Sani Lodge II

Observation platform at Sani Lodge

The rains came and there was no mistaking that we were in the Amazon rainforest! It was harder than usual for Cristian to find exotic insects but he persisted and we invented various strategies to improve our chances. Fortunately, it did not rain 24 hours in a day. Besides taking photos of insects and various small creatures in the morning, I undertook a new routine which was to take photos of birds early in the morning and also later in the afternoon. This was my first time attempting bird photography and since I was in an ideal location I put a lot of pressure on myself to learn rapidly and not miss this special opportunity. I learned the importance of a good vantage point from which to take the photos. The lodge area did have such a spot. This was a level area, good for tripod stability, that had unobstructed views of bird landing areas which also were of an optimal distance for my 840mm focal length. In this spot I had the added advantage of being able to rotate my camera/lens 180 degrees and capture the Chestnut Jacamars that came and went from their hunting perch on a bare branch.

I quickly became addicted to the photography of birds. Thanks to the amazing amplifying power of the Canon 600mm lens which also produces very sharp images, I realized that I had never really seen, in all the glorious details, a bird before. My eyes were opened and I could appreciate the wonderful tropical birds that paraded before my eyes. The lodge is situated at the end of Challuacocha Lake. From my ideal vantage point, there were many areas of the shore that came within the acceptable range of my equipment, and the show began: a magnificent Cocoi Heron, maybe 1.25 meters in height; a Striated Heron stealthily moving through the brush on the shore; and the icing on the cake, a Rufescent Tiger-Heron with beautiful tiger stripes. This later heron took on the form of a horizontal spear before launching itself toward a fish at the edge of the lake.

Sani Lodge has one of the best observation towers in Amazonia. The platform stands at 38 meters above the forest floor, the tree is a very old Ceiba, the metal access tower is well-made and secure, and there are many unobstructed views. I set up my equipment thinking that I would surely see a number of birds. We did see a White-throated Toucan but at a distance of about 200 meters away, the image won't be great. What may be within range, at about 100 meters, was a family group of nine red howler monkeys. The young ones were jumping around, hanging upside down and were fearless even at a height of 30 meters off the ground. I suppose that their agile and very strong tails accounts for their fearlessness. 

These images and experiences are something that probably I will never forget, the images of the wonder of life itself. It was a privilege for me to stay in this selvatic paradise with the Kichwa people. I give thanks for my good fortune!