A visit to the Amazon basin is not like a safari on the African savannah. The Amazon is home to more species than any other ecosystem on the planet, but you won’t immediately see a host of animals. Because many of the rainforest’s creatures hide from view or tend to spend most of their time high up in the canopy, you will need to be quiet and look carefully. In fact, you’ll probably need to be patient before you begin, with the help of your naturalist guide, to see fauna.
The first things you’ll notice in the rainforest are the relative darkness below the forest canopy and the rich smell of moist, humid vegetation and earth. Because so little light penetrates as far as the forest floor, in primary undisturbed rainforest there tends to be very little undergrowth between the massive trunks and roots of the big trees. Soon, you’ll begin to tune in to the sounds of the forest: firstly, the buzz of thousands of insect species, and then the calls of birds, punctuated perhaps by the sounds made by larger animals, such as monkeys.
The first fauna you are likely to see will often be small. On forest trail walks, you’re sure to see leaf-cutter ants, as they harvest and transport the green leaves that they’ll use as food for the fungus they grow in their vast underground colonies. You’ll also see butterflies –Peru is believed to be home to as many as 3700 species of butterflies!
Other animals you’re likely to see on trails close to water sources include poison dart frogs, which are relatively common in the Amazon basin. Highly toxic, as their name suggests, these tiny amphibians are brightly-colored as a warning to potential predators.
In Tambopata, our forests are blessed with many troops of monkeys. And so, as you gaze up into the rainforest canopy, you’re likely to find that you’re being accompanied by different species of monkeys. In fact, of the eight species of South American monkey known to thrive in Tambopata, five species are sighted regularly by our staff and guests in the treetops directly above our eco-lodge, and in the canopy above the 37-kilometer (23-mile) trail system we maintain in the forests surrounding our pristine location.
Another often-seen inhabitant of the forest floor and of our own eco-lodge gardens is the agouti, a large rodent that feeds on fruits, thereby playing an essential role in the ecology of the rainforest by dispersing seeds.
And, of course, the rainforest is filled with birds. You’ll hear them everywhere, and at water sources like Tambopata’s picturesque oxbow lakes, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spot several species, and to identify them with the help of your naturalist guide.
And talking of birds, Tambopata is particularly famous for its populations of macaws and parrots. For bird lovers, the macaw and parrot clay licks of Tambopata National Reserve are an attraction not to be missed. The spectacle created by the bright plumage and raucous calls of large mixed flocks of these birds provides one of the most memorable highlights to any ecotourism adventure in the forests of the Amazon basin.
These clay licks are reached by boat, and time spent on rivers is one of the highlights of any tour in tropical forest ecosystems, offering the opportunity to observe native flora and look out for examples of Amazon fauna, including the four species of caimans know to inhabit the rivers, wetlands and lakes of Tambopata!