This page has been written so that you know about the potential hazards of the jungle, and how to deal with them. The purpose is not to scare you, but to make you aware of the new environment that you will be entering, just the same as a health and safety briefing is given when starting work in a building and learning about the danger of fire etc. Don’t be scared, just be aware. Remember, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be in a dangerous situation with wild animals and a loud noise will scare off anything. 1.) Tropical Diseases in the area a.) Lieshmaniasis Up at TRC there is a small biting fly that carries a disease called Lieshmaniasis. Only a very small percentage of the flies carry the disease, but it is possible to get. It is curable but the treatment can be long (21 days) and somewhat painfull. While in the field you should always work in long pants and long-sleeved shirts. This fly does come in to the lodge, so you should wear long sleeves and long pants at all times up at the lodge. The one exception is midday on hot days, the flies don’t fly during such conditions, at this time you can wear shorts and a T-shirt. b.) Yellow Fever Yellow fever immunization is required for travel to the area. Go to a travel doctor and talk to them about what other shots to get. You can also get a yellow fever shot in the airport at Puerto Maldonado when you arrive. If you need to do this you must do it immediately when you get off the plane before you get your luggage (look for the person dressed like a nurse and ask for your shot). c.) Malaria I cannot and will not give legally binding advice. All I will say is that I don’t know anyone that has contracted Malaria at the lodges and I do not take malarial prophylaxis. Evacuation by boat to Puerto Maldonado can be done in 1 day (less than 5 hours if need be). 2.) Dealing with Wildlife a.) Jaguars or Pumas Should you be lucky enough to encounter one of these incredible beauties, there is no reason to panic. Although locally pumas have a reputation for being vicious, they invariably run away when encountered. In some areas Jaguars (Panthera onca) can be a bit unphased by people…. But it is important to remember that they do not view people as food. Most big predators have a “prey image” – animals that they have grown up eating, and we do not form part of that image.
This page has been written so that you know about the potential hazards of the jungle, and how to deal with them. The purpose is not to scare you, but to make you aware of the new environment that you will be entering, just the same as a health and safety briefing is given when starting work in a building and learning about the danger of fire etc. Don’t be scared, just be aware. Remember, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be in a dangerous situation with wild animals and a loud noise will scare off anything.
1.) Tropical Diseases in the area
Up at TRC there is a small biting fly that carries a disease called Lieshmaniasis. Only a very small percentage of the flies carry the disease, but it is possible to get. It is curable but the treatment can be long (21 days) and somewhat painfull. While in the field you should always work in long pants and long-sleeved shirts. This fly does come in to the lodge, so you should wear long sleeves and long pants at all times up at the lodge. The one exception is midday on hot days, the flies don’t fly during such conditions, at this time you can wear shorts and a T-shirt.
b.) Yellow Fever
Yellow fever immunization is required for travel to the area. Go to a travel doctor and talk to them about what other shots to get. You can also get a yellow fever shot in the airport at Puerto Maldonado when you arrive. If you need to do this you must do it immediately when you get off the plane before you get your luggage (look for the person dressed like a nurse and ask for your shot).
I cannot and will not give legally binding advice. All I will say is that I don’t know anyone that has contracted Malaria at the lodges and I do not take malarial prophylaxis. Evacuation by boat to Puerto Maldonado can be done in 1 day (less than 5 hours if need be).
2.) Dealing with Wildlife
a.) Jaguars or Pumas
Should you be lucky enough to encounter one of these incredible beauties, there is no reason to panic. Although locally pumas have a reputation for being vicious, they invariably run away when encountered. In some areas Jaguars (Panthera onca) can be a bit unphased by people…. But it is important to remember that they do not view people as food. Most big predators have a “prey image” – animals that they have grown up eating, and we do not form part of that image.
Should you encounter a big cat, stay very still and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you run. This triggers the predator-prey instinct in them and you will get into big trouble. Enjoy the moment and try to get a photo… Louise Emmons, author of The Field Guide to Neotropical Mammals, once faced a Jaguar walking down the path towards her. She calmly remained where she was and took photos of the animal as it walked past her. I have encountered jaguar face to face 3 times on transect, remained calm every time and the cat has always eventually moved on.
