooms before we had a lovely lunch in the restaurant. It felt like we were on a big farm or hacienda and we were guests of the owners, and I guess this is exactly what the owners have in mind. The place is family-run, where the owner of the place, Colin Edwards is quite an eccentric man with a very friendly personality. We really felt welcome and at home at the lodge!
Riding out the storm…
We enjoyed an afternoon orientation tour of the resort, farm and orchards. We were introduced to the traditional cashew nut roasting and the making of traditional handicrafts before we had some time to chill out by the pool where we also gathered for drinks in the eve before dinner. This was also unfortunately the time when the group was starting to fall down with tummy issues. One by one we folded and from then on and throughout the night the bug made its presence to almost each and everyone of the group. Myself, I folded just before dinner and it turned out to be quite an active night and the start of the infamous 24 hrs bug. It was just a matter of riding out the storm…
We moved on, on our journey, with the next stop being Surama village. The rain continues to fall and makes things harder for us, as we constantly have to rearrange the activities and also cancel some of them. This is the rainforest and we’re in the rainy season, so not much to complain about, besides making the best of the situation.
A slow start in the canopy
We rose early this morning to welcome the dawn chorus on the canopy walkway. The rain had been falling quite heavily during the night and as we walked towards the canopy walkway, rain started to fall again, though luckily, just as a drizzle.
The conditions weren’t prefect at all and the birdlife was still on hold as if they knew the weather patterns better than us (which I’m sure they do!). It was very misty and cloudy with high humidity in the air. It was a very calm and pleasant morning, almost as if nature took a break from a session of hard work. It was very quiet and peaceful. In fact almost to quiet, as the birds were keeping the distance and just didn’t want to perform.
There wasn’t much action at all this morning and in the end we had to surrender to the birds and Nature, and made our way back to the lodge for breakfast.
Rain, rain and even more rain
Our journey then took us back on the road that we were on yesterday, with the next stop being Surama village. Due to heavy rainfall we weren’t able to make the stops along the way that we had planned. We were meant to stop at the Cock-of-the-rock Trail, to spot the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock and visit a nearby Harpy Eagle nest, but this was postponed till later on during the day.
This afternoons activities were supposed to be based on two different options where half of the group, including myself, were meant to do a walk across the savannah and through the rainforest to the Burro Burro River. Here we were to paddle on the river for opportunities to observe Giant River Otters, Tapir, Tira and Spider Monkeys, with the chance to experience some outdoor survival training. Our activity was to make our own accommodation for the night and construct a forest outhouse. We would go fishing, look for other food such as nuts, wild fruit and locating a freshwater supply and learn how to make fire without using matches. To survive in the bush and overnight in the bush camp sleeping in a hammock!
But this wasn’t happening due to the rain and though we felt slightly disheartened by this, we accepted our fate and continued with the day and what it had to offer. We arrived about an hour later at the Amerindian community of Surama. The shift in landscape and vegetation was really apparent as we left the Iwokrama Rainforest and entered into an open savannah that is surrounded by dense forest and mountains.
This was the Rupununi, a savannah plain in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo region of Guyana, located between the Rupununi River and the border with Brazil and Venezuela. It is a region of the Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands Biome. The savannah is teeming with wildlife, including a large variety of bird species and is also home to the jaguar as well as the harpy eagle.
John Gimlette introduce the area in this manner, upon his first visit to the region in The Wild Coast:
“The Rupununi savannahs are the wrong side of a forest several miles away. Even by South American standards, this forest is overwhelming. There are parts that have never been properly charted, holes that have never been plumbed and lumps that have never been climbed. As for what’s under the canopy, most of it has lain drenched in uninterrupted darkness for tens of thousands of years…
Then suddenly the forest ends. It’s like flying out of the night and bursting into sunlight. Ahead stretches a great, golden grassland the size of Scotland. This, of course, is only the wrong side of the forest if you feel a need for the outside world. The Rupununi doesn’t. It is its own world, a fabulously impenetrable land, viciously defended by forests, and – at the southern end – walled in by some of the oldest mountains on Earth. These are said to be the last flat-topped columns of a lost super-continent, Pangea. It’s not surprising that they should end up here, on this vast ocean of straw, where the lilies grow five feet wide and all the trees are armed. Even the animals feel curiously Jurassic. Here are the world’s largest ants, otters and anteaters, and its biggest fish – the Arapaima, a bearded monster as big as a horse.”
Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many of the traditional practices of their forebears. Apart from the Macushi tribe you also have other indigenous peoples living in the area, including the Wapishana and the Wai-Wai.
Charmed by the Surama kids
We were invited into the local nursery and primary school of the village. I’m not a big fan of visits like this normally, but this experience was completely different and there was so much positive energy involved with lots of smiles and happiness. I was really surprised to see such a well managed and properly run school so far away from “civilization”. I must admit that I think that these kids are better off than some kids in Sweden today even.
