Today started off with a skiff ride to search for pink dolphins. These are a freshwater variety and very hard to photograph, as they seemed to pop up all around and by the time you aim the camera, they are gone. Maybe it was best to just ‘look’. We spent 90 minutes floating around in search of them. Our guide is very enthusiastic and you get the feeling he is not quite genuine. But we find many just the same.
If our first breakfast is a taste of things to come, we are in for a very good dining experience for each meal during the cruise. The head chef is Italian who trains the staff of the ship. Each dish of each meal is different to anything anyone else in the group has ever experienced.
After breakfast, it is a walk through the Amazon jungle to discover the benefits of many plants that can be used to help mankind’s health and well-being. Our guide stops regularly to explain how the indigenous people use the bark and leaves of certain trees to heal sickness and help those with snake and insect bites. It is hot and humid and we all fall victim to releasing lots of sweat down the back, and front, of our shirts. Fortunately, Scenic has thought of everything and organised for us all to be issued with gum boots for the walk so we don’t take any foreign soil back home to Australia on our shoes.
After lunch and a couple of hours of quiet time, we were given a talk on the conservation attempts of guide staff in preserving the fish of the river. There 2,070 species of fish in the Amazon; 52% are saltwater fish and 48% are freshwater. The red bellied piranha is the most dangerous fish in the Amazon and is known as the ‘demon fish’; they attack anything. If you are not bleeding, it is ok to be near them, unless you are in a small lake that is drying up and doesn’t have anything in it for the piranha to feed on. We get to have a chance to catch these little beasts tomorrow.
We are in the protected area of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve which covers 2,870,000 hectares. Fish play a critical ecological role because they are seed disperses and assist in biological control. They also process organic matter. In the last 50 years, 20% of the Amazon has been destroyed. If a further 20% is destroyed, the rest of the planet will be affected in a major way. With lots of illegal logging and over fishing, things may just end up in a bigger mess than can be envisaged.
Communities along the Amazon are being educated to guard against the forces that can destroy the very region they live in. The naturalists on board the ship are involved in this and spend a good deal of time teaching the village people more beneficial ways to care for their land and ensure an even supply of fish from the river.
Following our talk, we boarded the skiffs and sped off up the river and entered a tributary where we came across a heap of birds enjoying the stillness of the late afternoon. Our guide seemed to be on the hunt for something. We kept heading towards river plants where our guide hoped to find an Anaconda. There was none around today. He almost forgot to point out to us many of the birds and their habits as his mind is definitely on something else. There are lots of cranes, bush vultures and every now and then, a kingfisher. We saw the trees moving and our guide pointed out just where the monkeys are in the tree. Fast and very hard to make out in the camouflage of the tree, we get glimpses of them.
The four skiffs came to the one location to have some refreshments and share our ‘finds’ in the bush. Twilight passed quickly and our guides got out the spotlights to view some nocturnal animals, perhaps. We were looking for pairs of red eyes just on the surface of the water. Our guide instructed our driver to go into the water weed. He crouched and then lay on the front deck as the boat drifted towards the bank. He handed the light to Lyn S and then we heard sudden movement as he clasped on to a black caiman alligator with his bare hands and brought it up into the skiff. I managed to film the whole catch using night vision in my video camera which in itself is rather special to me. Pictures were taken and the alligator was centre stage before being released back into the river. What a scary and exciting few minutes.
In the black night we made our way back to the main ship for a great evening meal and a good sleep after a magnificent day, courtesy of Scenic and the staff on the “Aria Amazon”. It would have been my Dad’s 94th birthday today – nice day to have.