May 15th, 2005
Unfortunately there were no morning flights to Iquitos, so this afternoon at 4.00 PM we flew to Iquitos. This morning in our hotel we met Jason again. He had come yesterday afternoon to Tarapoto with Evan, to go out for the night. When he heard this morning our voices, he got up immediately, as he was very curious to hear about our experiences in the mysteriosus area. So we had a very long breakfast, later Evan joined us as well. According to Rainer, Mario was the best guide in Iquitos for finding poison dart frogs. So Rainer called him, but heard that Mario was at the moment in Ecuador. There were some expensive lodges a little further away from Iquitos, were you would see a lot of wildlife. One of these lodges had a Dendrobat Management Programme. Jason had been there and had done some research over there. It turned out to be a very expensive lodge, 1200 USD per person for one week. So we were doubting, but this was probably the best chance to see the most frogs of that region and also many other animals. We could not get in contact this morning with this Tahuayo Lodge, we hoped that there would be a representative at the airport. Many tour operators and lodges have here at the airports a stand or representative. But there was no representative at Iquitos Airport. We had the address of their office in Iquitos, so we first went to look for a hotel in Iquitos and then to their local office. Our taxi driver asked us what we wanted to see in and around Iquitos, so we said poison dart frogs. He said his brother had a shop in poison dart frogs, if we wanted he could bring us to his brother’s house and shows us the frogs. Unfortunately his brother was now at an expedition. But he had a friend who had his own travel agency and accompanied several times frog lovers, he could bring us to him. But we wanted to go first to the local office of Tahuayo Lodge. But it was closed, it was located at the first floor of an old and decayed house, not exactly representative. So we decided to go to the ‘recommended’ agency which was located very close to our hotel at Plaza de las Armas. The guide could tell us straight away, after showing him our map with pictures of Peruvian poison dart frogs, where he could find which frog. He also told us where to look exactly and what to watch. It sounded well, after some negotiation we came to an expedition of 4 days. For 4 days we would go with him and his boat 210 km upstream and visit several places. He had a very plain base camp at the Yarapiriver, where we also could see many different monkeys, sloth’s, parrots, dolphins and with a little luck giant otters. But we would go first the following day with him by road to Nauta to an area were we could find the D. reticulates and the D. duellmani. That day we could see if he was a good guide, before going with him for a couple of days at a boat trip. It all sounded interesting, it would be quite primitive, but more adventurous and much cheaper, USD 450 for the 2 of us, all in.
May 16th, 2005
At 6 AM Andy, our guide from Amazonian Wilderness Expeditions, picked us up at our hotel. We followed the way to Nauta, a city about 100 km upstream at the Amazon. At km 58, we stopped and followed by foot a small path that lead to the Amazon river, about 10 km further. Halfway we could find a red striped frog. He did not know the name of the frog, but he had pointed at the picture of the D. real duellmani. We followed the winding path for some km and the we dove into the forest in search for a red striped frog. The first frog we found was an E. hahneli and indeed a little later at a giant of the forest a red striped frog with a tadpole at his back. Unfortunately he jumped into a tree whole where he stayed. Was it a real duellmani? After searching for quite some time we did not find another one. But Andy knew a few km further another place, where we could find this frog as well. In the scorching heat, as the path was lying in the full sun, along some small plantations, we arrived at the following spot. Along the road we had seen several lizards and a beautiful rainbow boa. At the second spot we found soon a semi adult red striped frog, a little later an adult one. But they were quite fast and not willing to cooperate for a photo shoot. But a little later we found another one who stayed quietly at his tree. These frogs had a very beautiful colour, blue marbled legs and belly like a reticulatus, but then 3 bright red stripes at his back. Meanwhile we learned from Jason it was not the real duellmani but a striped reticulates. We walked back to our taxi, which was still waiting for us at the main road and left for the area where we could find the D. reticulatus. But after half an hour we had a blow-out. All the tires were slippery. And then you stand next to the road with no spare tire, nothing. In the early morning we had passed many minivans, so we thought let us go by minivan to this area, also located along this road. But at the beginning of the afternoon, at the hottest part of the day, there were no minivans passing by. After more than an hour the first minivan passed by, but was overloaded and did not stop. An hour later a second overloaded minivan passed and stopped. With some efforts we succeeded in getting in the minivan. When we arrived at the area it was already 4.30 PM. We searched for a little while, but then decided to return to Iquitos, it was better not to travel in the dark for us and it was still about 25 km to Iquitos. Again we had to wait for quite some time before the first overloaded minivan arrived, but then you saw all of a sudden tens of minivans passing our minivan. In the dark we arrived at Iquitos.
