Tropical amazonian forest surrounds me. I walk silently through the fallen leaves, following our guide Luís. My foot cracks a dead branch and Luís looks back at me. “Shhh. The monkeys will run away.” I nod and hope it isn’t too late. Thick underbrush surrounds me and sweat beads on my forehead. Mosquitos flutter contentedly, filled with my juicy American blood. Long sleeves don’t seem to be long enough. Something falls from a nearby tree. We look up to see a face, almost human, peering down at us. I quickly but stealthily pull my camera out of my backpack and focus it. Right before I click the shutter, he jumps, disappearing into the dense overhead. Amazed by our sighting, the missed photo doesn’t bother me much. I continue walking and begin to breathe again.
This past week my family and I went to the Amazon (Cuyabeno Region). Our guide Luís told us that in the Galápagos the animals come to you, but in the Amazon, you go to the animals. Luís had incredible enthusiasm for every type of creature we saw. Standing in the front of a large wooden canoe, he would point to a bird, barely visible, only a small silhouette, and cry with joy, “The orange-winged parrot! What a beautiful bird!” We agreed and were happy to have a glimpse of whatever it was. There were so many species of plants, animals and insects, each one with a unique characteristic and incredible fact. I was in awe that God put so much diversity on this planet. Every animal has a special function, a purpose in its life. Humans are like that, too. We all are part of God’s plan and we have been given enough time on this earth to accomplish what he wants us to.
Every day we went for canoe rides, hikes through the jungle, and had time to relax at the eco-lodge. Everything was timed perfectly. One of my favorite experiences was seeing the mysterious anaconda. Luís took us to the “home” of an anaconda. We canoed there, and then he stuck his head in a hole to see if it was at home. I would never have done that, but then again I wasn’t born and raised in the Amazon like he was. He didn’t see the snake, but could smell it. He walked around for a while, sniffing the air, and soon motioned for us to come. We anxiously clanked out of the canoe with our cameras at the ready. We waded through the water in our flip-flops, not ideal for the conditions. When we arrived, we saw the anaconda. It had buried itself under the mud, and only a small section was visible. Based on its thickness, Luís told us the snake was twenty-five feet long. Alarmed, I took a few photos and prepared myself to return to the canoe. Then Luís started poking at it with a stick. He continued until the snake hissed from somewhere, leaving me pondering where its head was. The snake moved a little bit and an area of ten-square feet rose and fell. Filled with amazement, I snapped a few more photographs and we returned to the boat.
The mysterious Amazon holds many surprises. You could spend a week and not see much, but just knowing that you are surrounded by the creatures that live there is enough. On our trip we saw among many things pink dolphins, an anaconda, monkeys, tarantulas, and found a large frog in our toilet. It was a great way to spend the week before Christmas. Our lodge, a two-hour boat ride from the nearest town, was hidden in the jungle, with only a few canoes sticking out of the dense foliage. The Amazon is full of life and wonder. It is the Earth’s lungs, and it saddens me that much of it is cut down every day. Whatever its future, the Amazon Rainforest won’t be forgotten, whether I am somewhere else, or heading back into the jungle.