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Amazon Adventures, Day 7 – Monkeys and Nighthawks and Frogs, Oh My!
by -- March 10th, 2011

We had a big day ahead of us and started early with a snack before hiking to El Salvador Lake. We continue to get eaten by mosquitoes, which seem to be DEET-resistant.

El Salvador, an oxbow lake.

El Salvador, an oxbow lake.

The guides paddled the group in a catamaran, helping us look for birds and wildlife. We saw, among other animals, an ani, a flock of nighthawks, spider monkeys, Watsons, an enormous fig tree with huge buttress roots, a red-capped cardinal, wood peckers, and brown capuchin monkeys. We also saw airplane grasshoppers, a millipede on a decomposing log, termites, and the venomous poison dart frog.

We learned about the symbiosis of species in the forest, like the fire ants that live in Triplaris trees. The trees provide food and shelter for the ants, and they, in turn, protect the tree by eating species that grow near it to eliminate competition for nutrients. Adaptations are also important; the poison dart frog and the Claricia tree display bright colors to warn predators of their poisonous nature, army ants, which are nomadic, protect themselves by forming a giant, 8-million+ individual ball, and stick insects blend in perfectly with their host plants.

Enormous Fig Tree

Enormous Fig Tree

We waded through knee-high “black water”, which derives its name and color from rotting plants in its swamp-like environment.

We passed through a lodge run by the Machiguenga tribe. The people sold us jewelry made from products gathered from the rainforest such as feathers, seeds, and nuts. These people formerly lived in the cloud forest and now host tourists in rustic accommodations. The Machiguenga speak their own language and taught our group a few words to practice. The guides told us they are involved in a government initiative to teach tribal people to support ecotourism.  Their huts featured electric commodities, which ran on battery power as well as a solar power. The technological innovations drastically contrasted against the rustic and wild scenery.

Otorongo Lake

Otorongo Lake

In the evening, we took a boat ride to Lake Otoronga, another oxbow lake formed from the Manu river. While walking in the forest, it is interesting to happen upon open areas where trees have fallen. An opening the canopy allows the precious resource of sunshine to filter to the ground. These areas are quickly occupied by bamboo, grasses, and ferns. Other opportunistic plants grow low to the ground, waiting for solar exposure, when they can grow taller.

Wading through black water

Wading through black water

Along the river, at points where the path meanders, the forest often shows primary succession on one side with secondary succession on the other. As the river twists another way, the patters switch sides. On this late afternoon hike, we saw a monkey ladder vine, more Brown Capuchin monkeys (five on one branch), squirrel monkeys, Caracacia trees, strangler figs, and a huge Kapok tree. We have been lucky so far to see so many amazing plants and animals, though we are still hoping for a jaguar or a snake.

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