Tambopata, Peru

In June 2005 I went to Peru and for the first time in South America. We had only a week there so the next day we headed to the Amazon region Tambopata in the southeast Peru.
After a short domestic flight from Lima we arrived in Puerto Maldonado which is the largest town in that region. Our guide Percy met us up at the airport and from there we took a riverboat 3 hrs down on Rio Tambopata before reaching the final destination.

Map over Peru with Tambopata in the square


It was almost a surreal feeling to be in the classic Amazon rainforest! The most incredible view followed us on the way and I kept looking for caimans on the riverbanks but saw only the sliding tracks. We managed to see the first herps of the trip on a piece of wood in the river. It was a number of turtles of perhaps the genus Podocnemis sp. At a pitstop along the way I went to the surrounding bush and managed to spot several Ameiva ameiva running around in the undergrowth.

Finally we arrived and walked a short trail from the river up to the lodge area. The smell was the first thing that hit me, it smelled fresh and reminded me of the smell in a very large tropical greenhouse.

This area is known for a tarantula species that are sad to live communally and also house small toads in the burrows¹ so we were excited to see if we could find any of these. We talked to and mentioned this big black tarantula and he confirmed they could be found there.

¹ Observations on a Commensal Relationship of the Microhylid Frog Chiasmocleis ventrimaculata and the Burrowing Theraphosid Spider Xenesthis immanis in Southeastern Peru
Reginald B. Cocroft and Keith Hambler. 1989
URL: http://www.jstor.org/pss/2388434

Study on the chemical communication between the microhylid frog, Chiasmocles Ventriculata, and theraphosid spider involved in a commensal relationship.
Csakany, Jolene. 2002.
URL: http://www.perunature.com/pdfs/jc_microhylid_frog.pdf


There was a Avicularia sp. up in the ceiling of the lodge dining area and at the side of the trail Sheri spotted a mature female sitting on a leaf. Acctually this was the only one except for the lodge Avicularia that we saw. I found webbing at the top of a bamboo stem but no spider.

Our guide believed tarantulas was dangerous but after a little while he handled it and I think he changed his mind about them afterwards.


We went out after packing up in the room and Percy soon showed us one burrow with a tarantula outside it. He also showed us a burrow where he had seen several adults and also spiderlings. Other arachnids such as wandering spiders was found and huge webs with social spiders.


After a few hours we headed back to the lodge and after a quick meal me and Sheri went out again on our own. This time we found larger tarantulas and also we spotted an adult outside the burrow entrance. They were very quick of escaping down the hole when approached so we just had to try lure them out.


In the day we went with Percy to look at a clay licking hole where birds eat clay to neutralize toxins they ingest from various plants and fruits they feed on. There was macaws flying around and other parrots. After a while of birdwatching we headed back to the lodge.

Later on we went for a rainforest hike for about 4 hours and saw a few Ameiva and other wildlife such as capuchin monkeys that came fairly close to check us out. No jaguars was seen but we did see tracks of one.

The evening was spent out in the bush, where a number of tarantulas and a female gecko, Gonatodes humeralis, was found. Another lizard was found, a juvenile Stenocercus roseiventris (thanks to M. Lundberg and W.W. Lamar for identification)
On one particular spot, a big stem which we had to climb over, was the home to huge black ants – so called ”bullet ants”, Paraponera sp. They are very painful to get stunged by.


The next day we woke up with our guide saying another guide found a snake 15 minutes from the lodge.
-”A big snake!’ he sad. I felt a bit off but the idea of see a snake kept me going. A quick half running march through the jungle and we came out on a clearing.
A few people was there and I figured they would have a small colubrid or similar to show us. Wrong.

I looked down on the ground and it was a part of a huge Boa constrictor while the rest of the body was covered by grass. This snake was immense! And a few meters away was a smaller boa, the male. They were most likely courting and we interrupted them. I wanted to get this behemoth out of the grass to see her size and tried to lift her. Too heavy. I pulled her gently out from the grass and she was about as big as a boa constrictor gets. I would say about 4 meters in length and very thick. Percy, our guide, was saying ”loco” over and over while I grabbed her around the neck. After a few shots I let he go and went for the male – he tagged me straight away and I didnt care. It was truly an amazing experience to see these animals in their own environment!


A day could not have started better then with the boa!


Later in the evening we looked for more tarantula burrows and found a fair amount of them with spiders inside. Both adults and juveniles was found. In one burrow I lured a subadult and a adult female up.

The following day was our last here in the lodge and we went to a lake to fish for piranha. Sheri catched the first one and shortly after I managed to pull one up – and it bit me. Small fish but with razor sharp teeth! We took a tour around this lake and saw among other birds called Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) which looks very primeval.

No caimans where to be seen but in the evening we headed out to spot some spectacled caimans in the river. Fantastic animals!

There was also a few burrows on the lodge lawn with spiders
in them and even one under the kitchen in dry gravel.

Sadly, we had to leave the lodge and all the wonderful people we met there, including the howling monkey Pepe (despite his chicken raids) and head back to Puerto Maldonado to take a flight back to Lima.
After a few hours in the boat we reached the town and off we went.

At Limas airport my friend Mikael, who lived in Peru at the time, greeted us and we went out later on for a few cold ones. The following day we spend at a zoo and a Inca ruin which was cool to see.

We missed out on alot of animals but despite the limited time we had there I was more then pleased! We will be back some day.

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