Andrew Hollander ’16 and Maggie Kidder ’16 describe the group’s incredible first night in the Amazon:
Andrew: After dinner and a short briefing on the evening’s activities, everyone moved quickly towards the dock. In a few short minutes the two canoes were in the water and drifting away from the jungle hotel. After a long day consisting of travel by boats, planes, and buses, everyone was ready to get out and explore the Amazon in whatever way possible. An alligator search was the perfect solution. After 30 minutes of meticulous searching by flashlight, our boat finally found its first alligator of the night. Through the illumination of several headlamps, a single eye was clearly visible on the side of the river, the bright lights reflecting back to us. Heads turned and excited whispers could be heard between our group of two boats as we approached the still figure on the surface of the water. We also saw several more before the night was over, with our new knowledge of what to look for and how to spot them.
Long travel on the boat yielded other beautiful pieces of nature as well. Tons of fish could be seen swimming just below the surface, and the constant sounds of frogs, birds, and crickets created peaceful background noise for our exploration. Everyone also marveled at the stars filling the sky on a moon-less night, which provided us with a small amount of light to explore the river.
Overall this day was my favorite of the trip so far. The trip has been incredible up to this day, but today felt more like everyone was getting well out of their comfort zone, as we travelled miles into the Amazon. The experiences we shared today are valuable towards both understanding the human connection with nature, and the way of life of people who live in or near the forest. These are experiences that we are lucky to have.
Maggie: After dinner we piled into two different canoes, both lead by guides that seemed to know the Amazon river backwards and forwards, though it seems impossible to know this long winding river with all that it has to offer. The first thing that caught my eye was the brightness and clarity of the stars, and it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. After the guide had paddled for a short time, he told us to be completely silent so that we would be able to hear the sounds that the animals and insects around us were making, and he told us to count the stars while we waited, which was comical because it was an impossible task as there was no moon tonight – which made the stars especially stand out in a captivating and breathtaking way. The guide paddled in silence while he shown his headlamp in different directions to see what the vast river had in store. We saw two red, dim lights in a tree as we passed by and it turned out to be a monkey.
We continued on the river, and a guide that was from the same place that our guide was from, but that had different tourists in his canoe, called over to us that he had an alligator in a net across the river and asked us if we wanted to come over and see it. Our guide answered by saying no, which raised an important ethical issue. Should we go see the alligator and have the pleasure of seeing one at the cost of discomfort and harm to the alligator, or should we decline and only view alligators and other animals in their natural environment? By saying no, it aligned with our “Leave no trace” principle that we have been trying to follow this whole trip.
The Amazon also continued to remind me of how small we are compared to nature by seeing how large the river was and all that it contains with only seeing it for this short period of time. It was a great contrast to the city we had been in the previous days, and I think the whole group as a whole was in awe of this place the second we arrived with the vast colors in the sunset and the excitement of the small huts perched on the water. Overall, today was an experience very different from the past days we have had on this trip as we arrived in a completely different environment, but this new environment came with a common new excitement as well.