A bucket list item fulfilled

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of an animal lover. My “bucket list” is centered around seeing select animals in the their environments and pretty much that is the reason we found ourselves in the Amazon Rainforest for eight days. This is a dream come true for me.

As a child I dreamed about what the rainforest was like. I collected those Time Life animal species cards that came each month.  I can remember marveling at the number of different creatures from sloths to dolphins to monkeys to jaguars that lived in the jungle. It quickly became one of those places I just had to see for myself. When we decided on this trip and the possibility of the rainforest was actually on the table I couldn’t believe it.  I tried to keep my excitement in check.

Upon landing in Iquitos, the jungle city of a half million people, accessible only by boat, we were immediately struck by the stifling heat.  But this is a real Amazon town.  Motorcars (Half motor cycle/half rickshaw) rule the roads.  Many people here are raised in remote jungle villages and come to Iquitos looking for work.  We didn’t stay long as we boarded a boat to travel hours up river to the lodge where we are staying.

We spent four days at Tahuayo Lodge and 4 days at the Amazon Research Center even further up the river into the jungle.  Our experiences were everything I ever dreamed of. We saw a pygmy marmoset catch a gecko and feed it to its baby. We saw squirrel monkeys, woolly monkeys, moustache tamarins and owl monkeys. We fished for piranhas, dug huge grubs from trees and ate them, saw tarantulas, sloths and even fed electric eels. We spent a day with pink river dolphin and searched for anaconda. I never grew old of seeing the parrots fly overhead or watching the kingfishers and egrets fly in front of our boat.  It was an animal smorgasbord and I loved every second of it.

The rainforest is not a trip for everyone. Unlike zoos, the Galapagos Islands, or African safaris, you must work extremely hard for your animal “pay-off” in the rainforest. Despite being the most ecologically rich environment in the world the animals are incredibly adept at staying well hidden and it is a huge place. It may take hours to hike to the location of the poison dart frogs and another two hours to find only a few of them – but for animal lovers like me it is worth it.  The tree frogs are much smaller than I imagined and somehow seeing them in their rainforest home is much more amazing than seeing them in someone’s terrarium back home.

I’m not sure I could have done this in ten years especially if I had stayed out of shape. The heat is tough, the terrain is tougher and the hikes are long. Not to mention I was forced to face every fear I have. I typically hate going to my garbage can at night for fear of bats, spiders or snakes and here I am hiking into the forest (yes…sometimes at night) with fruit bats the size of cats and tarantulas on every other tree.  I came away from this trip a bit tougher!

This was a dream come true and thank you to my family and Amazonia Expeditions (especially Christian and Haler) for making it happen! I am truly blessed!

About Anne Helmers

Travel is my passion
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