The Amazon By Steve Kanan
Probably the most striking thing one inevitably discovers in the amazon is the irrepressible, relentless drive of nature there. It feels palpable, as though every cubic centimeter is occupied by some member of the animal, plant, fungal or bacterial kingdom.
Consider a simple canoe ride to reach a canopy tower for bird watching. Early in my first morning I sleepily stumble out of my room to the calls of oropendolas, many of whom reside on a huge tree on the lodge property busily incubating eggs or feeding chicks in large bulbous nests painstakingly woven onto the terminal ends of branches. Their bizarre sounds could lead a a first time visitor to think he entered a set for Star Wars. Shortly after boarding the canoe but commonly from the lodge itself one encounters hoatzin, avian denizens of the waterways whose evolutionary lineage nearly stretches back to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Along the lush, serene creek we glide by a small floating log populated by stark white mushrooms. Occasionally near the water’s edge is an emergent green leaf in pristine condition. This grabs one’s attention because the majority of leaves are stained, spotted, chewed or otherwise filled with holes from a never ending assault by bugs, birds and microbes.
We approach a small dock and then take a short stroll through the forest where I spot a charismatic looking beetle and near the base of the tower, behind a simple blind, my guide points to a gorgeous male wire tailed manakin. The tower itself is a substantial structure over 100 feet high with a platform at the top that is built among the tree’s branches. Upon my arrival I see plenty of fog and no birds but the passage of time tends to be generous in the amazon. First a pair of – what else? – amazon parrots fly by. Then an aracari ( a toucan-like bird) shows up. As predicted by a guide it eventually lands at a hospitable viewing distance. After that a tanager is spotted. Then a barbet, then a puffbird, then a euphonia. Taking a short break from aiming my camera lens I notice absolutely the largest ant I have ever, or probably will ever see. “Don’t get bit by that” my guide quietly counsels.
Once I am satisfied, and fatigued from craning my neck and mashing my shutter button we head back down to the forest floor, ambling back to the canoe. Returning along the same creek a small troop of squirrel monkeys has moved into some trees straddling the creek and crossing over it as well. Now when it comes to primates I can watch them forever, feeding, grooming, scampering about. But as usual at some point I reach my limit of back and neck strain from shooting this diminutive species in thick vegetation and give the signal that we may resume the paddle.
Upon entering the lagoon, visible on the distant bank, is a kingfisher with a hefty size fish lodged in its mouth. A few moments later I step up onto our dock and notice that a butterfly crossing the water has chosen to perch right on one of the noses of a group of turtles sunbathing on a log. I repair to my room for a brief rest where a pair of black vultures greet me, standing in the grass a few feet from my door.
And that roughly sums up a first morning at Sani Lodge. Each person, each time will inevitably enjoy different experiences, observations and encounters. And then there are the other primate species and myriad bird and insect species. And with a little luck one may enjoy good entertainment at the parrot clay licks. Oh, and did I mention night walks? Let’s just say that it gives new meaning to the expression “night and day”. And finally, I would just like to suggest to anyone visiting Sani to be sure to engage in a very leisurely paddle on the Challwacocha Lagoon late on an afternoon when the sun is gracefully falling through a peaceful blue sky.