TRIP REPORT: AMAZON – 2020 February – Peruvian Riverboat Photography Workshop
Trip Report by Lee Hoy
The images conjured whenever you say the phrase “Amazon Riverboat Cruise” can be quite varied depending upon the individual who hears it. For some, it can be scary if they think about movies, stories, and books that present the imposing image of a river/forest run amok. For others it can be a far off, exotic destination that they can only dream of seeing.
But for the intrepid group of travelers on the 2020 Wildside Nature Tours trip who ventured down to the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers (where it is generally held that the true Amazon River begins), it was a magical and unforgettable experience with memories that will last a lifetime.
As one of the co-leaders on the photography skiff, (another skiff with other leaders was more focused on birding), I can simply say that I never dreamed I would walk away with some of the images I was able to capture during our time in the Amazon.
What if I start with the fact that I got awesome images of not 1, not 3, not 5, but 8 species of primates!! Yes, species such as Pygmy Marmoset, Spider Monkey, Woolly Monkey, and Owl Monkey. Other amazing species gave us quite the treat as we photographed them jumping, climbing, foraging and even watching us!
What if I said that we got to photograph a wild Green Anaconda from mere feet away? What if we consider the crazy number of reptiles and amphibians that vied for our attention?
I haven’t even started listing the birds, such as Macaws, cotingas, jacanas, raptors, Inca Terns, and so much more!
My macro lens stayed busy as a Pleasing Fungus Beetle, with its shiny purple carapace and black dots, begged to be photographed. Alien looking stick insects, wasps, turtle-headed ants, leaf beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, and other fascinating insects were also fun to photograph as they scrambled over fallen logs, hid under leaves, or climbed up foliage.
Much of the macro photography was enjoyed on our first day out of Iquitos when we stopped at a reserve that protects the white sand forest with its special habitat and inhabitants. Double-toothed Kites also caught our attention as we hiked through this jungle.
Oh, can I dispel a notion right now for you if you are considering a trip to the Amazon with Wildside? I NEVER had to use my bug spray and I am a mosquito magnet. The fact that there were so few mosquitoes and that I was virtually never bitten is testimony to a healthy ecosystem.
Once we boarded the riverboat that would be home for the next seven days, it was time to truly begin experiencing the Amazon River!
That first afternoon, the eager photographers boarded our skiff with cameras and equipment in hand, ready for whatever the river and forest might share with us.
To truly explore this region, most of the time on the skiffs is spent traveling up and down creeks and tributaries that feed the Marañón, Ucayali, and Amazon Rivers. This gives you a much more intimate experience that one would have if you just stayed on the main rivers.
One of the highlights of our very first skiff ride was being able to photograph a pair of Hoatzin from a close distance. Our local guides whispered the phrase “unprecedented” and we knew we were having a very special experience on our first day on the river.
Black-collared Hawks which were common along the various waterways, entertained us. We went to bed that night dreaming of what each successive day’s journey would reveal.
What really makes this trip special is that no two days ever are, or could be, alike! Different habitats along each waterway; the shaking of tree limbs that you know will soon reveal a primate species; a visit to a local shaman; watching local children play in the river; taking a hike through the forest to see sloths, Tropical Screech Owls, dart frogs and so much more. It will leave your senses on overload at the end of each day.
I know that I am very excited about going back in 2021 and beyond, as I prepare to lead this trip into the Amazon for Wildside.
As a photographer, I want you to know that we hire the best local guides and we have skiff captains that work diligently to put us in the best position to photograph the wildlife and scenery along the Amazon River. The riverboat itself is large, spacious, well adorned and a great place to watch sunsets. The food was outstanding with lots of local cuisine that delighted the taste buds.
When our time on the river drew to an end, we spent one last day exploring the Peruvian coastline south of Lima. There a salt marsh and a harbor with islands would provide photographic subjects such as Chilean Flamingoes, Great Grebes, Peruvian Boobies, sea lions, Peruvian Pelicans, Inca Terns, Belcher Gulls, Red-legged Cormorants and Humboldt Penguins.
At the conclusion of the journey, as the trip participants all said their goodbyes before catching flights home, or continuing on to Machu Piccu, we knew that we had all experienced something very special together. I wonder what 2021 has in store for us? Let’s find out!