We spent three nights at our favorite spot, the Manu Wildlife Center, where the surroundings were downright chic: 22 thatched cottages perched in well-groomed gardens, each with artfully-draped mosquito netting and a stylish blue-tiled bathroom. At dusk, we’d gather in the soaring main hall built of driftwood mahogany and cedar, where the bartender wore a miner’s headlamp. We mingled with guests of all ages from Brazil, England, Germany, and various parts of the U.S., swapping photos and stories by candlelight (the lodge turns the generator on for about two hours before lunch and dinner, to power up cameras, laptops–and cocktail blenders, of course.) Occasionally Vanessa, a young tapir who was raised by humans, would lumber out of the jungle, seeking admiration and apple slices.
Our most memorable moments occurred just after sunrise, before the heat of the day clamped down (midday temperatures hit the 90’s while we were there, falling to the mid-70s at night.) On our last foray, the boatman poled our catamaran into Colcha Blanca, an oxbow lake formed by shifting river flows, taking us deep into another world.
Strange birds we’d never seen before struck up a jungle symphony: the punk-crested hoatzins panting loudly, the horned screamers barking like seals, the toucans squawking. Suddenly, the surface of the water was broken by seven sleek figures, undulating in unison like synchronized swimmers. With a gasp, we realized they were a family of giant otters, endangered mammals up to 6 feet long with ferocious teeth and fierce, ursine faces.
For about 10 intense minutes, we watched them snatch and devour red-bellied piranha from the lake. Then, just as the otters swam out of sight, along came a carnival of monkeys—-40 or so bright-faced squirrel monkeys, brown capuchins, shaggy red howlers—- capering and crashing through the tree branches overhead. It was raining monkeys; Steven Spielberg couldn’t have come up with a more fitting finale.
What do you think about Lynn’s wildlife adventures? Tell Lynn and Peter about your exotic explorations in the comment section below.
For more about Peru and nature travel, check out:
- Lynn Langway’s article on Birding in Belize On an Independent Shore Excursion
- the Eco-Travel archives
- Melinda Newman’s Exploring Machu Picchu and Peruvian Amazon Cruises
- news coverage of Peru, Machu Picchu Prepares to Reopen After Mudslides
Text and Photos by Lynn Langway for PeterGreenberg.com. Lynn Langway is an award-winning editor, writer and journalism teacher. Visit Lynn on the Web at www.lynnlangway.com.