Rainforest Adventures: Night Creatures

‘Tonight we walk in the rainforest with flashlights. We will look for insects, reptiles, and amphibians. We will leave in 15 minutes’.  Our guide, Diego, was ready to rumble. We grabbed flashlights, rubber boots, and cameras and cautiously set out into the woods, not really knowing what to expect, but hoping to see something cool. The woods were wet with the day’s heavy rain. The night was black. Night creature noises were everywhere. We took some deep breaths and ventured forth.

A Katydid shaped like a leaf. Size is about 3 inches.

The photos tell the tale of this part of our rainforest adventure. Let’s just say we all went carefully, being mindful not to touch anything before looking.

A cute little frog. 

I cannot even remember what this thing is called. It was huge – 6-7 inches, which, to me, is big enough that it should just go ahead and be a mammal. He was pretty gross, to be clear.

A nice fat toad.

A tiny little tree frog; only about 2 inches long.

We think it’s a moth caterpillar of some kind. Note that the leaf he is on (which is half way eaten by him) is about 10 inches wide. Everything seems big in the rainforest.

Diego picked up this ‘scorpion spider‘, which is actually an insect. I didn’t get too close a look at it because ugh. I was lucky to still be on the forest walk by this time.

Killer “Banana spider”. Apparently this spider is responsible for several deaths per year in the banana fields. I don’t know the Latin name.

Large and interesting caterpillar.

A tarantula, tempted out of her burrow by a twitching stick. She grabbed it pretty fast. We found two of these, skulking in their burrows.

A lucky find, this small praying mantis only a couple of inches long.

A mantis molting. Another lucky find.

A nice little katydid, just a normal size.

The next evening’s activity was Caiman Lizard spotting. We took spotlights out on the lake to look for eyes reflecting in the water. We located a tree boa by shining the light up into the trees that grow in the water. The eyes glow, kind of like spotting raccoons. Then we spotted this guy. He was about 7 feet long. 

When the sun went down in the rainforest, I realized after the first night that I had actually forgotten about something I would have to deal with during this trip. I wrote about my phobia of a certain type of bug in this post on anxiety last year. What’s interesting to me is that I never even thought about these bugs the whole time I was planning this part of the trip. It never occurred to me that cockroaches (YIkes! I actually typed the word!) were ubiquitous in the rainforest. I’m not sure what to think about that. In fact, as knowledgeable as I am about anxiety and phobias, I am confused by this fact.  I literally did not think of it, even though for decades you would not have been able to get me near a place where i knew for sure I would be faced with them. As a rule, I am on alert for them pretty much constantly anywhere south of San Fransisco. That’s not an exaggeration.

I was absolutely fine with never one intrusion into my psyche until I went to our room the first night and there was a rather large ugly one on the curtain. I was absolutely floored. I’m glad to say that while I definitely reacted negatively to it, and Mike did have to dispatch the nasty thing, it didn’t make me want to go home and really made me more angry than anything else. However, after that, I saw them everywhere in the evening, as soon as the sun went down. There are many species. And they all appear to live in the rainforest. One night at dinner, a large one landed on Mike’s back and I almost climbed out of my own skin. I thought I was going to die of complete disgust. It still makes me shudder to think of it, and I will probably live with that image for a long time. But I made myself sit back down at the table and finish dinner. That was very hard, but it just made me furious that such a thing might interfere with my good fun.  I didn’t want to leave because as afraid as I was, I wanted so much to be there and so much to see all the other animals, and even insects, we were seeing. I wasn’t going to let this ruin my time.

Of course, we were many miles out in the middle of nowhere, at least a two hour boat ride from the nearest road. There wasn’t actually anyplace I could go. Phobias are real fun destroyers. Had I not had many tools for handling anxiety at my disposal, including challenging thought patterns, breathing exercises, and anti-anxiety medication, I could have had a pretty bad time in the evenings after that. Those bugs grow really big in the rainforest, and on the night walk I discovered, to my dismay, that they were really common, sitting on lots of leaves. There was one as big as a hamster guarding our bedroom door one evening. Let me tell you this: I’ve made real progress if I can sleep through the night after that.

You’ll note there are no photos of the cockroaches. There. I typed the word again. Cockroaches. Cockroaches. You won’t make me miss out on my life, you disgusting creatures from hell. I wish I could learn to love you. I’m pretty far from that, but at least I’m learning you won’t make me die. Deep, deep breath. Deep, long, slow breath. Stop wringing your hands. Deep, stillness breath.