Madidi National Park, into the Amazon rainforest (part 2)

During the four days we spent in the Amazon rainforest we walked through the forest once or twice each day. It is a humid place and for long periods of time you don’t see much other than the flora all around, but it is absolutely fascinating to be inside the forest itself.

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

One of the great pleasures of being there is just to stand still and listen. The sound of the forest is captivating, there is little wind to obscure the bird calls, the sound of insects and occasionally the noise of the larger inhabitants of the forest. One day we heard, and smelled, a large group of peccaries moving through the forest thirty meters away. We never saw them but the noise was tremendous – they sounded like a giant creature crashing through the undergrowth, and the musk and urine smell was overwhelmingly powerful.

Its impossible to capture the feeling of being in the forest without a soundtrack, but I hope these photos give a sense of place.

Giant 500 year-old tree, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Giant 500 year-old tree, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

A brown and yellow snake, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

A brown and yellow snake, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Butterfly, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Butterfly, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Squirrel, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Squirrel, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Red-bellied Trogon, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Red-bellied Trogon, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainbow Boa Constrictor, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainbow Boa Constrictor, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainbow Boa Constrictor, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainbow Boa Constrictor, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

We occasionally saw a young tapir that had been orphaned and raised by the families who run the lodge. It was semi-wild but had little fear of humans, which meant you could watch him at fairly close quarters. Tapirs have spookily human faces, especially the eyes, but generally are quite odd looking creatures. One night he gave everyone a real scare by charging around in the undergrowth behind the cabanas, in the darkness it was a terrifying.

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tapir, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi National Park, into the Amazon rainforest (part 1)

One of the reasons we wanted to visit the Madidi National Park and the Madidi Jungle Ecolodge, was the opportunity to see some of the incredible wildlife that lives and thrives within the dense forests and along the rivers that make up the park. This is one of the most perfectly preserved and biodiverse areas in the world, a vast 19,000 square kilometre area ranging from tropical rainforest to the mountains of the Cordillera Real.

Scientists believe the area protected by the Madidi National Park contains the greatest variety of species anywhere on the planet – giving Madidi serious bragging rights. The statistics are mind-boggling, particularly as new species are still being discovered: the park is home to 867 species of birds, 156 mammals, approximately 109 reptiles and 88 species of amphibians. There could be upwards of 300 different species of fish. The variety of flora is off the scale.

Rainforest and river, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainforest and river, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

That said, your chances of spotting most of these species are pretty remote. Many are rightly keen to avoid contact with humans, many others only come out at night, quite a few live under water, while others keep to the tops of trees when they aren’t flying above the forest. Still, we were hopeful of some success in spotting wildlife, mainly thanks to our highly trained guide and native of the forests, Norman.

Norman, our guide, explains about the 'walking palm', Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Norman, our guide, explains about the ‘walking palm’, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

What Norman doesn’t know about the plants and animals of the forest could be written on the back of a stamp. He spotted an ocelot as we motored up the river from Rurrenabaque, and during our four days in the Madidi he led us on daily walks through the forest spotting numerous others beasties. When not spotting animals, Norman gave us the lowdown on medicinal plants that have been used by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon for thousands of years.

Rainforest, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainforest, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Toucans, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Toucans, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Toucans, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Toucans, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Flower, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Flower, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Spikey tree, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Spikey tree, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

On our first walk through the forest Norma suddenly stopped and motioned for us to be quiet (I thought we were being quiet, but apparently we sounded like a herd of elephants crashing about). He led us off the trail and we found ourselves in the midst of a group of tamarin monkeys. Tamarin’s are squirrel-sized and very agile, they didn’t seem to be bothered about our presence and we watched them moving from tree-to-tree, grooming and eating for 20 minutes.

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey with baby, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tamarin monkey with baby, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

On ocelot and tamarin monkeys on the first day….but there was much more in the forest for us to see.

Tree with vine, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Tree with vine, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Red-bellied Trogon, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Red-bellied Trogon, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fallen tree and fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Fallen tree and fungi, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Howler monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Howler monkey, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Poison dart frog, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Poison dart frog, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainforest, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Rainforest, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Capybara, Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Capybara, Madidi National Park, Bolivia