Fishing for Catfish on the Amazon River

This is one of the many fishermen who paddles the Amazon River each morning in search of catfish.  Villagers are dependent on fishing for their livelihood.
This is one of the many fishermen who paddles the Amazon River each morning in search of catfish. Villagers are dependent on fishing for their livelihood.

In December, Eric and I went on an Amazon River Cruise.  On one of our excursions in a skiff, we came upon some local fishermen who had a stuck net.  They were in a dug out canoe, about 4 guys, and we stopped and watched as they tried about everything to get their catch out of the water.

At one point, another dug out canoe, this one with a bigger motor, tied up and tried to help get this massive net out of the water. Another guy jumped in the water and tried to free the net. They all worked tirelessly to bring in the catch.

Eventually, they asked us our native guide we could help them out with our powerful boat.  We tied up to their canoe and pulled them this way and that until the net came loose, netting them hundreds of catfish into their tiny canoe.

We passed them all bottles of cold water from our cooler before setting off in search of more excitement.

This catfish was caught with a spear from a canoe that paddles along the river's edge.
This catfish was caught with a spear from a canoe that paddles along the river’s edge.

A short time later, we saw someone fishing for catfish with a spear.  That man let me hold one of his fish for this picture.  The other passengers got such a laugh over the catfish that the fisherman passed his spear in for me to pose with too.

In the Amazon villages, catfish is one of the main sources of food.  It only made sense for us to experience the local dishes, so catfish was served almost every day as one of many options on the buffet. It was cooked up differently each time and each distinct flavor was exciting to try.

 

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Spotting the Caiman Alligator on the Amazon River

A caiman alligator is spotted in the underbrush along the Amazon River waters edge.
A caiman alligator is spotted in the underbrush along the Amazon River waters edge.

Some would say it was pure luck that we spotted a caiman alligator while cruising on the Amazon River.  Our expedition skiff is gliding along at about 10 knots on an Amazon River inlet, when a fellow passenger, Vic, shouts out that he spotted a Caiman.  Caezar, the native driving our skiff, slows and turns the boat back to a wall of green jungle.  At the same time, our naturalist guide, Lois, works his magic with his binoculars to find the exact spot where the elusive caiman waits for his prey.  The dozen voyagers look in the branches for a Caiman Lizard but see nothing, and Vic points to the water where the Caiman Alligator is lazing on the water’s edge, eyeing us for breakfast.  Vic is a hunter at his home in Vancouver, and has developed an eagle eye for spotting wildlife during our Amazon River Cruise.

I was able to snap a few pictures and imagine the size of this beast for a minute or so before he dives and disappears with a big splash.  Only then do I realize the size of this creature and the damage he could do to an unaware swimmer or hiker.  I’m glad that my naturalist, Lois, is escorting us through his homeland while we search for birds, reptiles and fish during our Amazon River Cruise.

The reward for sighting a creature before the guide is 20 points this time.  Most points have been awarded for bird sightings until now.  The first guest to reach 50 points will receive a complimentary piranha pedicure.

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Spotting birds and wildlife during Amazon River cruise

Spotting Wildlife

Each morning, we began the day at sunrise with a skiff exploration.  The birds were particularly active in the early morning, with parakeets and toucan often flying overhead.  A number of species, new to North Americans, were spotted each day.  One of our guides carried a birding book and could easily identify and locate descriptions for us.

Heron on the shore of the Amazon River
Heron on the Amazon River

The white heron, no matter how often I see it in my backyard at home or in the Amazon River will always be the most beautiful and graceful creature in my mind.  Most mornings, I was able to spot at least one and enjoy it’s tranquility.

We normally got back to the ship at about 8 a.m. for breakfast.  Sometimes,we had another expedition, either on the skiffs or on shore, later in the morning.  As much as I loved coming upon colonies of monkeys, I was also obsessed with the sounds of these creatures playing and squawking in the trees.  They moved so quickly that it was likely the first evidence of their whereabouts, after the sound, was the tree branches flailing from their jumps.

If there could possibly be a slower animal than the turtle, it has to be the three toed sloth.  We saw them again and again in the trees and they always just looked like blobs.  Only once did we see one on the move, but we saw dozens just hanging out.

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