If you encounter a big cat on a night walk and find yourself being approached, make sure you are not shining a bright light into its eyes, as it will not be able to see you and may be approaching to investigate the noise you were making. Alert the cat to your presence by making some verbal noise, or stamping your feet.
b.) Peccaries, Tapir and Deer
The small, Collared Peccaries (Tayassu tajacu ), found in small groups, bolt in the presence of people. White-lipped Peccaries (Tayassu pecari ) area a lot more intimidating when encountered as they are found in huge groups and make a lot of scary squealing, barking and teeth clacking when scared to frighten away potential predators. They too try and avoid people, but are potentially a problem if cornered, or if frightened from another direction, in which case they could run towards you. If this should happen shout and wave, or bang a machete against a tree to alert the animal to your presence. You might want to do this from the safety of a raised level – like a fallen tree, or from a low hanging branch… just so long as you are over the level of their heads, which is less than a meter off the ground. Don’t run.
Tapir (Tapirus terrestris ) and Red brocket deer (Mazama americana ) will only run towards you if frightened from another direction. Should this happen, stand behind a tree and let them run past, as these are large animals and could potentially knock you over if you get in their way.
Similarly, I once frightened an armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) on a night-walk. As they have very poor eyesight, the animal ended up running straight at me, and I had to leap over it at the last moment, and it ran beneath me while I was in midair!
Related to armadillos are the nearly blind anteaters. Both the Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) and the smaller Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) are short-sighted and fairly slow. If you attempt to get too close they can slash with their powerful claws that they use to rip open trees and termite mounds. It is said that the Giant Anteater is even capable of killing jaguar according to jungle legend, but they will only react in self-defense.
Wild monkeys will never pose a danger to you. Capuchins (Cebus apella) and Spider monkeys (Ateles belzebuth) can try and intimidate people by shaking branches and throwing sticks, but their aim is atrocious. These monkeys, along with Howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), will also urinate and defecate when frightened, so it is best not to view monkeys from directly beneath them.
At some of the lodges there are habituated monkeys, and people in town keep monkeys as pets. Beware of handling these, or of handling food around them, as they can bite. There are “Monkey Islands” in the area, where monkeys are kept and fed for display to tourists. Some of these have a reputation for being aggressive.
d.) Smaller Mammals
The only time you may be approached by any of the smaller mammals like coati, tayra, ocelot, jaguarondi or bush dogs, would be if they were unaware of your presence or young, curious animals. However, rabies is said to occur in the area, so if a sick animal that is obviously salivating approaches you, do your best to avoid it or chase it away and get beyond its reach.
Some species of bats also carry rabies, so try not to handle them, or use gloves if you have to, especially if caught in mist nets. If on a night-walk you will see bats hurling themselves kamikaze style along the paths towards you. They always avoid you, even if sometimes at the very last instant. Sometimes they may do a lap around your head to catch a moth or insect attracted to your light. They are nothing to worry about.
Dealing with a snake bite
Should any snake bite you the most important thing to remember is NOT to panic. One needs to do everything in ones power to keep your heart rate down to avoid the spread of poison. Secondly, it is very important that you try and get an identification of the type or species. Try and avoid walking. If walking is unavoidable, it should be done as slowly as possible, remember to keep heart rate down. Use your venom extractor within 3 minutes of the bite occurring. The use of a tourniquet, a strip of bandage or material tied in a tight knot above the wound to cut off circulation, can be considered, although this is a last ditch resort and advised against by some professionals. It should only be considered for a bite by a coral snake. A tourniquet should be loosened every 5 minutes to allow some circulation. A crepe bandage, a bandage wrapped tightly along the entire limb, can be applied should you be in possession of one. Inform someone in a position of authority immediately to organize evacuation to Puerto Maldonado.
Of the 100 or so species of snake in the area, only 4 types are considered dangerous to man, so this makes the rainforest a lot safer place than almost anywhere in Australia!
