The River, the Harbour and Fishes. Manacapuru Lago, tributary of the Amazon River.
When the river was high during the wet season, late November to May, I would sit on the little wooden harbour platform, my feet in the water to keep cool. Bird watching was my usual occupation, but the water lapping my feet often had distractions.
The river water was coffee coloured due to sediment from the river banks, but it was possible to see through the top few centimetres which remained clear.
Shoals of small to medium size fish lived in the river close to the lodge. One daily visitor was a pipe shaped fish. Long, slim, almost transparent, with a neon stripe along its body to the tip of its nose. The larger males had a red nose. Sometimes this fish would jump from the water and skim along the surface, moving backwards on its tail.
Silver scaled Discus and harlequin patterned or striped fish were also regular visitors and, of course, Piranhas. Red-bellied Piranhas tended to be a problem only in the dry season, when food was scarce. The Gold, Silver and Black Piranhas were harmless. I bathed in the river daily without any harm.
The river water was often warm, bath temperature, especially after several days without rain. I would slide off the platform and sink into the water surrounded by fishes. It seemed the most natural thing to do in the heat. The thought of losing a limb or worse never entered my head.
Several Black Caiman lived close to the harbour. Their eyes could be picked out by torchlight in the evenings. During the day they rested, or that’s what I told myself. I saw them only the one time during the day, gliding past in the early morning. They were returning to their bank for a lay-in after their nights exertions and I kept my distance, depriving them of an English breakfast, until they settled.
Black Caiman are mainly fish or bird eaters, so unlikely to attack humans, but I do know of an attack on a local man and his young son. They accidentally rammed their canoe into the large caiman as he lay on the river bank, which angered him. The caiman killed them and was in turn killed by locals.
The only frog that I saw close to the harbour area was an incredible, minute, glass frog. Perfectly formed, the size of my smallest fingernail with black pinhead eyes, it took my breath away. I tried to scoop it up in the lid of a bottle so that I could take it to the lodge to photograph, but it was minute and difficult to catch. I thought I had caught it, but when I poured out the grey mud from the bottle lid on to the table, the tiny creature was not there.
During the wet season silver grey Bottle-Nosed Dolphins could be seen swimming and jumping in the waters, just meters away from the harbour. An especially heart lifting sight. They often had youngsters with them. I believe they bred in the estuary, a safer and quieter place than the busy main water way.
Every day I saw something new and different while sitting on the misshapen, wooden boards of my little harbour deck. If I shut my eyes I am back there and I can feel my muscles relaxing and my breathing slow.