Travel Tips for travellers to Amazon Rainforest, Second Part. Insects…natures little blighters.

Travel Tips for travellers to Amazon Rainforest, Second Part
Insects…natures little blighters.

“How do you cope with the insects?” I was often asked. Practically, is the answer.
Mosquitos are not such a problem as I thought they would be. I rarely got bitten. Along black waters, mosquitos are few or non existent. They can be found more often in areas of high density, towns and cities, then in thick forest.
I did get attacked though, by either mosquitos or bed bugs, during my second visit to Brazil. They went for my eyes as I slept in a no-star hotel on the outskirts of town. When I got up in the morning, I found the world looked a very different shape. I viewed it as if I were looking through a letter box. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and stepped back in horror. My eye lids were white, shining and hugely swollen and stretched, like a Buddhas belly. My eyes, buried in the slits, were barely visible. I spent several days hidden, day and night, behind a pair of dark sun glasses, until the swelling went down.
What I did have more of a problem with was the tiny Black fly. Especially visible in the afternoons, when I was relaxing with a book. They hovered in front of my eyes like tiny black full stops. Often floating into my eyes or up my nose, they left me red eyed and sneezing. The flys didn’t bite or burrow, they were just too familiar for comfort.
My solution was to cut up an old mosquito net and hang it from a wide brimmed straw hat. This solved the problem of the fly irritating me, but trying to read a book through a haze of nylon was impossible, so I gave up.
Another problem was wasps. I received a sting one evening, while eating at the only lit area in the forest. The light attracted a variety of flying insects, mostly beautiful moths, but also wasps.
Large, with black and yellow striped, curved bodies, primed and ready to strike, they buzzed danger. The sting I received was on my ear lobe, and it hurt. Immediately a lemon was halved and my ear was wiped with it and held in place. I was told to expect pain and swelling for several days. The next day, nothing. No pain, no swelling, no visible evidence of the spiteful creatures revenge on me for swiping it.
I did get stung by some smaller wasps, however, and the pain and swelling were extreme. My hand was swollen to twice its size. It was hot to the touch and sore. The skin on my fingers was stretched to bursting. My hand resembling a cows udder, throbbed painfully at the end of my arm for several days, but eventually went back to normal without medication.
The forest is full of biting, stinging, sucking insects. Many of these insects are beautiful and fascinating, but at all times it is necessary to be cautious and avoid touching.
Mosquito deterrents and insect bite cream are all useful. Malaria preventives are essential.

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This tiny ant along with termites can give painful bites and cause swelling. Avoid.

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Most wasps like this mud dauber are harmless, but some can give painful stings and are best avoided.

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Spiders are best kept at a distance. Some like the Wandering Spider can kill. The Tarantula here will not kill, but if disturbed can cause intense irritation with its hairs.

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Yellow-footed Tortoise…Chelonoidis denticulata. Amazon Tortoise.

Yellow-footed Tortoise Scientific name: Chelonoidis denticulata

The Yellow-footed Tortoise was a frequent walker of the Rainforest trails. In some areas in the Brazilian Amazon the tortoise is becoming rare and is endangered, because they are considered a food delicacy by the locals, but in my forest they could be frequently seen.
These reptiles can grow to 94cm, but the tortoise I saw were much smaller. They fed on foliage, fruit, carrion and small, slow moving animals such as worms, beetles and snails.
The rainforest is thickly wooded, damp, hot and humid. The tortoises thrived in such an environment.
One sad encounter I had with a tortoise, was after a bonfire. We had cleared the area around the lodge. The piles of leaves were set alight in the evening and the next day, whilst digging in the ashes to enrich the soil, I found an empty shell.
Somehow, I don’t think the living tortoise got caught in the fire. Large Tegu lizards lived around the lodge and they are tortoise predators, so I think the shell was empty already. That’s what I told myself, but I was careful to dig around the piles of leaves next time we had a bonfire.
The first two photos are of a Yellow-footed Tortoise seen on a forest path. Note the mites embedded in the tortoise shell. The next two photos are of the Northern Tegu Lizard.
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Plastic Bottle Pollution in the Amazon Rainforest

Plastic bottle pollution is a big problem in Brazil, especially when it comes to polluting the Amazon river and its tributaries.
Tourists are told to drink only bottled water and Brazilians prefer to do the same if they can afford it. Soft drinks in plastic bottles are also popular. That means there is a massive problem with empty plastic bottles, which rarely get recycled.
Apparently in 2011 only 2% of all waste was being recycled. I doubt that figure has changed much.

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Sold in bulk, there is little use for the bottle once used…though some are cut in half and used to bail out leaky canoes.
One brilliant Brazilian invented a way of using plastic bottles to make indoor lights, but there are only so many lights you can have in your home, before you have a surplus.
I did see recycling bins in some eco-hotels, but more often saw bottles thrown into the undergrowth, rivers, streets or overflowing street bins.
It would be a great pity if the massive islands of plastic waste we see floating in oceans around the world were replicated on the mighty Amazon.

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This bag of rubbish was collected by us after several days of celebration by local youngsters in an area of outstanding beauty at the back of my forest. This is what it should look like, pristine, wild, quiet and peaceful.

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Squirrel Monkeys in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.

Squirrel monkeys.

The Squirrel Monkey is a small species of monkey that moved behind the lodge early in the morning and returned in the evening.

I heard the Squirrel monkeys coming long before I caught sight of them. A rustle of leaves or the breaking of a twig or branch warned of their arrival. They were a large group of mixed adults, males, females often with babies, juveniles and youngsters.
The Squirrels have short hair, small bodies and long non-prehensile tails used for balance. They have short greyish-tan fur and white faces with dark foreheads and black muzzles. Delicately fingered hands are used for gripping and manipulating.
Squirrel monkeys eat fruits, figs being a favourite, insects, small animals and plants. Each day they would move through the trees behind the lodge and on into the deeper forest in search for food.
These monkeys are thought to be very intelligent with good eyesight, useful as their small size makes them a target for birds of prey and snakes.
Deforestation is a particular problem for Squirrel monkeys as they generally have large numbered troops which suffer if pushed into smaller areas resulting in lack of space and a limited food supply.

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This is the scene I was usually faced with when searching the trees for a photo of the Squirrel Monkeys. Can you see the monkey?

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Little Grey Heron..Brazilian Amazon Rainforest Bird.

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Every day I would sit on my little harbour deck and watch the birds. To my right, a Little Grey Heron fished, unconcerned by my presence. We grew accustomed to each other.
One morning Monduco, my oft companion in the forest brought me a skull. It belonged to the heron. I felt very sad to have lost my river companion and wrote a poem in his honour.

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Rainforest poetry..In my thoughts and dreams-the beloved forest.

On returning to the UK from my home in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, there was not a day, a night, a moment when the forest was not uppermost in my thoughts. This poem was written during a moment of nostalgia and longing.

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