But this wasn't simply about gaping at the flora and fauna. Luckily, aboard their brand new, gem of a riverboat, La Estrella Amazonica, I was able to interact daily with native-Peruvian Johnny, who is the embodiment of a Renaissance guide. He's a unique combination of naturalist, teacher, comedian, entertainer, musician, and cultural interpreter for all things in the Amazon. With all that in mind, we learned not just how to identify each plant, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian and mammal, but also its adaptations, properties and the impact on the villagers. Given that Johnny's generosity with his time and knowledge and empathy to the needs of others is so palpable, and his knowledge and love of the Amazon so strong, we all came away falling in love with the inhabitants of the Amazon River Basin and understanding why it's vital to protect it at all costs.
This is just a small sampling of my close encounters:
Related to a tarantula, this is a bird-eating spider which first kills a lizard and takes over its burrow. Then the spider sits in wait at the entrance until a small bird prances by. They use venom to paralyze the victim.
This small anaconda didn't stray far from a creek, the environment it much prefers. A mere five inches long, this juvenile -- it's just two years old -- could reach 36 inches in length. Anacondas tackle their prey not with venom but by constricting them under water. They're so aggressive that they can consume a caimon, a large reptile in the same family as the alligator, or a capybara, a large rodent that can weigh up to 145 pounds.