Cruising the Amazon aboard a beautiful, 19th century styled, river boat is a fantastic experience. The passengers aboard La Turmalina, the ship that was my home while I explored the river, spent a lot of time up on deck, watching the world around us drift by. But there was a lot more to our journey than just sitting on deck drinking Pisco Sours and admiring the scenery.
La Turmalina was outfitted with two twenty-foot skiffs, each powered with twin outboard motors. These powerful little flat bottomed boats became our shuttles to the backwaters of the Amazon, and we would make two or three daily excursions out into those remote regions to look for wildlife, visit local villages, and take in the beautiful scenery. The skiffs were maneuverable, making it easy to negotiate the sometimes narrow channels, that were often choked with vegetation, and yet they were still large enough to carry a dozen passengers, along with their gear, quite comfortably.
Riding in the skiffs allowed us to glide through the water and get very close to the wildlife that is so abundant in the Amazon. At various times we drifted silently under trees while over head monkeys played and sloths dozed. But the creatures that were in greatest numbers were clearly the birds, which came in hundreds of species and numbered in the tens of thousands.
%Gallery-63881%I’m personally not much of a “birder”, as bird watching enthusiasts are sometimes called, but even I couldn’t help but be impressed with the bird life that was on display in the Amazon. There were flocks of bright green parakeets zipping across the sky and white egrets spread their broad wings and took flight when ever we ventured too close. Under the dense canopy of the jungle, humming birds flitted about, no bigger than insects, while colorful toucans gave off their distinctive croaks.
All told, there are more than 600 species of birds in the Peruvian Amazon, ranging from the mundane like ducks and swallows to the more colorful and exotic like macaws and cuckoos. There are birds of prey, such as hawks and ospreys, as well as scavengers, like the vulture, which seems to make its home in all corners of the globe.
The Amazon is indeed a paradise for bird watchers, and some of my fellow passengers were very passionate about the pursuit. They would get very excited when we would spot yellow-tufted woodpeckers or masked crimson tanagers, and they were quick to grab their binoculars at the slightest movement at the top of the trees. One of the couples that I traveled with had circled the globe, spotting unique and interesting birds where ever they went. Near the end of our time in the Amazon, they proudly proclaimed that they had spotted 61 new bird species since coming to the rainforest. We added several more to the list that morning, raising their total even further.
For experienced birders, there are few places on Earth that can rival the Amazon for the pure number of birds that can be seen. Fully one third of the world’s avian species can be found in the jungles that surround the river, and there seems to always be a new one to see. It is safe to say that the bird watchers who traveled with me were quite content with what they saw, and were glad the made the journey just for the birds alone.
Next: Piranha Fishing!
Read more Adventures in the Amazon posts HERE.