May 15, 2000
The volunteers, crew, Enzo and I are on the boat in the reserve. We
have had a few days of training to learn about the dolphins and to teach
the volunteers about the research and the equipment. Now we are counting
May 15th was the day the water reached its highest point in the Peruvian
Amazon around the Pacaya Samiria Reserve. Little by little we can see
it slowly falling again. It will reach its lowest point in July or August.
There is still a lot of water though and many of the houses are partially
underwater. People here live in houses high up on stilts, but even then
the water may rise high enough to flood the houses. Most of the kids
and the animals are in the houses and it must be hard to sit inside
all day with so many people and no where to go. It reminds me of when
I was a little girl and lived in South Dakota. We would get blizzards
in the winter and sometimes we would get snowed in for days. We called
it cabin fever when we felt tired of being in the house all of the time.
We are not seeing many dolphins right now. I think it is because the
water is so high and there is so much more water around to look at.
Also, the water is up in the rainforest now so the botos can moved up
there as well although it is very difficult to see them back under the
We had some problems with the boat engine and were afraid that we would
have to spend a few days waiting until a mechanic came from Iquitos,
but luckily Antonio, the mechanic and first mate on the boat, were able
to determine what the problem was and fix it. Out here on the river
it is important to know how to do many things for yourself. I am hoping
that the crew will teach me a lot about boats and how to fix them this
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May 20, 2000
We are in the Reserve now. It is beautiful and it looks so different
from just a month ago when I was last here. The water is really high
and it is impossible to tell where the water ends and the land begins.
We couldn't find any dry land to hike on so we took our usual jungle
walk from inside of dugout canoes this time.
We are seeing lots on insects on this trip, especially on the boat,
on us and our clothes. Most of the spiders and beetles and ants live
on the forest floor when the water is lower, but now that it is high,
they are up on the leaves of the trees and vines. They are looking for
dry land and climb happily aboard when they see our boat! The volunteers
and crew are not so happy about this and we always have to make sure
to check our beds and clothes for spiders and ants. One lady even found
a spider weaving a web on the corner of her glasses- -while she was
still wearing them!
One morning we went on a bird-watching trip in the little boat before
beginning the day's work of counting dolphins. The dolphins found us
anyway though and some botos swam around and around the boat. Some swam
under the boat and blew bubbles that made strange sounds when they popped
on the bottom of the metal boat. We have also seen spider monkeys and
howler monkeys. The howler monkeys have been very loud and it always
startles people when they first hear them and don't know what they are.
They make a rumbling noise and some people think it sounds like a big
wind storm is on its way. The howler monkeys use this noise to tell
the world where their territory is located.
May 24, 2000
We are still in the reserve but have turned around and are headed down
river to Iquitos. We will count dolphins as we go. The boat is moving
very slowly since the motor has come lose from the bottom of the boat
and our extra hardware supplies have some how disappeared. We will have
to try to buy some new nails in the first village we come to.
We are in luck! The rangers have some spare parts at the ranger station
that they lend us and Antonio fixes the boat. Once again we are on our
way! This was a good trip and we were able to collect a lot of data
and learn a lot about the rainforest. Below are some diary entries from
one of my volunteer, Anna-Lena. Anna-Lena is from Great Britain. She
wanted to share some of her experiences with you.
May 24, 2000
We've been on the boat for about a week and a half and yesterday was
my favorite day so far. It began rather ominously, as we'd hoped for
a peaceful night at Ranger Station two, deep in the Reserve, but around
12 AM our peace was disturbed by the arrival of another boat which kept
a generator going all night long. After dragging ourselves out of our
mosquito net cocoons and eating breakfast, we four volunteers had a
jungle walk planned. Turned out that the water was so high that it would
have to be a trip by dugout instead! We had to wade through mud and
water to get to the trail and then Quarto, the park ranger paddled us
We saw the jungle close up, in fact sometimes a bit too close where
the spiders and ants were concerned! We saw the large buttresses of
trees that I'd seen in pictures of the jungle and plenty of epiphytes,
palms and vines that we had to keep ducking to avoid. We also caught
a brief sight of some monkeys running and jumping around one of the
trees. We had a quick clean up then set off up river to the Atun Cocha
lake where we were due to carry out a couple of dolphin transects. On
our way Jonas, our captain spotted not one but two sloths! They were
much larger than I'd expected and strangely resembled a large ET. One
was hanging by all four limbs under the branch of a cecropia tree and
the other appeared to be hugging its tree and turned its head ever so
slowly as we watched. Amazing!
We continued on to the lake only to find that our way was blocked by
dense vegetation. It was decided to try to find an alternative way through
using the small motor boat and fortunately we made it! It was good fun
doing a transect in a different way and it was easy to cool off by dipping
hats and hands in the water. We saw both botos and tucuxis and as usual
the botos came close enough to the boat to get us excited. We took our
cameras out and then they reappeared in a completely different spot.
More shots of water!
We started our return back down the channel taking environmental measurements
as we went but were interrupted by a loud racket that Tamara said was
a group of howler monkeys close by. We made a diversion down another
channel and managed to find them. They stopped their howling as we approached
but we saw a few as they climbed or jumped to get out of sight. We even
heard a couple of loud splashes which sounded like they were jumping
into the water! After the monkeys had disappeared we headed back to
the Miron and Ranger Station two and got a chance for a long desired
cool swim and a go at paddling the dugout. It was certainly quite tippy
when you sat on the seat. The bottom of the dugout was a much more stable
position. I had always wanted to try canoeing in the rain forest. It
was excellente! A couple of cool drinks were a fitting end to my perfect
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