Giant otters, piranhas, tree frogs and tarantulas
Puerto Maldonado Travel Blog› entry 4 of 26 › view all entries
What a day! It began at 4:30 am with a quick breakfast at 5 am and off on our 3 mile hike to the lake (one way). We were hiking to see giant otters - what this means I don't know. I'm picturing 5 foot tall otters. We hiked a trail from our lodge that passed some interesting features. We saw a gigantic leaf cutter ant hill - they were all inside sleeping, several burrows that were either from anacondas (gulp!) or armadillos (I hope), cicada nests and other cool plant life. It was really windy and rainy last night and several trees had toppled over the path and we were the first ones to explore the area since the storm. I guess it made the hike a little more adventurous. We walked with our pant legs tucked into our socks in case we came across fire ants (I later learned this didn't help me much).
We got out to Lake Cocococha, an old oxbow lake, and hiked down some steps carved out of the clay. Very cool. Even though it rained, the steps held their shape and weren't slippery. We walked out to a little blind built over the water to scout out the giant otters and have a snack of juice and crackers like we were in kindergarten. Alan tossed a couple cracker bits into the water so we could see the piranhas! They were very aggressive and splashed all over attacking those poor crackers. Definitely a good warning not to stick your fingers in! I took a video but it didn't come out that well.
I just added two videos - one showing the piranha eating a cracker and the other showing us paddling over near the giant otter that was eating a fish. Enjoy!
We paddled on past them to explore more of the lake and saw a bunch of cool birds with little gold crests on their heads - hoatzins.
The hike back wasn't much more exciting than the hike there. We saw several birds including a large, clumsy turkey. Alan was really good at spotting birds for us. I was always looking for snakes and tapirs. I thought it would be cool to see a tapir. We crossed several ravines by balancing on a wood plank. We saw some cicada nests which are about meter long verical burrows topped with a foot high clay mound that looks like a stalagmite. I generally looked down to avoid tripping on things since I can be a little clumsy (as we'll find out tomorrow!) Near the lodge we found some monkeys. One family of about 10 small monkeys played up in the trees around us, right on the trail! There was another smaller family of a larger species of monkey in the background.
We were again greeted by a glass of cocona juice and watched the resident macaws eat and beg. I shared my juice with Howie (I think) - the scarlet macaw. I used to share my drinks with my little Chico back home before he died. The macaw had a bigger beak than Chico so I had to tip the glass so the juice ran into his mouth. Chico just stuck his whole head in my glass to drink. Howie had been eating something that left little flakes in my juice. I didn't finish it.
For lunch we had some sort of turkey in a sweet and sour sauce - in a bamboo stalk! We were served a stalk of bamboo and none of us knew what to do with it.
After lunch we took a much shorter hike to the swamp to do some bird watching. None of us are big birders but we were bored. We didn't see much but we did see a toucan! Our night activitiy before dinner was a night hike in search of nocturnal wildlife. We took off with our headlamps and bumped down the trail. The first creature we saw was a little tree frog sitting on a leaf. Cool! And then we spotted a tarantula, well, actually Alan spotted it. It was a pink slippered tarantula, or something like that, because its toes were pink. We found another tree frog hiding out in a hollow tube, cute! But mostly all we saw were bugs.
We ended around the lodge but didn't see the nocturnal monkeys we were looking for. Alan showed us the 5 resident tarantulas. These guys made little web tunnel nests in trees and such and live there for 2-3 months, so once you find them they are likely to be nearby for awhile.