Written by: R. Reeder
There are often high expectations when traveling to the Amazon to see the amazing and exotic creatures that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. People hope to spot jaguars, giant otters, caiman, and the myriad of other species that call the Amazon home. The reality is that you would be extremely lucky to see one of these beautiful creatures. The inhabitants of the rainforest survive not by standing out, but by blending in. But wait, you might be thinking, you follow monkeys in the middle of the jungle every day from dawn until dusk, you must see all sorts of awesome animals! One of our co-workers here at Tiputini has worked here for a year now, and has yet to see a giant anteater or wild dog, let alone any sort of cat. Some people are luckier than others, but the general impression gathered from all of our experiences here is that the forest is generally a pretty quiet place, if you don’t include the ever-present racket of the monkeys. Well, I was lucky enough to see one of these amazing animals the other day, and the encounter definitely made me reconsider the rather comforting belief that I am more or less alone in the forest.
It was my second day following Group P, and they were one hundred meters north of the Lago trail. They had slept around a fruit tree they had spent a considerable amount of time foraging in the day before. I had reached them by 6:00 am, and they foraged in that tree for a little while before heading north towards another trail, Guacamayo. They were taking a familiar route through the forest, a route which requires me to use logs to cross several fairly wide streams. It was as I was walking down a bank to step onto one such log that I saw, less than a meter away from me, an anaconda. She was submerged in the stream, resting. I froze, and then steadily moved back up the bank as she moved her head towards me. I then realized her strategy: wait patiently for some unsuspecting meal to cross the stream, then attack. I felt reasonably safe from my perch on the bank, safe enough to stay and admire her while I took a video. She was about five meters long, her body zig-zagging down the middle of the stream. She was absolutely gorgeous. My heart was racing. I have never seen a snake of that size in the wild; it seemed only real in movies, yet there she was. After the initial shock of it all, and after taking a video of course, I realized I had to cross the stream soon because my monkeys were leaving me. As she was blocking my original path, I had to skirt around the bank to another log a couple of meters below her, all the while keeping my eye on her in case she was feeling bold. Safely across the other side of the bank, adrenaline pumping, I ran to catch up with my monkeys. Usually, the forest is quiet. But every so often you get lucky, and get to come back from the Amazon with a great story.