May 17th, 2005
This night it started to rain cats and dogs. When we were picked up at 6.00 AM, the rain was still pouring down. With a moped taxi we drove to a small harbour at a small tributary of the Amazon river. But after 10 minutes we came at the Amazon, an enormous river, several km wide at this part. First we went to the village of his parents, Panguana, about 60 km upstream. There we could find another beautifully striped frog, Andy had pointed out a D. amazonicus, but he was not sure if it was really the same frog. The house of his parents had been Andy’s first base camp. As the wildlife disappeared more and more he had build another lodge 70 km upstream. But again the same story, also there less and less wildlife to spot, he had to go further and further into the Amazon area to see wildlife. A couple of months ago he had sold his lodge and was now building a new base camp. This base camp, under construction, is located about 210 km from Iquitos. First we had breakfast at his parents’ house. Meanwhile the rain had turned into drizzle and when we had finished our breakfast it was dry again. Within 15 minutes you saw that leafs were already completely dry. So it became time to go on a frog hunt. A few km behind his parents’ house we saw our first frogs, several young ones, not even semi adult. But was it a D. amazonicus? They looked more like a D. duellmani, but without flash marks. We did not see any adult ones around. After an hour, a little further away we found the first adult one, this was a duellmani. Soon we saw several duellmani’s, trees that had fallen down or cut down were their favourite spots. Here we saw also some young ones, the looked like the young ones we had seen before, but these had already their yellow flash marks. The young ones we had seen before, did not have those flash marks. Or do they get their flash marks after a few months? But as it was the same area, just a km further away, the first ones probably were as well duellmani and not amazonicus. When we returned to the village, our boatman had already prepared our lunch. You easily get used to have twice a day a hot meal, we need it with our hikes. Here you really had a lot of mosquito’s, around Tarapoto you also had a lot of mosquito’s, but that was nothing compared to the mosquito’s here. We continued the Amazon river and later the Ucayali river upstream for 3 hours and than we followed a tributary, the Yarapi river. At the beginning of this river we stayed for a while, to admire the pink and grey dolphins. Great to watch them but it was very hard to take pictures, every time they dove at another spot out of the water and before the camera could focus, they had entered the water again. Han dove into the water to swim with the dolphins, but the water was so muddy, so you could not see them approaching you, only when they passed quite close you felt a little current and see them jumping out of the water a little further away. The little sardines were quite annoying, first they snapped a little all over Han’s body, but soon it became biting, when one bit in his nipple, the swimming came soon to an end. From this spot to the base camp it was still half an hour. By a small creek, less than 2m wide, we entered a lagoon. Here was our camp. It was still under construction and quite primitive. But they had a small dining cabin, closed with wire-blinds. This was really necessary. Just after we had arrived, the sun set and the malariamusquitos showed up. During our trip this morning we got already completely leaky of musquitobites, but that was nothing to this attack! So after setting up our beds and mosquito nets, we dove into the dining cabin. They had 2 hammocks hanging here, so nice to relax. It was just completely dark, when in the giant of the forest behind our cabin a Phelomedusa bicolor took on, what a noise! We went straight away to this tree to see if we could find him, but unfortunately he sat too high in the tree, so we could not see him. There sat also another tree frog in the tree that reacted at him, what a volume the two of them. After dinner the only night active monkeys of the Amazon come to our camp and took on in the tree next to the dining cabin and in the tree next to our open cabin, where we had our mosquito nets. Finely we saw mammals, something else after over 2 weeks just frogs, lizards and snakes. Here fore we also came to the Amazon region. The rainforests we had visited before, did not have any wildlife anymore, but also in the Amazon region it is getting more and more difficult to see wildlife, you have to go deeper and deeper into the Amazon rainforest. Hopefully we will see tomorrow more monkeys. We are also curious what kind of frog we will find here. A light blue one said Andy, he does not know the frogs, so it is every time a surprise, but as long we see every time frogs, it is no problem.
