Rainforest Adventures: Fin and Scale

One of our special outings in the rainforest was a trip to wade through a Henna tree swamp in search of the elusive Anaconda. Armed with our tall rubber boots, cameras, and hats, we landed the canoe on a muddy clay beach and our guide ran ahead to see if the Anaconda was at home. Our group of 5 strolled slowly, taking in the forest, alert for animal sightings. Several of us were hunkered down talking in hushed voices while observing big Leaf Cutter Ants making mince out of a tree when suddenly another guide came ripping down the trail shouting at his group to hurry up as the Anaconda was waiting. “Hurry! Run!”, he shouted as he whizzed past us.   We shouted to him as he passed, referring  to our current ant observations.  ” Who cares about ants? You can see ants any day! The anaconda is there!”,  he yodeled as he and his group, a flurry of bootless and scantily clad youth, ran heedlessly to the swamp, cameras dangling alarmingly from their necks.

Leaf Cutter Ants marching down their pheromone highway. See them? They are carrying bright green little pieces of leaf.

We emerged at a middle-aged pace from the forest onto the edge of the swamp and  found  20 or so raucous young adults wading through the muddy water with no boots, not even any shoes. That’s right: they were walking barefooted or sandaled through the watery muck. They  grabbed branches willy nilly as they climbed through, giving no thought to what they grabbed. Seriously, haven’t they ever heard of instant death-by-things-underwater; invisible-until-they-grab-you? Didn’t they know there are bugs that can kill you in the rainforest?  Have they never heard of leeches, even? Did they think there was only ONE big snake in that swamp? Have they not grown up watching Animal Planet? Apparently not. Goaded on by their guide, they swung like simians through the trees, leaping from water to branch and then landing with splashes all around within fang’s reach of the giant reptile. Grateful that they had now scared any other living being completely away from our area, I followed more sedately.

Can you find the Anaconda? Another group of people  is approaching the snake from the opposite side of the swamp.

See the snake?

I was having a ‘Get off my lawn, youngster!’ moment as I lamented that we were there to view wildlife, not party, and that surely said life would be more willing to show themselves if we observed the time honored tradition of being a little less wild ourselves in the forest as we communed with nature. Wrong. The anaconda turned out to be less elusive and shy than reputed and the two guides were standing by the beast, who was stretched out in the water in the middle of the Henna trees doing its best imitation of a tree branch. Fortune must protect the young and the ignorant because although many of these people put their cameras actually right up into its face,  the 10 foot snake didn’t bat an eye or even try to eat them. Stupid snake. It could have had the biggest meal of its life, but no. Yours truly climbed onto a limb slightly above the creature to photograph its head, making sure there was always someone younger and more nubile and tender between my humble self and the reptile. Had the snake been hungry, it could afford to be choosey. 

I suspected foul play against the monster. Had it been drugged? Clubbed and stunned?  Seems like any smart animal would have made itself scarce by this time. It was as still as death, but our guide said it was just scared and using its cryptic coloration, the snake equivalent of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, to stay ‘hidden’ (Which it was not. Hidden, that is. We could totally see it.). It did, at first, look like a branch lying in the water. It was so very still that Mike watched  for awhile after people began to disperse, until the snake finally moved and he could tell it lived. I kind of wanted to touch it so I could say I had touched a real anaconda in the wild, but I thought of my mother and gave that idea up.

It was a reptile day as that evening we took the canoe out for a little Caiman Lizard spotting. When I was a small girl I was enchanted with reptiles. That was back in the 1960’s when Caiman Lizards were sold as pets under the guise of ‘baby aligators’. The ’60’s were a dark time for animal rights activists, if there had been such a thing back then. The word ‘baby’ was lost on me in terms of the implication that such animals actually do not stay small. I wanted one. My dad said I could have one. I probably harassed him into promising me one if I would just give him a moment’s peace. Alas, it was a promise he didn’t keep. But I refuse to be bitter about that. Viewing an 8 foot Caiman Lizard from the false safety of our canoe, I realize it’s just as well he didn’t. I recall telling him I could keep the animal in the bathtub. Right. Some days I feel sorry for my parents.

Using a flashlight to reflect off his glowing eyes. This lizard was maybe 6 feet long? 5 feet? 8? Who really knows. It was plenty large.

Here are a couple more reptiles we saw. I’m going to say the baby Parrot Snake we got to play with was a highlight of the trip. So delicate and sweet. I carried him around for awhile, just letting him cling on to my wrist with his tiny tail. He was such a pretty wee thing.

Amazon Thorny Tailed Iguana

Black skinned parrot snake. He was like living jewelry. So delicate and lovely.

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I forgot to add the ‘fin’ part of this post. These are the Pink River Dolphins. We shared the river with them for awhile.