1. Amazon Bushmaster, or Shushupe (Lachesis muta)
A viper growing up to 4m long. As they are vipers that use heat to detect their prey, they have been known to approach people, and are thus killed wherever encountered. Some people say that they are territorial and that they will chase people if encountered within their territory. However, I know of people who have walked past them as they lay next to the path unnoticed, protected by their camouflage. One tourist, unaware of what he was viewing, poked one with a stick after taking a photo of it without getting bitten. They are rare and it is unlikely you will encounter one. If you do, do not frighten or disturb it, leave the area slowly and quietly.
2. Fer-de-Lance, or Jergon (Bothrops atrox)
Another smaller viper (1m) that relies on its camouflage to remain concealed. This snake is a good reason to keep an eye on the path whenever you are walking anywhere.
3. Green Tree Viper, or Loro Machaco (Bothriopsis bilineata)
A green viper with a yellowish belly that is arboreal. They are relatively small, growing to about a maximum of 80cm. They are a good reason to look where you are chopping if clearing a transect. To make things confusing, locals call nearly all green snakes, including the more common and harmless Parrot Snake, Loro Machacos.
4. Coral Snake, or Nyaka-nyaka (Micrurus sp.)
The venom from this snake is neurotoxic, and can be deadly. However, they have very small teeth and are not aggressive. The protection provided by your boots should be adequate to protect from a bite. Generally, only people handling these snakes get bitten. There are a range of false coral snakes too, and you may want to stay on the safe side and not handle any bright red, black and yellow snakes.
In addition to these snakes, the largest snakes in the area are boas and anacondas. Although not poisonous, they are capable of giving a nasty bite that stands a chance of becoming infected. The anaconda is very rare as there seems to be a local market for their heads, which are said to bring money if kept in a business.
All frogs secrete substances through their skin, partially to aid their respiration, which can be potentially toxic. However, the poison arrow frog found here, the Epipidobates, is not lethal as long as you wash your hands after handling one. You should wash your hands after handling any frog, and in addition, you should wash your hands before handling frogs as the DEET insect repellant you use is potentially lethal to them as it will be absorbed through their skin.
g.) Ants, Wasps and Bees
Dealing with insect bites and stings
- Firstly, calm the person.
- If it is a bee sting, and the sting has remained behind, gently remove it by scraping it off using something like a pocket-knife or plastic card.
- Apply cool or cold water to reduce irritation and spread of the poison. A venom extractor can also be used if available. Keep an eye out for allergic reactions. If these become visible, for instance, rapid breathing, cold sweat, dizziness, nausea, give the person an antihistamine and seek medical assistance as quickly as possible.
- An antihistamine cream can be applied in normal circumstances to reduce pain and itchiness.
Isula Ant – This is a large (3cm), black ant that is normally encountered alone. It has the most painful sting of any insect in existence, with the pain lasting many hours. In addition, some people have reported allergic reactions to the sting, so advise someone as soon as you know you have been stung so that you can be monitored. They are a very good reason to look at where you are putting your hands while walking, and to check any area before you sit down. This is a very important ant to learn – make sure you know what it looks like:
Tangarana Ants (Fire Ants) – A very important tree to learn when you get on the trails is the Tangarana tree (Triplaris spp). This tree is the home to a colony of ants that nest inside the tree in hollows that extend from the main trunk to the ends of the branches. The ants feed off a secretion from a certain type of insect that also makes its home in the tree, and are looked after by the Tangarana ants. The Tangarana ants fiercely protect their tree and food source by swarming over anything that lands on, or touches the trees, administering very painful bites. The ants also clear a circle with a radius of up to 1 meter around the tree, which is a helpful way of recognizing it. The tree has pale, mottled bark, and large leaves. These are not the only stinging ants in the forest, so beware when disturbing any ant nest. Another stinging ant called the Aztec ant, lives in Cercropia trees.