May 18th, 2005
This morning we first were looking in the forest behind our camp, but after 2 hours searching, no frog at all, no other animals, even not a lizard. Only mosquito’s, mosquito’s and mosquito’s. After 2 hours we said let us go for the monkeys. Back at our camp we said to the 2 boys that watched over and built our camp, we did not find any frogs. One boy said, he sometimes sees little frogs at the banana tree behind the kitchen. So we walked to the banana tree and indeed, 2 ventri’s! We even saw an egg clutch in the armpit of the palm tree. A little further away you have several heleconia’s, but this couple preferred the banana tree. You hardly find here bromeliads, sometime at a giant of the forest in the middle of the water or swamp. Regularly you find huge tillandsia’s above the water. After taking some pictures of the ventri’s, the boy showed us 2 snakes which he had spotted this morning at the camp. It was a very beautiful rainbow boa and in the tree behind our cabin an anaconda. But according to us the last one was not an anaconda, it looked more like a boa constrictor, but we are no snake experts. Back home we’ll show the picture to a snake expert. The boys had found as well a caiman, just next to the plank-bridge we used as wash place. Then we went by canoe over the lake into the swamp. Meanwhile it started to get quite warm. We were a little late for the monkeys, but fortunately we still found some. You find here everywhere giant water-lily leafs with a diameter of 1½ to 2 meter, the Vitoria Regina. First the flower of the water-lily blossoms, mostly he starts to blossom against sunset and blossoms for 25 hours. Then he dies and within 2 weeks the deceased flower forms a giant leaf with a rim. These leafs can hold a weight of 7 kilos. After 5 weeks the leaf is decayed, eaten up by insects. Around noon we came back to the camp and dove immediately in the dinner cabin in the hammocks. After almost 3 weeks of many strenuous hikes at often quite ‘primitive’ whereabouts (here we wash ourselves in the river) a limited variation of food, bad night rests, completely covered by musquitobites, several infected, we need a ‘rest’, we are dying for a good bed and a good shower with no mosquito’s. Although I have to say every now and then, in between, we had a night in a hotel. We were thinking and talking who we could do after this trip. We wanted to see the reti, but to go for a couple of day down the river to search the green trivittatus and another of Andy’s surprise frogs and to camp at the border of the Naporiver or Amazon river or going to Cusco and Machu Picchu to do things more relaxed and luxurious was open, but we still had a couple of days to decide. This afternoon we went for another attempt to see the giant otters and more monkeys by canoe. We were just half an hour away and a real downpour started. We dove with the canoe under a giant of the forest. It looked like the tree protected us against the downpour but after 10 minutes even the tree could not catch the rain for us anymore. After half an hour it stopped raining, straight away you saw again many birds. We saw several kinds of parrots flying in pairs, screaming loudly above our head. We also saw several toucans, birds of prey etc. But the monkeys did not leave yet their shelters, but we heard them from a distance. We returned to the camp, we passed the small creek we entered the lake on arrival. Meanwhile the water level had fallen down over a meter. The motorboat could not pass the creek, even by canoe we grazed over the bottom. But Andy told us there was still another exit.
May 19th, 2005
This morning we went again by canoe. This time we saw several monkeys and also sloth’s. But you could not take pictures because of the bright back lightning. We checked the other exit, this one was blocked up by a tree that had fallen down. By canoe we could pass. A little later everything was completely covered with water hyacinths, it looked like a green meadow with here and there trees. With quite some effort we could peddle through this water hyacinth meadow for at least one km. This was the only other way to reach the Yarapiriver. Back at the camp, the 2 boys came with us by canoe with machetes and an axe. We followed them by boat. With quite some effort the tree was cut in half, but then we could not push the tree far enough away to pass, so the tree had to be cut again at another spot. After the second cut there came some movement in the tree. We all pushed and pulled and finally the boat could pass and peddled through the water hyacinth meadow to the Yarapiriver. Meanwhile also my camera had given up as well. Fortunately we had said before we left, let us take as well our video camera with us, we can also take picture with this one, as reserve, you never know. And indeed, you never know. Han’s new camera gave up the first day in the Amazon region, today mine, so we needed our reserve camera badly. Hopefully this one will not give up, we still have a week to go.
