There are several types of Caiman in the Amazon rainforest…Black Caiman, Spectacled Caiman, Yacare Caiman-(Jacares in Portuguese), Cuviers Dwarf …..The Black Caiman is the largest at 13/20ft (6m) and the Cuviers Dwarf the smallest at some 3ft (1m).
The Caiman resembles alligators. It is a four legged reptile with a long snout and long tapering tail. Their dark coloured, plated bodies have markings, stripes and spots, that help them blend in with the rainforest.
Caiman eat fish, birds, small animals and snakes. They can live for 50 to 80 years.
Caiman lived on the banks of the river close to the lodge.
I didn’t realise just how close, until a friend, a forest guide, went for a late dip in the river. He took a torch and on returning regaled me with a description of the size of the biggest one, worked out by the distance between its eyes, which glow in torchlight.
‘You are joking,’ I said with surprise and ignorance…but no, he was not joking. He assured me that bathing during the day should not be a problem, but to be cautious in the evening.
I was concerned by the behaviour of Caiman only twice. Once when I was fishing with a local and a large log seemed to be following the canoe. He laughed when I pointed out the ‘log’. It was a Caiman, he said, and it can smell fresh, Britisher flesh!
The other time I was concerned by a Caiman was when I was doing the washing up, sitting on the harbour decking with my feet in the water. I caught sight of the eyes of a large Caiman staring at me from a short distance away, then it sank and I jumped up and moved quickly away from the waters edge depriving the large reptile of its English breakfast.
Sadly, confirmation of their existence close to my lodge was made when, on returning to the lodge during the dry season, I saw the shrivelled body of a caiman on the sandy banks of the river, picked clean by vultures. Maybe it had been surprised by the rivers quick departure or maybe one of the Jaguars who lived in the forest had got him.