Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Creepy Crawlies in the Jungle

For the squeamish readers, you may want to stop now. This post is about things that might make your skin crawl, like a big, hairy spider the size of a lumberjack’s hand. Personally, I loved playing hide-and-seek with the jungle insects in the Tambopata Reserve:

Hide-and-Seek with a Rainforest Insect

This guy was really beautiful, especially up close. The short focal distance of the 18-200mm VR lens definitely helped get magnified, sharp shots.

Up Close and Personal with a Rainforest Insect

I caught this stick insect in the middle of a meal, as he was munching on a leaf:

Stick Insect having a Leaf for Dinner

Another stick insect we saw was just hiding in plain sight. If I weren’t an intelligent species I really would have mistaken him for a twig:

Stick Insect Hiding in Plain Sight

Last, but not least – in fact, the largest of the night’s finds – this huge spider, which was (no exaggeration) bigger than my hand:

Giant Rainforest Spider

In case that isn’t enough to give you nightmares, here’s a close-up of the body. Mu-hahaha!

Close-up of a Giant Spider's Body

Sweet dreams! Surprisingly, I slept quite well that night at Explorer’s Inn, even knowing that I might wake up to a tarantula in my shower.

Posted 10 years, 9 months ago at 3:19 pm.

5 comments

Otters, Monkeys, and Spiders

My full day in the Amazon rainforest at Explorer’s Inn started early, with a 5am wakeup (May 15th) just as the howler monkeys started their calls. We wanted to be on the trail by 6am to spot jungle animals on our way to Cocococha, an oxbow lake formed by a cut-off bend of a river in the Tambopata reserve.

Our guide’s strategy worked! Along the way we met a group of Saddleback Tamarin Monkeys (also known as the kissing monkey, because of the noise they make). They were quite curious and posed for us until we headed on our way. Can you see the bug in this picture?

Saddleback Tamarin Monkeys

Apparently in this species the fathers take care of the babies, who often ride on their backs.

Saddleback Tamarin Monkeys - Dad and Baby

Along the trail we spotted a lot more fauna than this, but I just can’t show everything now. There is too much for one post. At Cocococha Lake, we took to the canoes and saw a family of Giant River Otters. One of them caught a tasty meal:

Giant River Otter dining on a meal of fish

Then, we were lucky enough to see a very rare sight: another kind of otter that is almost never spotted in this area. Our guide identified it from my photo as a Neo-Tropical Otter:

DSC_0920

Can I just say that I love my Nikon D90 and 18-200mm VR lens? Okay, an expensive 70-200 f/2.8 would be better for nature photography, but just look at this guy. Beautiful.

Here’s another interesting denizen of the jungle, the Hoatzin. It’s known locally as the “Stinky Bird,” though we weren’t quite close enough to smell it:

Hoatzin, the stinky bird

I’ve got dozens more great pictures of frogs, ants, lizards, and plants. But here’s one more for today: the Pink-Toed Tarantula. What would you do if this were waiting in your shower in the afternoon? That’s exactly what happened to one of our group!

Pink-Toed Tarantula in the shower

I’ll stop here for now, though I might do another post about this day, just to throw in a few of the amazing insects and spiders we saw on our night walk. Thanks again to Noemi for her excellent guiding and fauna spotting!

Posted 10 years, 9 months ago at 4:17 pm.

6 comments

Into the Jungle

On May 14th, I departed by plane from Cusco, Peru to the town of Puerto Maldonado – starting point for Amazon jungle expeditions! Arrive to Puerto Maldonado via Cusco (conveniently, Cusco is the starting point for visiting Machu Picchu, Peru’s main attraction).

I was lucky in this stage of my travels. On the plane I met a nice Dutch woman, and we talked about our jungle plans. My answer: “Uhm, I have no plans. Just a list of good jungle lodges from a guidebook.” Fortunately, she already had plans with the first (and now in my opinion foremost) of the jungle lodges: Explorer’s Inn.

It is because of research done at Explorer’s Inn (see the research website at Fauna Forever) that the Tambopata National Reserve near Puerto Maldonado was created. Even now, it is the only jungle lodge in the reserve. I decided to go for it.

Covered and uncovered taxis in Puerto Maldonado

At the airport I asked the tour guide if they had space; he smiled and said “Let’s go to the office.” A short bus ride later, I met lead researcher Chris from Fauna Forever and signed up for a two night stay. We headed off through the backwater town of Puerto Maldonado toward our boat. After 1h on the bus and 1h on the boat, we would arrive at our destination.

Water Taxi taking bananas to market

Here’s where it becomes difficult. Which couple of shots do I show out of (ahem) two gigabytes of amazing photos – all wild animals spotted in their natural rainforest habitat?

I’m just going to show a few of the best photos from each day, for now. Later on (perhaps after the trip) I’ll revisit this topic and put up galleries of each kind of animal: mammals, butterflies, insects, birds, and so forth.

Here’s a spectacled caiman from our night trip up the river:

Spectacled Caiman at Explorers' Inn

And here are two choice shots of the night sky. These were both taken with my Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR lens, and 2s timer (to let the camera stabilize after my finger pressed the shutter). First one is the Milky Way! ISO 6400, f/3.5, 30s:

Milky Way over Explorers' Inn in Puerto Maldonado

Hard to believe we are just short-lived individuals of the dominant species on a single planet orbiting a mid-sized star, just like thousands of other stars in the one arm of our galaxy that you see here.

Anyway, here’s my lucky shot of the night. I was shining my headlamp on the palm to make a pretty scene when a shooting star graced my D90’s sensor with its photons (see upper right corner):

Sky over Explorers' Inn with shooting star

I feel like a big geek after those last two paragraphs, so I’m going to stop here. That’s what I did that evening, as well. I had to get some sleep, because we had an early wake-up for the morning’s jungle trek. Like Machu Picchu, I didn’t need an alarm clock. But instead of the Incas’ Revenge, I had a nice jungle native as my alarm clock at Explorer’s Inn…

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Posted 10 years, 9 months ago at 4:48 pm.

4 comments

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