Where the Yarapi enters the Ucayaliriver, we crossed the river and visited the village San Pedro. Here another frog could be found, a green one with a white stripe at his side. Again we had no idea what kind of frog it would be. There also could be found a frog with red stripes, but this one was more difficult to find. San Pedro was located at the end of the path we had followed for a while a couple of days ago, at the road to Nauta. This red striped frog was another one as the one we had seen that time, so we hoped to see finally an amazonicus. Behind the village you had some plantations and secundary rainforest. Soon we found our first E. hahneli, than a second, third. At almost every step you took a hahneli jumped away. These had some brighter colours as the ones we had seen a couple of days before. These were Andy’s ‘green frogs’, brown with beautifully bright yellow stripes and flash marks. At one place you had a huge nest of killer ants, full with small entries. I saw a hahneli enter that entry, called for Han with his camera, to take a picture when he would come out again, but he left the nest from another entry/exit 2 meter further away. We entered the primary rainforest, searched for over 2 hours, but no red striped frog. Then we told Andy let us return to the boat. We ran out of water as Andy had told us we just search behind the village. Against sunset we arrived at Iquitos. As we had missed the reticulates at our first day, due to the breakdown, we want to go for the reti tomorrow. At the road to Nauta you have the Allpahuayo Investigation Reserve, we had heard that they did there some research about the reti. So we called them and asked if it was possible to get there a guide for tomorrow. We decided not to go downstream in search for other frogs. Andy does not know the frogs, as we knew for sure we would see something special, it would be different. Mario, the acquaintance of Rainer, had not returned yet, so we bought a ticket for Cusco, for the day after.
May 20th, 2005
Today we went to the Allpahuayo Investigation Reserve. We had a nice and interesting day. Normally here do not come tourists as it is an investigation reserve and no a reserve for visitors. Many biology students come here for research; they give a lot of workshops. Now they had 30 biology students form Middle and South American countries for a workshop of 10 days. We could see the results and the research of several projects. We could read the thesis a student had written last year when she did research to the reti. The thesis was quite general, the most about the reti was already known to us, as we have this frog at home. Our guide was a local, who had helped the student with her research. The reserve has hardly any bromeliads, but the reti was inventive enough to find good spots for their egg clutches. When the student did research she had placed in a circle with a diameter of 10 meter 20 plastic bottles, cut in half, with a little water. Within a few weeks 15 bottles had already tadpoles. They never seen a reti higher in a tree as 1½ m, the few bottles they had placed higher were not visited. We had found a large egg clutch, probably some clutches together of the reti. Our guide told us, they had seen several times that reti’s shared a good deposit place, probably due to the few good deposit places. This was new to us. At the first spot we visited we just saw a few reti’s, but one with 2 larvas at it’s back. At the second spot we found quite some reti’s. The manager of the station wanted to hear about our experiences with poison dart frogs in the wild and in captivity and if we knew something about the reti’s which we had not read yet in the thesis. So we talked for quite some time about frogs. We showed her the picture of the reti with larvas, she had never seen this before. So we promised to mail her some pictures. At the station they had since last year the first book of Peruvian frogs, in English. In Spanish there were no books about frogs. The most students and she also hardly could speak English, so with a dictionary they had read the book. Fortunately they had since a couple of months a night 2 hours internet, at internet they could find a lot of information, but unfortunately the most also in English. At several spots around Iquitos you can find the reti, but we knew we could find them here for sure and it was nice to visit this station and listen to the experiences of the biologists here. Unfortunately the reti is caught here everywhere. At many spots were they were found abundantly for a couple of years, you do not find them anymore. At the reserve they had guards walking around at to protect their wild life against poachers and smugglers.