In La Paz, we visited a few different agencies operating ecolodges in Madidi National Park. After visiting quite a few, we wandered into the offices of Madidi Travel and were greeted by Rosa Maria. Her friendliness and warmth immediately drew us in. As it turns out, she played an integral part in setting up Madidi National Park. she spent most of her life living in the area that is now protected and served as the lead guide for a National Geographic Expedition into Madidi. Her passion for conservation and helping her local communities understand the value of protecting their lands clenched our decision to stay at her Serere ecolodge. Outside of Madidi National Park, she bought and reestablished 4000 hectares of land as a model for conservation. She hopes to expand the protected area and continue working with the local communities to show them ecotourism is a viable alternative to commercial logging and fishing.

Arriving at our cabana in Serere, a few animal friends greeted us. The tarantula just inside our door greeted us first, but in usual fashion we thought it was dead and moved on to check out the rest of the place. In the bathroom, a few cockroaches lay dead on the tile floor, a enormous cricket hung on the screened window, and a resident spider guarded the sink. I write this as though it’s no big deal, but in actuality I was shrieking at Chris for several minutes to move everyone out. Upon prodding the tarantula with a stick, Chris learned it was still alive, It raised its front legs in a karate type stance, but Chris stealthily moved the stick under him and proceeded to relocate the tarantula outside. We allowed the resident cricket and spider to stay. With our meet and greet over, we spent the next three days touring the surrounding area.

On our first canoe ride with piranhas jumping all around us, we watched several cormorants, egrets, and kingfishers along the lake side. Spotting caymans as they rested near shore became a favorite past time of Chris’ as I shot photo after photo attempting to get a bird in flight. All activities ceased, however, when the monstrous roar of red howler monkeys echoed over the lake. We made a quick row across the lake to the other side and our guide hurried us off into the forest in quick pursuit of the howler monkeys. When we eventually reached them, their size compared to their monstrous roar surprised us. About the size of a small dog, these shy monkeys sure give a boisterous warning call when something enters their territory. In the coming days, we usually awoke to the howlers transiting somewhere near our cabanas, and we saw them on one other occasion.

On many of our walks, the cappuccino monkeys swung from tree to tree above us. Rather than being afraid of us, they seemed to view us as oddities. We enjoyed watching the babies clumsily jump from tree to tree, barely making it a few times. Crashing through the forest, the babies were the easiest to hear because they usually chose their branches unwisely. Palms and branches waving wildly usually meant a baby was in the group. Toward the end of the trip, I was too sick to take the walks and stayed in our cabana. Luckily, the monkeys came by to visit. With the screened-in walls, I felt like I was in the zoo and they were the spectators. They hung around for awhile watching me and playing in the trees right outside our cabana.

Of the birds we saw, the macaws‘ call and plumage is the most distinct and colorful. Their call is like a loud squawk that reverberates through the forest. Easily spotted by their radiant red, blue, and yellow plumage, we tracked macaws several times on our walks.

Oddly enough, we were the most transfixed by the leaf-cutter ants. They begin working at dusk and follow a trail up to 4km long to gather pieces of leaves in order to grow fungus for food. Millions of leaf-cutters can inhabit one colony. On their trail, it’s easy to spot soldier ants guarding and maintaining the trail; they also help stray workers find their way. We watched for several minutes as an army of marching green leaves bounced down the trail. In the early hours of the morning, we saw the last of the workers going into their hole. We wonder how many times a night each ant makes the trek.

Tropical rainforests typically have five canopy levels. Since Serere is a an area being reestablished, it only contains three levels but the diversity in wildlife and vegetation is phenomenal. Visiting the rainforest, we gained a better appreciation for tropical rainforest conservation. The Amazon Basin continues to be decimated by logging practices and farming. The United States is a major consumer of these products. Mahogany and Brazilian cherry are the most common wood products logged from the Amazon Basin, and cattle and soybean farming on the stripped lands contributes to its decimation. If you would like to find out more information on how to help conserve the Amazon Basin click here.

As always, our recent photos can be viewed on Chris’ and Jodi’s flickr pages.

3 Responses to “Tarantulas, crickets, cockroaches—Oh My!”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Oh. My. God. I think that would have sent me packing straight away! You are a braver soul than I. Oh, they just removed the travel warning for Bolivia, so we might still go, but I’m a little scared. We’ll wait a little to see what happens, I guess.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Duh — just saw you’re in Bolivia. So, how are things there?

  3. Emily Ruth says:

    The Piranha mouth is insane. We love reading your posts. It’s like being there!