We will never forget our time in the Amazon, and so many of the things that we’ve told you about already will stay in my mind forever, but we think that there are a few moments that were extra special. We wanted to write a blog of our top 5 ‘never-forget’ moments, but it was going to be REALLY long so in this post I’ll just tell you about two of them.
When I thought through all the incredible memories, I knew that some of the top ones would have to include the plants, trees, birds and insects of Colombia because the flora and fauna of the country are so staggering. But it has been hard to narrow this down to just 2 moments. I know it might be cheating but I’m also going to mention a few of the ‘runners up’ in each category!
1.Where the wild things are! Plants and trees.
We saw countless weird and wonderful plants during our time in the Amazon. It is impossible to write about them all so I’ll just tell you about a few of the highlights. Justine had told us that one of the things that her family was most looking forward to seeing was the gigantic lily pads in the rivers (Victoria Amazonica). They were not let down: round every bend, there they were in all their glory. Each leaf looked big enough to sit on and was about the size of a picnic blanket! We would often see birds that looked a bit like herons standing on the leaves and catching fish!
Another spectacular specimen was the ceiba tree. When we were staying in Peru our guide took us to see the biggest tree species in the whole of the Amazon rainforest! We were expecting it to be big but when we got there it was like we had shrunk. It was actually ridiculous how big it was. We stood in awe around the bottom and admired it from the ground. We also swung from some liana vines that were hanging from its branches.
There was also another tree that I can’t get out of my mind called the ‘matapalos’ or ‘stick killer’. It’s a very fitting name because this tree survives by wrapping itself around other trees and extracting all of the nutrients from the other tree until it dies!! Every now and then when we were walking in the forest we saw one wrapped around another tree. Even the plants are dangerous here!
And the final tree that was really memorable was one that was used by the people of the Amazon to communicate. When you hit a log against the tree trunk, the sound carried for miles and echoed round the jungle. We wondered if tribes had different rhythms and patterns that they used to send different messages.
But when I really thought about it, I felt clear about the most magical moment of our trip that was to do with the plant life, so I will tell you about it now.
We had just landed in Peru and everyone was buzzing because we had just had our first journey along the Amazon river. The first thing we saw was a large iguana, just as we stepped off the boat! It was then followed by a teeny frog perfectly camouflaged on a green leaf, and an amazing grasshopper that was known as the clown grasshopper for reasons that you can guess from the photo – it was a pretty good start to Peru.
Next we got into another boat to set off down a small channel of water that would lead us to the nature reserve where we were staying. We were suddenly surrounded by a forest in the water. Trees were around us everywhere, so tightly packed that you couldn’t see anything through them. It was really majestic and hard to describe in words. That’s when Petra said: ‘it reminds me of the trees from ‘where the wild things are’!’. We all agreed and continued to marvel at the alien world around us. This was hard to capture in a photo but it really was one of the most memorable moments of our whole trip. As we glided in our boat between a million fairytale trees emerging from the Amazon tributary, the magical feeling was added to by the sounds and glimpses of jungle animals, birds and insects scampering and flitting between the branches.
Number 2. Birds and Insects.
As well as seeing loads of amazing plants and trees we also saw plenty of spectacular birds and insects so now I have the impossible task of describing the top ‘never-forget’ moment from this category!
First, I will give you a few words about insects. You’ve already heard about some of our experiences with creepy-crawlies but there are a few more cool ones that shouldn’t be forgotten in the blog.
While we were on our way to the monkey sanctuary we were pretty excited when our guide pointed out the world’s biggest centipede. He explained that there are a few different kinds of giant centipede and the way to spot if it is poisonous or not is to check if it has any colours, or if it has only 1 leg to a section. You might be able to make out that this centipede has two legs per section and no colours, so we were quite safe to take a closer look!
But I think that my favourite insect incident was when we saw a baby tarantula eating a dragonfly! I know it sounds a bit weird and it left us wondering about how the spider managed to catch this flying insect. As we looked, we saw that the tarantula was biting the dragonfly’s head and watching us! We backed away slowly and carefully towards the boat so as not to disturb the spider and set off down river.
You might think that this was our winning moment but don’t forget that one of the things that is so special about Colombia is that the bird life is so rich that in the space of an hour you could have seen dozens of parakeets and parrots flying overhead, followed by a couple of eagles dusting their feathers, hummingbirds of every colour of the rainbow, and then lots of different species of heron flying over the surface of the water. Colombia’s bird life was so incredible that I could sit outside for hours watching the 1500 species that live in the Amazon come and go. So, we can’t finish this blog without considering our feathered friends.
Two birds who certainly deserve a mention are the Blue Gansa (for having the best hairstyle) and the incredible fishing skills of the myriad of herons.
But without a doubt the most unforgettable part of our trip involving birds was when we saw vultures hunting monkeys! When I put this down in writing it is hard to believe we really witnessed it. We were enjoying watching the view from our boat of a group of squirrel monkeys jumping from tree to tree to feed on berries, and occasionally missing their target and falling through the branches! Then suddenly, three vultures came along and started circling them. The monkeys immediately set off what sounded like a distress call to try and warn the other monkeys that there was danger. All the monkeys suddenly started swinging away in the same direction and trying not to be too near the top of the trees. Luckily none of the vultures managed to get any of the cute little squirrel monkeys and although it was a little bit frightening it was also something I will definitely never forget.