Army Ants (Eciton sp.) – A familiar sight to any who use the trails regularly in the jungle, are long, thin trails of rapidly moving ants. Army ants range in size from a few millimeters, to about 2 centimeters and none make permanent nests, instead the queen is kept in a living bivouac of her colony. Among the worker ants are the impressive, large soldier ants, with their large, often pale heads, and huge mandibles. It is said that some indigenous people use these ants as make-shift stitches for cuts – holding the ant so that it bites both sides of a wound, the body is then broken off and the head remains attached with mandibles holding together the cut. Unless you are standing on one of their trails, they are unlikely to bother you. Should you find yourself in the middle of one their hunting expeditions, where the army ants cover the ground and vegetation for many square meters, move rapidly onwards until you are out of their reach. An army ant raiding party is a spectacle in itself, as all the insects in their path try and scurry for safety, making them easy targets for the variety of birds – antbirds, antthrushes, antwrens and antshrikes – that follow.
Leaf Cutter Ants (Atta sp.) – These ants are another incredible spectacle of the jungle. More commonly seen at night along the trails they clear between nest and their target tree, highways of ants carry leaves like sails above their heads, cut by specialized ants that purely cut the leaves. Soldiers guard them, and a caste of tiny ant rides upon some of the leaves to protect against parasitic wasps. In the nest, another caste of ant tends the fungus, which the ants eat, that grows on the leaves. So how could a vegetarian ant possibly be a problem? The ants are highly experimental in what they eat, and it is not unusual for tents, clothes and bags to be cut up and carried away by leaf-cutter ants, so be careful of where you leave your items should you know they are about.
Wasps – There are many, many species of wasp in the jungle, from small, to very large, some that give irritating stings, and some that sting as badly it is like having a hot knife driven into you. No wonder there are some moths that imitate wasps so well, that predators and the average person would never be able to tell the difference. They are fascinating creatures in themselves, making all variety of nests, from paper nests, to fancy, beautiful, mud sculptures. If a wasp lands on you and you do not want it on you, wave it away, or flick it off. Away from their nests, they are fairly docile and nothing to worry about. One place to look out for wasps is under the banana-like leaves of Heliconia plants and various palms, which often over grow the trail. If you disturb their nest you will hear the sudden swarming noise of hundreds of angry wings emerging from the nest. Should you disturb a wasp nest - RUN. Once you have reached a safe distance (often as little as 10m away), you may want to remove your shirt, as often they attach themselves, in which case they will continue to sting repeatedly. Luckily for those who may be allergic to wasps, it appears that people with allergies to European wasps do not react to Tambopata wasps.
Africanised Honey Bees or Ronsapas – Many years ago the African honey-bee, Apis melifora, was introduced into some parts of South America due to the good quality honey they produce. Inevitably, they escaped, and have now colonized most of South and Central America, up into some parts of the United States. They have a reputation for being very aggressive. They are attracted to sweat, but only sting if seriously disturbed. They are very protective over their nests, which they tend to make in natural hollows in trees above ground level. Should you disturb a hive RUN until you are sure you are not being followed. If you are allergic to bees, you should inform the coordinating team. Unlike a wasp, the bee leaves its sting in you along with most of its internal organs as it is barbed. The best way to remove a sting is to scrape it off with a knife, so as not to inject any more poison, or you can pull it out gently using tweezers.
Sweat Bees – These are harmless, stingless bees that come in a variety of shapes and colors, the most common being small (0.5cm) black bees and their larger cousins (1cm). There is also a yellow sweat bee, which you should not confuse with the striped African Honey bee. These bees can however be very annoying should you need to stay in one area for any length of time monitoring wildlife, as they are attracted to sweat – and that is something you will be producing a lot of. Killing them does not help much either, as they release a pheromone when killed which attracts more sweat bees. To deal with them, just keep waving them away, or let them do their sweat sucking. If they are going to bother you, wear a head-net.
h.) Spiders and scorpions
Generally speaking, South America does not have a host of poisonous spiders and scorpions compared to Africa and Australia.
The most dangerous of the spiders is the Wandering Spider, which is occasionally found inside human dwellings. These spiders can be aggressive, and the bite is potentially fatal. Treat with care.
The spiders you are most likely to encounter are a variety of smaller orb-web spiders that love to make their nests across trails at head height, so that it is not uncommon to end up with a spider web wrapped around your head. The spiders are usually small and harmless, and run away when their webs are disturbed. There is a yellow orb-web spider with spines on its abdomen, so if brushing away a spider web and you feel a little stab, you have probably not been bitten, but rather just poked by one of these spines. Spider bites are generally not felt. They can occur at night when the sleeping person squashes the spider against them. A spider bite is two small red puncture marks close together, surrounded by an inflamed area.
