G o r d o n   M .

18 March 1998
Yacumama Lodge, Yarapa, Peru

20:30pm Boat Float
Now it’s our turn to look for caiman. The night sky is lit like a Christmas tree with all of the stars glittering against the clear black backdrop. It is very beautiful. As we motor down the river, a cool and comfortable breeze blows against us, keeping any mosquitoes away. With the exception of the motor humming behind us, a tranquil peace surrounds us. Birds, frogs, cicadas vocalize as is their nature, but this is not “noise”—it’s music.

(Our guide) Octavio is in the bow, periodically shining his flashlight into the trees and along the water line looking for eyes. (Ed. note: a caiman’s eyes have the characteristic of reflecting light back almost directly to a flashlight, two bright red dots in the darkness, creating a distinctive signature of their presence.) Fifteen minutes later, we make a turn up another tributary. Still no caiman... or anything else for that matter.

Then Octavio motions to the motorman in the stern to back up. He then points where he wants to go-he has seen something, but of course no one else did. The boat slips through a floating mass of what looked like a kind of watercress. Octavio reached into the mass of vegetation and pulls out something. It’s a three and half foot caiman!

Octavio estimated the age to be about four years old. He then gave it to us to pass around for a closer look. As you would imagine, it was scaly, brown in color with black rings all around. Its teeth were not very large but instead looked somewhat like the teeth of a year old puppy. Its head was about the size of my hand. After we all had a turn, Bruce (teacher H. Bruce Rinker) returned it to the water and we moved on.

Soon we turned around and headed home. While it was disappointing that we didn’t see any other caiman or even monkeys as the other group did the night before, to ride along the river at night was an experience in itself.

We arrived back at camp around 22:15pm—the night walk group has not yet returned. But I am exhausted and head for bed.

Editor’s Note: for some images showing a very similar caiman hunt, see PTK crew member Ann Deveraux’s Travel-Log, “Go West, PTK”

—Gordon M.

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