The kids treated us to songs and we as well, had to sing something in return to much laughter and giggles. This young girl in particular made such a strong impression on most of us as she really charmed the whole group. I guess a proper beard and a hairy man like myself isn’t part of the everyday scene in the village as the kids patted my hairy arm and pulled my beard with great excitement. A visit that brought happiness and laughter to everyone involved.
We continued onwards to the Surama Eco-Lodge where we all had to spend the night now, that our activities had to be cancelled. We had a lovely lunch at the lodge overlooking the landscape with the Pakaraima Mountains and the heavy rainfall. From the moment I set foot in the very basic and rustic lodge I loved the place. We were really guests in the Macushi tribe’s home and the hospitality was heartfelt.
The rain started to withdraw after lunch, which meant that we were to give the missed morning activities a go, so we got back into the cars, and headed back for the Harpy Eagle nest and the Cock-of-the-rock Trail.
The Harpy Eagle is the largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas, and among the largest extant species of eagles in the world. I’ve got a thing for eagles and I was really enthusiastic about getting a proper spotting of this rare and threatened bird. The Harpy Eagle inhabits the upper canopy layer of the rainforest and destruction of its natural habitat has seen it vanish from many parts of its former range, and it is nearly extirpated in Central America.
A glimpse of it!
We had reports telling us that the nest was active and that they’d spotted the eagle a few days earlier so the odds were in our favor, but you never know as things can change quickly. We fought our way through the forest with the abundance of mosquitoes trying to drain us of our blood, and as if that wasn’t enough the humidity after all the rains was outrageous. It was no walk in the park for sure, but in the end after some 45 min walk we approached the area of the nest…
Things didn’t look too promising as we arrived to the spot. The adult eagles weren’t to be seen and we moved around quite a bit in order to get a good view through the thick vegetation. In the end we did get a quick sight of one of the adults, however it was just a quick glimpse. It did however mean that the bird was present and we moved around to find a better angle and sighting.
Mates for life
We did eventually get into a good position where we could see the majestic Harpy Eagle, sitting in the canopy, being constantly bullied by a smaller bird. It’s hardly the most beautiful eagle I’ve seen. In fact, it actually looks a bit stupid. But it is still an impressive bird that can reach over a meter in length and weigh up to 10 kg with a wingspan of over 2 meters!
The Harpy Eagle is an actively hunting carnivore and is an apex predator, meaning that adults are at the top of a food chain and have no natural predators. Its main prey are tree-dwelling mammals and a majority of the diet has been shown to focus on sloths and monkeys.
Harpy Eagles are believed to mate for life and a pair usually only raise one chick every 2–3 years. After the first chick hatches, the second egg is ignored and normally fails to hatch unless the first egg perishes. The chick fledges at the age of 6 months, but the parents continue to feed it for another 6 to 10 months.
The Guianan Cock-of-the-rock
It was a great sight and we even managed to forget about the horrendous mozzies for a good while only to swear and growl at these godforsaken creatures as we headed back towards the car through the dense and very humid jungle with sweat-soaked clothes. The way of the jungle…
We continued by car back toward Surama with a quick stop at the Cock-of-the rock Trail. It was a quick visit as we ran out of time due to the sun starting to move closer to the horizon. I’d never seen the Cock-of-the-rock before, but today was the day to change that!
The Guianan Cock-of-the-rock is about 30 cm in length, where the male are bright orange with a prominent half-moon crest, which is used in competitive displays in lek gatherings to attract a female.
A bright orange blob
We moved quickly into the jungle and soon got the signal to keep quiet and in a slow manner we moved closer to the spot, climbing through a formation of rocks to reach the upper part of it, where we spotted the brightly colored bird about 10 meters away. I had the beautiful bird perfectly in aim with my camera and fired at will, but with the lousy light of dusk, all that came out was a brightly orange blur amongst the trees. Seen it though, but can only prove it with a blurry orange blob…
We moved out and back onto the cars and it was such a relief to get on to the back of the pickup with the wind providing a nice breeze drying up the sweaty clothes and getting rid of the mozzies and the disgusting newly hatched termites that flew all over the place. We had a nice spotting of Red-and-green Macaws.
Cultural Macushi show
In the evening we were treated to a nice cultural show after dinner at the Surama Eco-Lodge. We didn’t get to spend the night in the jungle and learn the survival skills, but with all those mozzies, flying termites and humidity, it felt quite nice to lie down in a proper bed under the mosquito netting…
A very dreadful night finally came to an end, with far to little sleep due to some extreme snoring from a fellow participant. All those beautiful sounds of the jungle that always put me to sleep straight away, was blocked out by the annoying and nerve-breaking sounds of snores. Is there any other sound that can be more annoying than that??
