- Written by Kaya Klop-Toker Kaya Klop-Toker
- Parent Category: Countries Countries
- Category: Ecuador Ecuador
- Created: 24 February 2017 24 February 2017
After arriving in the Ecuadorian capital Quito, I flew to the small town of Trinidad where I caught a taxi with a driver named Darwin (which felt like a very fateful name indeed). Darwin drove me to the Rio Napo, where I unloaded my gear under the shade of a beautiful large cecropia tree, took in the rich smell of the tropics, and waited for my turn to be ferried in a small dugout canoe across the large brown river.
Once across the river, I met my contact and drove another hour through thick jungle, until we came to my destination and home for the next two months. I was volunteering for a research team studying recently discovered frog species that live in bromeliads, high above the canopy, in the branches of emergent trees.
During both the day and night, we walked through the forest searching for frogs. A walk through Yasuni National Park was never disappointing. In the day, the forest was bright, warm, and quiet – completely opposite to the dark, impenetrable landscape, full of animal calls. In the early mornings, the myriad of bird life would recite their morning chorus, often accompanied by the loud, long, guttural calls of howler monkeys.
However, during the heat of day, the birds and monkeys would subdue their calls and one could walk through the forest in pleasant, tranquil state. This quietness, however, did not equate to a lack of wildlife, and if I paid attention, I was often rewarded with numerous frog and lizard sightings along the path. Poison dart frogs were regularly encountered in the day, as well as hundreds of tiny juvenile frogs, no bigger than my finger nail. Large, languid tegu lizards would saunter across the path, and occasionally an unsuspecting tortoise.
At night we discovered bright-green monkey treefrogs, which frequently walk on their long, skinny legs rather than jump; beautiful chocolate brown treefrogs, which look like the hopping frog confectionary from Harry Potter; and big Smokey jungle frogs with a Latin name that rolls off the tongue: Leptodactylus pentadactylus.
Nightime also revealed the beautifully-colored and aptly-named rainbow boa constrictors, and horrifyingly alien-looking, yet harmless whip scorpions. If it rained a lot and we were lucky, we found miniature snub-nosed salamanders or giant earthworms, commonly mistaken for caecilians until we felt their rough segmentation. Listing all the animals we found would take pages; such is the variety of life in the Amazon. Every time I left my accommodation, I found a unique and fascinating creature. It was like being a naïve child again where everything you see is a new, amazing discovery.
Although it has been nine years, the time I spent in the Ecuadorian Amazon continues to remain one of my most exciting memories. I made lifelong friends. I furthered our knowledge of these threatened and enigmatic animals and learned skills that have been valuable to my career in amphibian conservation. However, just the experience of being immersed in the Amazon is enough to make it worthwhile. To be surrounded by jungle that stretches as far as the eye can see, to smell that rich, sweet air, and to see such variation of life is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I hope to experience again.
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