Monday, 5 December 2011

So you hate bugs.... Part 1

Grasshoppers - order Orthoptera
Following on the last post's theme of animals I feel obligated to mention the most common animals visitors of the Amazon will see, insects.  I realize that not everyone will be excited to see these residents of the rainforest but they are inescapable.  Of the 1 million species identified world wide, approximately 13 percent of them have been found in the Amazon.  Although 130 000 have been described, scientists estimate there may be over a million species left to find.  So it's not unfair to say that there are a lot of bugs.  This incredible diversity means two things, first that you will see a lot of them and second that you will see an amazing variety of these widespread animals.
 Surprisingly one of the most common and varied orders is the grasshoppers/katydids. From the tree tops to underground you can find members of this group and they come in a number of shapes and colours.  There are those that imitate leaves down to the last detail,
Leaf Katydids - tribe Pterochrozini
Bolivars Katydid - Typophyllum bolivari

those that imitate walking sticks.

Jumping Stick - family Proscopiidae
 Those that are brightly coloured, 

Short-Horned Grasshoppers - families Arcididae & Romaleidae

and a number that are just strange.

Conehead katydid -  subfamily Copiphorinae

Mole Cricket - family Gryllotalpidae

Airplane grasshopper - 
Pseudomastax personata

 Besides those already mentioned you can find the largest katydid in the world (Spiny Lobster - Panoploscelis specularis), grasshoppers that imitate wasps and even those that are carnivorous.  Regardless of your personal feelings toward invertebrates in general, its hard not to have your curiosity piqued by at least one insect.  If grasshoppers aren't your cup of tea there are many other groups that may intrigue you.  For those of you with a phobia of insects don't let your fear stop you from visiting the beautiful amazon, like most animals if you leave them alone they will return the favour. 

If you would like to experience the amazing biodiversity found in the Amazon rainforest check out our website

or email us                                       

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Never too many monkeys

One of my favourite activities here is to visit the Maikuchiga rehabilitation center.  For approximately the last 10 years  Sarah  Bennett  has been working to conserve and rehabilitate local fauna.  Most of her wards are victims of the pet trade that have either been confiscated or voluntarily handed over by owners who no longer can care for the monkeys.  Despite most of the animals coming from a background of abuse and neglect any one who visits is greeted by a number of curious faces.

No where else in the region will you have the chance to interact with so many species which currently number around 9.  Whether its the calming grooming of Puu a monk saki monkey , the playful chaos of the squirrel monkeys or the mischievous curiosity of the brown capuchins there is at least one resident that will bring a smile to your face.

Unfortunately the concept of conservation oriented tourism is not very widespread here in the region. We can only hope that the few companies leading the way in sustainable tourism will serve as an example for the many others who see  the forest as something to exploit rather than care for.  If you are interested in supporting the rehabilitation and conservation efforts of Maikuchiga you can make donations on their website:  

Of course we invite everyone to come and visit the rehabilitation center as well as experience all the natural and cultural charm of the region. For more information visit our website:

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Continuation of 'An EcoLodge on Budget'

  I realize that the last entry was pretty dry so I've decided to write follow up.  As the title suggests funds have been tight during the construction process which has meant that a lot of the construction has fallen on the shoulders of just a few people including myself.  It has been an educational experience as well as a slimming one.  Despite manual labour not being my favourite past time the hard work has well been worth the effort as is hopefully supported by the photographic evidence. 

After much sweat in the tropical sun the result has been a lodge with many amenities that you would not expect that far removed into the Amazonian rainforest.  Comfortable beds, flush toilets, and showers await visitors looking for relative comfort while they enjoy their adventure.  I can't really describe the satisfaction I felt the first time I flushed one of the toilets with collected rainwater. So there is a comfortable place to eat, sleep and take care of personal hygiene. Who could ask for more?      

Yet as much satisfaction as I get from the progress we make nothing brings a smile to my face like coming across an animal I haven't seen before.  Last week I had an  unexpected find in a smooth fronted caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus).  Needless to say to be able to not only catch sight of this amazing reptile but to also be fortunate enough to safely bring it aboard for a closer look was exhilarating. And so goes my time here in the beautiful Amazon rainforest, come visit.

