The Aqua has three naturalist guides on staff and each day the passengers are broken up into smaller groups and set out for an adventure with one of the guides. This morning our little group of 8 went for a jungle walk with Julio. We board skiffs and head upriver. On the way, we pick up a local guide named Cletus who doesn't speak English but has a very kind smile. We pulled the boat over and walked up a little hill to head into the jungle. At the top of the hill, Julio asks for a volunteer so of course I immediately say 'me!' BAD IDEA. Little tip from me to you: if you're ever in the jungle and your guide says he needs a volunteer, do NOT step to the front. Julio proceeds to scratch a giant termite nest so that the little crawly things start swarming out. Then he places my hand flat on the nest so that they start swarming on my hand and up my arm and down my back. He says I must leave my hand there for 1 full minute. Let me tell you, there are a lot of termites in those nests and they move fast. But after a very long minute, followed by another couple of minutes so everyone could take pictures, Julio starts crushing the little buggers on my hand and tells us they release a chemical that acts as a natural insect repellent. Ugh. I have to confess, I could have happily lived my life not knowing that little fact. Of course the group is enjoying it a little too much and I get caught up in the laughter. What are a few creepy-crawlies among friends!
On our jungle walk we see an incredible amount of things. Cletus is amazing! This guy can find anything. We see a massively huge spider called a Goliath, several different poison dart frogs (incredible colors!), a little whip snake that I actually hold, several lizards, an armored millipede, some interesting medicinal plants, giant ants, birds, other spiders, and so much more. But the big news of the morning is the fer de lance snake we saw! A fer de lance is a viper and one of the top five most poisonous snakes in the world. Thankfully this one was a baby, was coiled up on a log in a deep sleep, and our guides wouldn't let us get within five feet of him. Thank goodness for the zoom on the camera. Very cool moment.
We also come across a gigantic strangler fig tree with huge buttress roots extending 10 and 20 feet in all directions. The perfect spot for a group photo! A few of us try out our luck swinging from a vine but I don't see any of use playing Tarzan on the big screen any time soon.
After a quick trip back to the Aqua for lunch, we headed back out to the Fucata River for a little piranha fishing. On the way we saw our first pink dolphin! And then another, and another, and another! Pictures don't do them justice. While some are a kind of pinkish-gray, others are Pepto-pink. What a treat to watch them swimming all around you.
So here's the thing about piranha fishing--you have to beat the water with your cane pole rather vigorously. A few wimpy taps just won't do. We're all beating the water furiously but nothing is happening. Finally I catch one. Victor, our guide this afternoon, is relieved. You can tell that he did not want a boat full of unhappy fisherpeople. Frankly, I wasn't that excited. The thing was tiny. Then I caught another one and Victor really got excited, saying 'this is the most ferocious piranha we have on this part of the Amazon!!' I swear, if that fish was more than 5 inches long, I'll eat my dad's lucky fishing hat. But once Victor opened the fish's mouth and showed us his teeth, I showed a little more respect to this 'most ferocious' fish. After that, the fish started coming around and everyone caught at least one. As we were fishing, a local guy walked down to the bank with a baby red-tailed boa constrictor. I still can't believe how much wildlife we're seeing so close.
After fishing, the three little boats all meet and tie up together to watch the sunset. And then the guides surprise us by breaking out lovely glass champagne flutes and making mimosas for everyone. How many people can say they got to watch a glorious sunset on the Amazon while drinking champagne! This was definitely one of those 'I love my life!' moments for everyone!
The perfect end to the perfect day--on the way back in the dark, with a brilliant full moon shining, we saw a shooting star.