Some of my favorite hikes take place late at night in Tambopata. The rainforest bursts with wildlife activity after things cool down from the scorching hot afternoon. Nonstop mating calls pierce the air from frogs and crickets. Night also happens to be the best time to see weird stuff...
Welcome to the Amazon Rainforest
I've been fortunate this past year to log so much time in the Amazon rainforest. It can be a tough environment for extended trips; it's hot, you're in a perpetual state of sogginess from the humidity and sporadic downpours, and there are bugs constantly attempting to withdraw your blood. With that being said, the Amazon rainforest is also an unbelievably amazing place, as the jungle hosts some of the most incredible views and creatures I've ever laid eyes upon. Below you'll find a selection of my favorite jungle critter encounters from 2015, hope you enjoy!
“Huh, that’s weird”, I muttered as I trudged through the mud in the rainforest. Even though the sun was setting, it was still hot and steamy, and sweat was dripping into my eyes as I stared at a tree with bizarre yellow outgrowths...
Spiders! They’re creatures you’re almost certain to see in the Peruvian Amazon, whether you like it or not.
When you think of a caterpillar, your mind usually turns to an image of a plump little grub-like insect with stubby legs, happily munching away on a leaf. But caterpillars in the jungle don't mess around. Surrounded by predatory spiders, ants, birds and lizards, it's a wonder how any caterpillar reaches its final butterfly or moth form.
While many caterpillars remain remarkably cryptic, blending in with their environment, some take the opposite approach. Evolution has carved out warrior-like caterpillars that don spiny armor plastered in bright warning colors. To pack on an extra punch, many of these caterpillars harbor venom-tipped spines that will leave the attacker, or unfortunate human, with a painful skin rash and in some caseseven death.
I'm always fascinated yet cautious when I encounter these caterpillars in the wild, so here are some of the coolest looking Lepidoptera larvae I've encountered trekking through the Peruvian Amazon.
Discovering the Foldscope
A couple of months ago, I received an interesting package in the mail. It looked like a standard manila envelope, but inside was a device that could quite possibly revolutionize the way we view the microscopic world. I’m referring to the Foldscope, an origami-based optical microscope that is small enough to fit inside your pocket. The real kicker: the entire cost of the instrument is less than one dollar.
It’s not something your cat coughed up. And no, it’s not really Donald Trump’s hair. It’s actually a caterpillar that sports a toupée of highly toxic venom-tipped spines. Also known as the puss caterpillar or flannel moth, this neotropical species belongs to the family Megalopygidae. Jeff and Phil reported on an interesting yellow larva a couple of years ago near the Posada Amazonas Lodge. We spotted this furry purple beauty in December 2014 near the Tambopata Research Center on a day hike and had to stop for a mini photo shoot.
If you're familiar with the 2009 science fiction film, Avatar, you may have enjoyed the lush extraterrestrial glowing rainforest. But the glowing rainforest that I experienced was real, and it occurred in the Peruvian Amazon of Tambopata this past March.
Timing is everything in the Amazon rainforest. So when Jeff and I heard that there was a harpy eagle nest near the Refugio Amazonas Jungle Lodge, we knew that we had a narrow window of opportunity to see these rare birds caring for their young.