After a five in the morning wake up call, we bussed over to the docks in time for a typical Madre de Dios sunrise (cloudy). The clouds quickly burned off and it turned into a beautiful, though long (eight hours), trip down the Madre de Dios river.
At over a hundred feet in the air, we could look out over the top of the forest canopy. Back at Villa Carmen, we have taken trips up viewpoints on top of hills, but our view stops at the peaks of the next hills and small mountains. Here, we could see over the top of the canopy that extended to the horizon and beyond, all the way to where the Amazon reaches the Atlantic ocean hundreds of miles away.
This is why we were told to put heavy rain boots on the packing list—though the water went on to rise another foot. The rainy season brought at least 20 feet more water to the river compared to the trip last semester.
After a lecture from our Tropical Ecology professor Adrian about the importance of salt licks in the Amazon (the salt is left over from the ocean that existed here 9 million years ago), we spent an evening at the clay lick. Large herbivores are unable to ingest salt from the plants they eat, so they congregate at these rare sites to ingest the salt essential to muscle movement. We saw and scared off a deer upon arrival, but were left without any further sightings that night.
Our Conservation Science professor Will gained his scholarly-reputation studying primates and the spread of disease from them to us. So, naturally, he took us out looking for monkeys. It was a little difficult at first, and some of us were fooled by a pretty convincing howler money call by Will, but eventually we found some actual monkeys, including capuchins, tamarinds, and squirrel monkeys (pictured above).
We came to the deep of the Amazon to see some wildlife, but also came upon a tamer creature. Vanessa, a formerly domesticated tapir, was actually the only tapir we encountered on the trip (we were all hoping to see one at the saltlicks). We met her as she often still swings by the kitchen early some mornings looking for scraps.
It was another extremely early morning, but another great day to be out on the water for our return trip.