We started the day early this morning with the mission to hike up Turtle Mountain. The early breakfast was followed by a boat ride along the river to the foot of Turtle Mountain. The rainfall had been quite heavy during the night and the water levels were quite high which put a limit on the amount of trails that we could explore. Instead we spent longer time on the river, taking in the sounds of the birds and the jungle waking up.
Cheered on by Howlers
To the sounds of the birdlife, with the Screaming Pihas and Macaws the loudest of the morning, and the Howler monkeys in the distance, we cruised along the river with Herons and Kingfishers darting on the river’s edge.
We could see the elevated Turtle Mountain in the distance before we headed into the forest, moving along on the flooded trails, before disembarking at the Turtle Mountain Camp. We took in the 300 m tall Turtle Mountain that we were about to hike up. To the sound of the Howlers we set off, with the top with its view of the forest canopy below, as our goal.
No pain no gain
My permanently damaged knee was still in recovery from the hike we did in Surinam, hiking up Misty Mountain and it turned out to be quite a strenuous hike with the knee making me constantly reminded of its bad condition. But it was a very nice hike and as we approached the top with the amazing view overlooking the canopy of the Iwokrama Forest, the pain was soon forgotten.
Sweaty and tired we sat down to take in the views and the brought snacks. What a perfect moment it was! The view was stunning, the birdlife shot by below us in every possible colors and hue…It was a moment worth remembering, apart from the fact that I was actually seated in an ant-heap! Why couldn’t this moment just be savored without the interruption of annoying ants!?
Bullied by a Black Spider Monkey
As the perfect moment was suddenly disturbed by the ants, it quickly turned back around again, as we suddenly spotted movement in the canopy below us. We made out the shape of some brownish creatures in the canopy and indeed it was a group of Howler Monkeys, and as if that wasn’t enough, one of the juveniles was being constantly bullied by a young Black Spider Monkey!
What a show!
What a show we were to witness. These two monkeys jumped between the branches of the canopy at a real frenzy and one could only feel sorry for the Howlers as this annoying, yet entertaining Spider Monkey, were constantly harassing him. It was playful however and I’m sure it was on mutual terms.
The adults didn’t seem to bother about the game that was taking place, but soon we spotted more Spider Monkeys and in the end we could count to three individual Spider Monkeys and a group of 5-6 Howler Monkeys. We were all so stuck by the moment that I forgot that I was seated back down amongst the ants and didn’t care much about it.
A whiff of nature!?
A perfect start to the day and it provided energy and soothing comfort for the badly hurting knee as we started to hike down the mountain to head back to the lodge for lunch.
We were soaked in sweat as we came back to the boats and the breeze of the speedy return was much appreciated, if it wasn’t for the wiff of the people in front of you, sharing their scent without knowing it. It provided quite a bit of laughter in the boat.
Spotting for jaguars
After a much-needed lunch it was time for us to move on and we hit the road by cars, heading towards Atta Rainforest Lodge. We traveled along the road through the heart of the Iwokrama Forest. We were all fully focused on the road as our drivers told us that they often spotted jaguars on this road. The Iwokrama Forest is rapidly gaining an international reputation for its healthy jaguar populations that seem not to be troubled by the appearance of curious humans.
Atta Rainforest Lodge
With heavy dark gray clouds hanging over the canopy, we pulled into an opening in the forest, where Atta Rainforest Lodge is located. Rain was a certainty within minutes and we quickly unpacked and gathered in the dining area for the introduction. The major attraction and activity at Atta is the 154 meter-long canopy walkway, which has four platforms, with the highest being over 30 meters above the ground. The forest around the lodge is excellent for birds, and the walkway allow great view of a range of canopy species, many of which are hard to see well from the forest floor.
Birds and monkeys
Amongst the likely highlights are Painted, Brown-throated and Golden-winged Parakeets, Caica Parrot, Guianan Puffbird, Waved and Golden-collared Woodpeckers and Spot-tailed, Todd’s, Ash-winged Antwrens and is also an excellent place to look for various species of Cotinga including the poorly known and range-restricted Dusky Purpletuft including Red Howler Monkeys and Black Spider Monkeys.
Only minutes after our arrival, the dark and heavy clouds started to release the water they were holding onto with tremendous force and power. It was a proper rainfall that hit us, one worth remembering and it made us even more aware that this is what happens in the rainforest, and especially in the rainy season.
Sundowner in the treetops
The afternoon activities were delayed and limited due to the heavy rains that hit us, but eventually we made our way to the Canopy Walkway, doing an interpretative walk along the way learning about the trees and about their varied uses in the Macushi culture.
The Canopy Walkway didn’t provide us with much birding this afternoon and as darkness was about to fall, we enjoyed sundowner drinks on the platforms with cold beers and rum. A bit sad that the sun was nowhere to be seen, but the drinks provided us with some comfort though!