We didn’t swim with the piranhas on our trip into the Ecuadorian rain forest after all. But, considering what other critters were in the water, that was probably a good choice! This black caiman, somewhere between 2 and 3 meters long, surfaced close to the swimming area one afternoon.
He looked quite relaxed as he was floating in the afternoon heat. Even the insect on his snout didn’t seem to bother him. Looking down on him from the deck of the terrace was as close as I wanted to get. I suspect he wouldn’t be so tranquil if he were to be disturbed!
I first encountered a black caiman on my first trip to the jungle back in 2006. Mandy (my daughter) and I traveled to the Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve in Peru. From Cusco, we traveled for several hours by van and went as far as the road went into the Park. From the village at the end of the road, we traveled by motorized canoe up the river toward camp for four hours. The canoes seated approximately 20 people in rows of two or three people across. There were no bathroom facilities aboard, so we were told to inform our guides if the necessity arose. Of course, it did. The canoe pilot pulled up along a sandy stretch of beach and we disembarked to do our business. We walked a short way up the beach into the bushes. When we emerged, people in the canoe were motioning for us to hurry back. Once back in the canoe, our guide pointed out a large black caiman on the beach just a few yards from where we had been obliviously relieving ourselves!
The Sacha Lodge in Ecuador, where Doug and I traveled last week, did have a separate swimming area caged off which would have separated us from such critters. They installed it as giant otters have taken up residence in the lake and have been known to bite. We didn’t see any of the otters, but I didn’t see any reason to invade their territory by swimming.
These lovely turtles were numerous and sunned themselves on logs. Occasionally you heard a “plop” and knew they were off for a cooling swim.
We did go fishing for piranhas one afternoon. We were given bamboo poles with a line, large hook and meat to use as bait. As soon as the hook and bait hit the water, you could feel the nibbles. For the most part, we fed the piranhas. Our guide caught a couple of small ones. I caught this one which was the largest of the day.
Later we found out another guest had caught two, brought them to the cook, and had them with his dinner. They are reported to be quite tasty, although rather bony. I didn’t realize that was an option and released mine back into the lake.