Ecuador, South America
Jatuncocha, Parque Nacional Yasuní
I woke the next morning to the sounds of parrots and parakeets above. Tor and I got up and did a little birding next to the lagoon. Across the lagoon, we could see the nighthawks going into roost as a pair of Spix’s Guans called loudly from the treetops. Chestnut-bellied Macaws, Mealy Amazons, and many other parrots flew over the lagoon always calling loudly as they flew.
Once everyone was packed up in the morning, we headed back down the river. Along the way we stopped to watch a group of Red Howler Monkeys move through the trees. We continued down the small river back to the Rio Napo, where we stopped at Pañacocha again and had a delicious Ecuadorian meal. Recharged we loaded on to the boat to continue our journey down the Rio Napo to Nuevo Rocafuerte a small town that César and Selulo lived in.
It took about 4 hours to reach Rocafuerte from Pañacocha, so we did our best to lounge in the canoe and I did my best to do a little birding along the way.
Once at Rocafuerte, we were able to unload supplies for the town and gain more room for us to move around on the boat. We went to César’s house. César had a very comfortable house with quite a menagerie of pets, including two young tinamous (which were orphaned and he was raising to eventually release) and a turtle.
After getting a few last supplies for our trip, we got back on the boat and motored up the Rio Yasuní, which was literally a couple of minutes away from Rocafuerte. As we entered the river, we all sat in the front of the boat to get a better view of the rainforest.
Motoring up the river, Paola spotted Gray Dolphins taking advantage of the boats engine/wake, which would stun fish. We tried spotting the dolphins, when one finally jumped high enough across the water that we could get a good view of its entire body. I was pretty buzzed about seeing the dolphins but we had to continue to Jatuncocha the lagoon where we were going to spend the next couple of nights. At dusk, we entered the lagoon I think we were all awestruck by the beauty; poetic words couldn’t do it justice.
We set up our camp at a site frequented by fisherman. As night fell, we cooked dinner had a fabulous dinner of freshly caught fried fish, rice, beans, and salad. As we sat around the campsite, I noticed eye shine in the trees and with the help of my headlamp and my binoculars was able to see an Olingo peering down at us.
That night we went Caimen watching looking for bright red eye shine in the water. Paola does an excellent imitation of a baby caiman calling for its mother. We saw many small caimen and a few Pauraques, but then César got distracted by the “Sleeper fish” and started hitting them with the machete.
I woke the next morning again to enjoy the raucous callings of parrots and macaws that would pass overhead. We packed up and headed back to the Rio Yasuní to hike on a trail that led to a clay lick. Along the way we stopped to collect a net the brothers set up the night before. There was quite a catch tonight there would be good eating. As Paola emptied the net, César cleaned and salted the fish. We stopped by some fisherman on the lagoon to see what fish they had caught that morning. They had a couple of arijuanas in their net impressively large and with beautiful rainbow-tipped scales.
As we headed up the Rio Yasuní to a trailhead, we watched the Amazon River Turtles basking in the sun on logs over the river. They would drop into the water when our boat approached. Several Swallow-tailed Kites soared above the trees. I spotted a Capybara on the riverbank. We turned the boat around and got excellent views of the fat little (in terms of capybaras) guy rolling around in the mud before it walked off. Shortly after, we arrived at the trailhead and took a short hike through the rainforest. Though the hike was short, we took our time exploring the bugs, frogs, and flora surrounding us.
When we arrived at the clay lick, we found it empty, but there were plenty of signs that it is a busy place there were many tapir and peccari tracks in the mud; there was even some tapir poop. We stopped for a snack and just as we were packing up to hike back out, Tor spotted a snake in a small tree. It turned out to be a Green Parrot Snake.
As we started hiking back, César mentioned that we were only half of a days hike from the Huaorani tribe - a tribe known to kill outsiders. A concerning fact that we pondered as we headed back to the canoe. Back at the canoe, Selulo said that he saw a group of peccaries come to the river edge, while we were out hiking to see some wildlife at the clay lick.
We headed back to camp and stopped in the river to jump in and cool off. It was a wonderful sensation floating in the Amazon rainforest, blue skies above, clay waters below. A pair of Blue-and-Yellow Macaws flew over adding to the enchanting experience.