Archive for the 'Hiking/Day Trips' Category

Watching macaws in southeastern Peru at the Tambopata Research Center

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Macaws are massive, long-tailed parrots plumaged in such bright colors that it’s heard to believe they exist outside of a zoo. Despite being more frequently seen at bird shows, on commercials, and travel brochures to tropical locales where they aren’t native (such as Jamaica, Florida, or the Virgin Islands) than in much of their natural range, large numbers of these majestic parrots can still be encountered in some of the more wild and remote areas of Central and South America.

Since they require huge areas of unbroken forest inhabited by very few people, it should come as no surprise that macaw central just might be southeastern Peru. The Amazon rain forest in this region is like an unbroken sea of every shade of green, there are almost no roads, and there are huge, uninhabited protected areas. Oh yeah, and there’s also these places along certain river banks where macaws, parrots and parakeets come to eat clay.

Yes, that’s right, they munch on dirt but it’s not just any old soil that they are interested in. The birds consistently take clods of dirt from particular river banks and only appear to be interested in certain types of clay. It’s thought that this helps them to remove toxins acquired from the fruits and seeds they feed upon as well as providing them with important minerals.

Although no one knows for sure why they do it, what is known is that large flocks of macaws and their smaller relatives show up at the same spot almost every day. This is great news for the eco-tourist because the spectacle presents some of the most evocative and awe-inspiring wildlife viewing in the world.

Among the dozen or so accessible clay licks in southeastern Peru, the most famous is at the Tambopata Research Center. The clay lick near this rain forest wilderness lodge attracts huge numbers of up to 16 species of macaws, parrots, and parakeets while rare animals such as jaguars and tapirs are sometimes seen in the surrounding forests.

On the best days, up to two hundred macaws of six species (!) fly in to hang out at and feed on the clay. They are also accompanied by hundreds of colorful parrots and parakeets. The mere sight of dizzying flocks of these birds flying around and feeding on the river back is incredible all on its own but throw in the fact that most of the birds are screaming and screeching and the experience leaves most people speechless.

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Exploring the mangrove forests near Krabi, Thailand

Monday, April 24th, 2017

The majority of travelers who end up in Krabi, Thailand are on their way to Phuket and other islands of the Andaman Sea. Because the port of Krabi acts as a springboard to these popular destinations, this small city and surroundings are typically (and wrongly) overlooked as being sites of interest.

Although folks purely interested in white sands, clear waters, and beach life won’t have any reason to hang out in Krabi, eco-travelers who spend a few days in the area will be pleasantly surprised by some of the natural offerings around town. Of particular interest are the abundant mangrove forests that grow in the estuarine waters in the area.

Mangrove forests sprout out of the brackish mud in many tropical regions of the globe but those found along the coasts and river mouths of southeastern Asia are among the most biodiverse and oldest of their kind on Earth. In some places (including Krabi) they grow as tall as rain forests and harbor a variety of tropical wildlife ranging from macaques and langurs to brilliantly colored kingfishers.

The only problem with visiting mangrove forests is that they thrive in some of the muckiest, most mosquito-ridden places on Earth. You can’t exactly go for a forest stroll in mangroves even with the tallest of rubber boots because the sticky mud would stop you in your tracks. Krabi actually has the solution to this problem, however, in the form of a mangrove boardwalk.

It’s free to use and provides a rare glimpse into this difficult to access habitat. Colorful crabs scuttle around the roots of the trees, mudskippers make you think of missing links between fish and terrestrial creatures, and the melancholy calls of hidden birds are issued from the dim recesses of this semi-aquatic forest.

The other way to experience the mangroves is with a ride on a traditional, Thai boat. Tours are easy to arrange through travel agencies in town or by simply walking down to the wharf where upon seeing you, local boatmen sporting traditional sarongs shout out, “boat tour…mangroves!” and attempt to show you faded pictures of mangrove wildlife.

In general, the mangroves are quiet, peaceful places but several species of beautiful Asian kingfishers are typically seen as are other birds and monkeys. Unlike the Sunderban mangroves of India and Bangladesh, you won’t see any Tigers, but then again you won’t have to worry about getting eaten by them either.

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