The first two activities we did at Araras Eco-Lodge were walks with our guide Roberto, along a boardwalk about 1 km long, to view the surrounding area from tall observation towers.
Written by John
The rainy season started a little early this year, meaning mid-October. This early rain filled a lot of depressions, which offered perfect early breeding conditions for the mosquitoes. This means not only is every day hot (90’s), but also if you go for a walk to see wildlife, you will be swarmed by mosquitoes. We try to make things better by wearing long pants, long sleeved shirts, shoes and socks, hats and insect repellent. Even with those precautions, you come back drenched with sweat and with numerous fresh bites. You sweat so much your clothes cling to you, and then it is easy for the mosquitoes to drill into your flesh. Lois is particularly sensitive, and she is not a happy camper. I offer this background so you understand why we are doing some of the things we do.
On Wednesday morning they offered horseback riding to anyone who wanted it. Lois and I declined, the other two guests went. After our guide dropped off the horseback riders, he took Lois and me on a 20 minute walk through the forest to a 25 meter game viewing platform. At the top we had great views and a nice breeze, so there were no bugs! It was here that I got the great photo of the chestnut eared toucan. We were reluctant to leave the platform because even a twenty minute walk on a boardwalk through the forest was very unpleasant because of the heat and bugs.
After that walk, I decided I was not going on any more walks. I came back to the room, changed into my swimsuit and went to the pool. The best part of the pool is the cool shower you take before entering the very warm pool water. After a dip in the pool you can take another nice cool shower. Right after that, I found a great book in the library, “The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”. I can relate to an old guy climbing out the window of his nursing home because he was bored. We had lunch outside while swatting mosquitoes, then retired to our rooms to relax. By the way, breakfast and lunch are always served outdoors, under shelter.
At 3:30 PM they offered another two hour walk in the heat, light rain and bugs. I declined, and spent my time in our air conditioned room reading my new book. Lois returned two hours later dripping wet and bit up. But she did get to walk in the forest, and saw monkeys and lots of gorgeous birds, including a small ostrich called a rhea. I was happy with my decision to stay back. Note from Lois: I have used both my little umbrella and my head net. My ankles and upper arms look like I have a rash, and there are even quite a few bites on my torso. I can see why this is the "low season" here.
Wednesday night after dinner they offered a "night safari", where we drove in a large open sided truck to view the nocturnal animals. The guides use a giant floodlight to illuminate the areas adjacent to the road. No jaguar sighting, but we did see water buffalo and a big family of armadillos. About ten minutes before we returned to the lodge, it began to rain hard, and since there was a bit of wind, we got pretty wet. After that we vowed to take our rain jackets whenever we went out
On Thursday morning, there was a motor boat cruise on the Rio Claro, which involved driving about an hour to a different lodge. On the boat ride, we saw lots of birds, howler monkeys, and a caiman that entertained us with his leaping abilities. A caiman is a lot like a crocodile but not as large – only about 2 meters long. The boatman held a long pole out over the water, with a dead piranha on it. Then the caiman jumped about four feet out of the water to try to bite the fish off. Neither Lois nor I thought this was ethical, nor did our guide Roberto from Araras – which has high sustainability standards - there are signs here reminding you not to feed the animals. But it was still pretty amazing to see how high the caiman could leap. The best part of the boat tour was that while we were moving on the river, there was a good breeze, so it wasn't buggy. In the afternoon at 4 PM they offered a driving safari where we rode in the back of a truck while they drove slowly down a rough dirt road. We did get to see a large snake (7’) cross the road, plus about 25 water buffalo lazing in a muddy pond. That evening we went on another night truck safari. We saw a tapir and a giant anteater run into the bushes.
Lois now: Two more people arrived the other day – a 30-something couple who live in London and Antwerp. They met at a wedding in Barcelona over 3 years ago, and eventually plan to live together somewhere. Roy and Santosh, our American buddies, have similar political leanings as John and me, so we can discuss this week's election results, and we always agree.
Besides skipping the horseback riding, we also decided not to do the canoeing. The thought of being out in a small boat that is moving slowly just didn't sound appealing. At one point we did see the canoes on a rack; they are fairly long and wide, and appeared to weigh about 175 pounds. I can't understand how people can live in a place that is so hot and buggy, but they do, and obviously they are used to it.
John writing now: Both Lois and I will be glad to see the end of this portion of our Brazil trip. The lodge itself is comfortable, and we enjoy the other guests. The heat, humidity, and bugs just make it difficult to enjoy the wildlife. We will be heading to an airport hotel later on Friday afternoon, since the airline changed our flight from 11:40 AM to 5:40 AM on Saturday November 10.