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Field Notes Close to home or in a far away jungle, there is always something marvelous to see.

Muyuna Lodge

PERU | Thursday, 20 May 2010 | Views [1174]

Canoeing through the flooded forest, Muyuna Lodge

Canoeing through the flooded forest, Muyuna Lodge

I wonder exactly when the jungle became the rainforest.  George of the Rainforest just doesn’t sound right.  Nor does “It’s a rainforest out there.”  But it’s not so bad to stay in a "rainforest" lodge and that’s why we, and so many others, go to Iquitos.   Our decision to fly to Iquitos from Pucallpa was actually a no-brainer.  When we compared the $95 airfare to a five-day river voyage with bad food, heat and mosquitoes it was no contest.

Once in Iquitos you have many options; cruise or lodge, upriver or down, luxury or budget, 3 days to a full week.  And if you can’t make up your mind there are countless guides, would be guides and street touts waiting to help you.  We selected Muyuna Lodge, 140 km upriver from Iquitos on the Yanayacu River.  It was far enough from Iquitos that there was still primary forest and we could customize our activities to focus on birding.  The cost for 5 days with a dedicated bird guide was more than we wanted to pay but in retrospect it was worth every penny.  We boarded the speedboat around 9:30 and were at the lodge in time for lunch.  The first thing we learned was that the food would be good, plentiful and varied.  Second was that our room was quite comfortable.  Most important, we had our own boat and guide. Moises really knows the birds of the Amazon and by evening we had seen 20 new species.

Wednesday morning we were out before six for some early birding by boat.  After breakfast we went out again until lunch.  One to three is siesta time for the birds and guests alike and the hammocks got a workout.  Then we went out again until dark around five.   There is much more than birds to see.  Both gray and pink Amazon River dolphins are common in the river, giant lily pads in the  lakes and there are 11 species of monkeys.  And sloths, the 3-toed kind.  Other guests visited local villages, fished for piranhas and  learned about medicinal plants.

It required different tactics to see our target bird, the wattled-curassow.  We left at 5:30 in the foggy pre-dawn towing a canoe.  We picked up Rene and his dugout canoe at the next village.  He and Moises teamed up to draw attention to the plight of the nearly extinct wattled-curassow and convinced the villagers not to kill and eat them.  Rene usually works with Carla, a Peruvian ornithologist, who is in town on a resupply mission so he was free to guide us.  In the dry season our route would have been a hiking trail but we needed canoes in today’s high water to weave among the trees.  Moises and Rene paddled from the bows, alternating between using ace-of-spades shaped paddles and razor sharp machetes.  Our dugout was smaller and squeeze through places where Connie and Moises got stuck.

It was too dark to take many photos in the forest and the canoe wasn’t very stable so we just sat back and enjoyed the forest for the three hours it took to reach ‘terra firma’ where the birds live.  When Rene finally heard them we changed boats for boots and stalked them Indian style.  We spooked a couple from their perches high in the trees before Moises spotted a female sitting on a branch staring back at us.  Connie did a great job of enhancing my photos shot at maximum aperture and ISO 1250.  It was a long and sweaty morning but worth the effort.  Back at the lodge everyone – guests, guides, and kitchen staff – stopped by to look at our photos as Connie took advantage of the electricity to download and edit them.  The highlight was the wattled-curassow, which many had never seen before.








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