Beautiful Beginnings

I wrote a few blog posts while still in the jungle and now I am going to start posting them retroactively so here it goes! (Oh, and for my spider-fearing friends there is one picture of a tarantula near the bottom of the post, so be forewarned.)


My first day in the jungle has been absolutely fan-freaking-tastic! Just amazing! I’m not sure I could have even dreamed of a first day this good. Of course as I had very little idea of what the jungle was like at all I couldn’t really dream of anything. But seriously, it was amazing. Ian, my trusty friend and jungle expert, even cautions me to remember today as one of the great days for when the jungle is slow. And to try not to get my hopes too high for the rest of my time here, but I am just thankful for the day.

Although I’m not sure if I could be too unhappy here regardless. Even when I wasn’t having amazing animal encounters there was still tons of awesome vegetation to look at. And as a plus it’s vegetation that I don’t have to worry about water or cutting or anything.  Well I suppose machete-ing could happen but not too much. But seriously, and even if I would somehow get tired of the vegetation it is still incredibly peaceful. I love all the sounds here though there are so many I’m not sure I am good at identifying anything by the noise that it makes yet. Even the insects here take on a new appeal with new colorful creatures along with iridescent eye shines during night walks.

And that’s just the general stuff.

Today after a very early rise, 5am!, and car loading and drive down bumpy dirt roads, which are very difficult to sleep on, we took a boat ride up river to ARCC. By the way it’s pronounced Ark, as in Noah’s Ark, rather than saying it as letters. Again I was impressed by the driving down muddy dirt roads and navigating significant sloppy parts. I think we only have to get out and push twice.

Now that is a riverbank!

Now that is a riverbank!

The boat ride was beautiful and surprising cool with the breeze which is a nice relief after all the heat. I love boat rides just down the gasconade river which is pretty heavily impacted by human activity. To actually get to go on a boat ride for 2 hours without seeing a single habitation or significant human impact was awesome. We also saw lots of wildlife: white caimen, capped herons, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, black vultures, skimmers, turtles, macaws, toucans, and quite a few other birds I can’t remember the name of. It was hard to keep my eyes open by the end of such a lovely smooth ride, but after hearing that boat rides are the best time to see a jaguar I couldn’t let myself fall asleep. Also I tried out my brand new Bushnell 8 x 42 binocs (binoculars) and practiced using them.

Cute little bungalow!

Cute little bungalow!

After making it to the dock and unloading we had just the tiniest walk to our bungalows. It was not bad at all and the accommodation is actually quite lovely. There are two people to a raised hut (though that increased to 3 when a bunch more people came) with a little covered porch, two beds with mosquite nets, a few shelves, and a bathroom with cold shower. There are little lights that you get power to from after dark until 9pm (I think?) and then candles after that. I am sharing my bungalow with a lovely woman named Alex who is a 30-something year old speech pathologist taking a break from work and life after finally receiving the insurance money from an accident. She is from England and incredibly polite and kind. I am very happy that we’re bunkmates. (This also changed once more people came.)

I love this lake!

I love this lake!

After settling in and unpacking a bit we went to find food and then after that went out on the lake. It was Ian, Leo, Alix, Zion, and I on the lake together. It’s very nice out there though certainly very very hot with the sun on you. I do wish that swimming wasn’t so risky with the black caiman in the waters as that would make being out there more pleasant. But despite that we saw lots of bird life, caiman, and then the giant river otters (there are 5 in the lake). The giant river otters are quite large and make some of the oddest sounds. Also we think we may have snuck up on them at a den so they actually rose out of the water and made some faces and noises at us. They are a bit intimidating and after Ian shared a story of them ripping apart a caiman that had mortally wounded one of their young we kindly moved away to let them have their space. Also we’re really not supposed to disturb them so that they continue living well in the lake.

These guys are adorable! Thanks for the welcome!

These guys are adorable! Thanks for the welcome!

Then we got an AMAZING monkey experience with squirrel monkeys that lasted for over an hour. A huge group of at least thirty, possibly near 60 monkeys was feeding right on the edge of the water. As we were in a boat rather than on foot, they were not too concerned with us and let us get quite close to them. They are so incredibly cute and adorable and there were just so many to watch! It was just so cool. Eventually though, we got quite hot as the sun came out and so we retreated back to the shade.

Resident tarantula. I think she's quite pretty!

Resident tarantula. I think she’s quite pretty!

Then we unpacked a bit, showered, and had a mammal orientation where Ian taught us all the different mammals that are common around here. Dinner. Then a night walk! The night walk was also extremely fortuitous! Before we had even really started we spotted a group of three night monkeys that have actually been hanging around my bungalow the entire night. I was employed as the official flash holder so Ian could get some good shots of them without causing them to look evil with red eye. It was fun just watching them. But eventually we harassed them enough and moved on. We also took a peak at a resident tarantula and glimpsed a giant tree frog, a mouse possum, a lizard, lots of spiders, and a really beautiful glass butterfly. I was especially proud of the glass butterfly because I was the one who spotted it!

Just amazing!

Just amazing!

Finally we headed back to the bungalows, had another encounter with the monkeys, and then headed to bed. What an unbelievable day!

The next morning was awesome as well seeing Brown Capuchins, including a mother and a baby! Howler monkeys and spider monkeys. And so then I realized that I saw over half (5 out of the 8) monkey species here at ARCC in less than 24 hours! I feel so very very lucky!


About Meg LaFollette

I studied abroad in Fiji for 5 months in 2012 and absolutely fell in love with traveling! I went to New Zealand right after and then Peru this summer. When not traveling (and sometimes during) I love healthy, environmentally conscious living. Animals, biology, horses, and behavior are other passions of mine.
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3 Responses to Beautiful Beginnings

  1. Jean says:

    I have a friend at the Y who has been there and mentioned how pristine the Amazon was; untouched by humans in some areas. Glad you got to see that. Loved this post!

  2. Rachel says:

    Wow! Amazing first day! It totally sounds like you’re in your element 🙂 And thanks for the warning about the (freakishly large and terrifying) spider picture!

  3. Jenny K. says:

    Sounds awesome!

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