Giant otters, piranhas, tree frogs and tarantulas

Puerto Maldonado Travel Blog

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Macaw chewing on door frame

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).

Crazy vine
  The hike was pretty non-adventurous that early in the morning.  We were barely awake and the jungle was still dark from the heavy canopy.  There was also no bushwacking since we were on an established hiking trail.

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.

climbing over fallen tree
  The piranhas caught on that we were only tossing crackers and not meat so they weren't as aggressive.  After snack time we jumped in a double canoe and paddled out to see the giant otters.  We saw maybe six of them and they were not 5 feet tall.  Maybe 3 feet.  They were swimming and catching fish and we watched one climb up on a log to munch the fish - we could hear the bones crunching fifty feet away.  

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.

anaconda or armadillo burrow...
  They stunk to high heaven.  (They are also known as stink birds).  We got pretty close and they didn't like it so they backed away from us.  We took the hint and kept going.  We saw lots of other birds fly overhead, including some parrots.  They are so noisy.  Amanda made a funny comment about them being drama queen birds.  Ha ha!  I paddled in the front (with Sara helping as the wind blew us the wrong way) and Alan paddled in the back.  We reached the end and turned back.  We had paddled upwind so we mostly just let the wind blow us back and chatted.  Near the blind was a huge rooted tree that we played around and a large vine that we tried climbing.  It was maybe 5 inches diameter and slippery as a pickle so none of us could really climb it.
walking to the blind
  Alan kicked off his boots and shimmied right up there. 

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.

looking for giant otters
  They pretty much took off when they saw us though.  We watched the monkeys for awhile and went back.   I just added a video of some curious little monkeys we met on our hike.

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.

piranha sighting
  Alan showed us how to pour out the contents over the rice.  It was really delicious and fun, too!

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.

canoeing on Cocococha Lake
  There were these really neat glow bugs they call lightning bugs.  They have two little glowing "eyes" on their backs.  And then there were these gigantic things that buzzed and ran into us because they were attracted to our lights.  We had to keep turning the lights off to get rid of them and then we'd trip on roots and stuff.  We saw some giant cicadas and spiders and other bugs.  Oddly there weren't many mosquitoes out.   I did get bit by an ant and then I discovered lots of bites around my ankles.  Looks like I picked up chiggers somewhere.  Ick.

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.

Sara paddling
  One was up on the inside roof of the little hut we sit and drink beer in.  Oh well.  After all that hard work we decided to treat ourselves to some beer.  Mmmm, Cusquena... Nothing like a nice 600 ml cold beer before dinner with a tarantula overhead. 

sunbug006 says:
OK, I have to know.. how bad were those tarantulas?? I am a total arachnophobic. Is the Amazon Rainforest worth the panic attacks I will have if I see one?? lol
Posted on: Nov 03, 2009
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Macaw chewing on door frame
Macaw chewing on door frame
Crazy vine
Crazy vine
climbing over fallen tree
climbing over fallen tree
anaconda or armadillo burrow...
anaconda or armadillo burrow...
walking to the blind
walking to the blind
looking for giant otters
looking for giant otters
piranha sighting
piranha sighting
canoeing on Cocococha Lake
canoeing on Cocococha Lake
Sara paddling
Sara paddling
two giant otters!
two giant otters!
giant otter eating a fish
giant otter eating a fish
me in some big tree roots
me in some big tree roots
Alan climbing a vine
Alan climbing a vine
Walking palm roots
Walking palm roots
monkey
monkey
another monkey
another monkey
hoatzin birds
hoatzin birds
Sara by big tree roots
Sara by big tree roots
hiking in the jungle
hiking in the jungle
pretty little white flower
pretty little white flower
cool berries and such
cool berries and such
some pretty pink flowers
some pretty pink flowers
Steph checking out Cicada nest
Steph checking out Cicada nest
growing a new root
growing a new root
resident macaws
resident macaws
lunch in bamboo stalks?
lunch in bamboo stalks?
how do we eat this?
how do we eat this?
pouring out lunch
pouring out lunch
bird watching in the swamp
bird watching in the swamp
water storage
water storage
tree frog
tree frog
pink slipper tarantula!
pink slipper tarantula!
leaf cutter ant mound
leaf cutter ant mound
tarantula!
tarantula!
tree frog hiding
tree frog hiding
canoeing on a lake while a giant …
not as agressive once it realized…
monkeys in trees on our jungle walk
Puerto Maldonado
photo by: halilee