Friday, 28 October 2011

An Eco lodge on a Budget

Its been a few months since I arrived in the Amazon and like any journey it has had its ups and downs.  Unexpected costs, bureaucratic hiccups and other hurdles have extended the original time line but the end or should I say the beginning is in sight.

Progress has been slow but steady.  In December of last year I left the Amazon and all that could be found at the site was a zinc covered platform and a very primitive kitchen with a firewood based stove.  Since then the platform has been converted into an Amazonian styled cabin which currently has beds for 8. There is a kitchen with most modern amenities and dining room with a beautiful mosquito net that encloses it entirely.  There are 3 washrooms and 3 showers. For transportation a boat has been purchased and all that it is currently missing is a roof but it has still been very useful in transporting materials for the construction.

As the site is within the bounds of the native community San Martin, it has been vital to build and maintain a good relationship with the people of the community.  Through this relationship I have had the opportunity to share with them and  experience elements of their culture.

For me a major plus to this project is the chance to see the amazing variety of wild life in this fascinating part of the world.  I've been lucky enough to see kinkajous, toucans, macaws, otters, anacondas, and a very exciting if brief sighting of a harpy eagle, one of the largest eagles in the world.  Really it has been the natural beauty of the forest, the river and the incredible biodiversity that have been a source of comfort when things have gotten more challenging. 

Like any project of this type the work will never be done but its comforting to know that I am ready to share my hard work as well as this beautiful rain forest with visitors.  If you're interested in visiting you can find more info on the website or you can email me at

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Month in the Capital

So I have finally escaped the clutches of Bogota and am happily enjoying warmer weather.  It turned out to be an interesting month as I tried to collect all the items I needed before I headed further south.  As I feared the things I needed we quite unusual, so much so that I had to have a few of them specially made. The first item I scratched of my list was a dining room sized mosquito net.  The faces of the sales staff made it clear that it was rare for individuals such as myself to request 44 meters of mosquito netting, 10 meters of zipper and 44 meters of ribbon.

These materials at least were fairly easy to track down and will soon be assembled once I take the final measurements at the cabin site.  Unfortunately some of the other items i needed were much more of a headache to acquire.

A common issue I have found during my visits to different sites in the Amazon is that mattresses collect two problematic bedfellows: bed bugs & moisture.  The problem with bed bugs is obvious and moisture causes the mattresses to smell and become damaged.  So my solution  was to purchase waterproof covers for all the mattresses.  After  days walking around the city it was made clear to me that I would need to have them custom made. Unfortunately I had no idea who would be able to make them.  It was not until I had visited a few of the major textile areas of the city that I was directed to the tent makers, who were the only ones that could produce vulcanized seams.  Once I found someone to handle that project it was on to find organic soap.  Again days were spent searching the city with nothing to show for my trouble. A couple of days spent online searching for possible Colombian manufacturers finally bore results in the form of an organic market open only on Saturdays. The Mercado Org├ínico Consciente Y Solidario  offers the normal fare of organic vegetables but they also had soaps on sale, however not the 30 litres I needed so I had to leave them with that assignment.

Aside from these 2 products I was on the look out for a number of others. Books were a major one. Unfortunately there is a shortage of good books and guides covering the species found in Colombia and in the Amazon.  I already own most of the few that exist but I was on the hunt for more even if they were in Spanish.  It was a long and difficult search but one that bore some fruit.  A couple of  beautiful books on the Colombian Amazon as a whole, a guide to Colombian insects,  2 guides on Colombian mammals, 2 guides to Colombian plants and a history of the Colombian Amazon have joined my expanding library.

It turned out to be a wise decision to give myself time to collect everything because my custom orders with the exception of the soap were delayed.  Both the uniforms and the mattress covers ended up being finished 2 weeks after I had been promised they would be done and I didn't collect the final items until the day before my scheduled flight.

My time in Bogota was not all bad though.  A few new friends, a free rock festival, some excellent dining and some beautiful sights helped counteract the more stressful moments.

  So a hectic month is over and I have managed to get myself and what ended up growing to over 300 pounds of luggage to Leticia alongside the Amazon River.  Despite being no less busy and knowing it will be a couple of weeks before I am out wandering in the forest, the change of setting has been more than welcome.