Tarantulas are the big daddies of the spiders in the area. The “Chicken Eating Spider” is said to have a diameter of nearly 30cm. The more commonly seen Pink-Footed Tarantula makes a web-like nest, often in the thatching, where they can be regularly viewed. Although Tarantulas can bite if disturbed, their venom is very mild. They are nocturnal, and will occasionally wander around – they are a good reason to use mosquito nests, and to shake and check your boots before putting them on in the morning – although anything from frogs, cockroaches to scorpions have also been known to seek shelter in boots that have stood neglected for a while.
With more than 1200 species of butterflies in the area, there are going to be that number of caterpillars crawling around too. This does not even include the moths!
Many of the caterpillars in the area have stinging hairs, which are capable of doing anything from making you feel like you are on fire, to giving you a rash. A lot of the bigger species are brightly colored to advertise their toxicity, while others rely on camouflage. These are the ones you have to watch out for when leaning against a tree or putting your hands anywhere. Some caterpillars, called procession or army-worms, travel in large groups, and often sleep together in a huge camouflaged mass, so watch what you are doing, and where you put your hands when grabbing anything for support.
j.) Chiggers, Ticks, Mosquitoes and Sand Flies
Chiggers are tiny, basically invisible mites that are found often in grassy areas (like around lodge clearings). They crawl up people’s legs and then burrow under the skin to get at your blood. Their favorite areas are around the sock zone, bra zone, or around the belt zone around the waist. The results are a series of very itchy, mosquito like bumps that can last for several days. People sometimes scratch them raw. Try not to do this. Treat the area with alcohol and anti-histamine. To try and prevent chiggers, wear boots, and your socks tucked into your trousers. Take a shower when you get back from a walk.
Taking a shower is also a good time to check for ticks. There is a range of size of ticks, which like to attach themselves in the groin area, armpits, and are not unusually found around the neck. One tick that was found at Explorer’s Inn, engorged on blood, measured 3cm in length!
Some say that the method for detaching ticks is to burn them off, although I prefer to just twist them off, as other people say that burning them makes them regurgitate their meals. Treat the area with some antiseptic once the tick has been removed and killed.
Mosquitoes can form swarms around you in the wet season in the forest, but if you are wearing repellant of 50% or over, they are more of an annoyance than a danger. Malaria is not considered a problem at the lodges, but Yellow Fever outbreaks do occur around settled areas from time to time. You should not have to worry about this as you should have the vaccination – it is a prerequisite to visiting the area and occasionally checked upon by authorities.
From afar, the beaches during the summer along the Tambopata look very inviting. Sitting on them for a period of more than 5 minutes will reveal why they are not covered in bronzing bodies reminiscent of the beaches of the Mediterranean. Tiny, black flies (called sand flies by some) soon congregate around exposed ankles or other areas of skin and proceed to bite and suck blood. They leave a characteristic pink circle with a bright red dot in the middle after they have finished. Wearing repellant fends them off. Be sure to reapply after emerging from a swim.
Black flies are diurnal, while the real sand-flies are a nocturnal, delicate, small, pale fly that resembles more a moth. The Phlebotomus fly is the carrier of the Leishmaniasis protozoan. Uta, as it is locally called, forms nasty ulcer type sores that need a 20 day treatment of anti-biotic to cure. If left untreated, people noses and lips have been known to rot off. Avoid getting bitten by wearing repellant or covering up with long sleeve shirts and trousers, and wear socks if you are wearing sandals.
A larger biting fly will sometimes buzz around you in the forest. Horse-flies, or Tabanids, give a very painful bite, and the best defense against a persistent individual is to swat it.
Should you develop an itchy saw a bit like a boil, but open, look carefully to make sue a small breathing tube of a botfly larvae is not poking through occasionally. Botfly larvae look like maggots covered with rings of spines that make them hard to remove. Local methods of extraction include smothering with Vaseline, banana latex, latex from mashonaste or similar tree, or agitating with tobacco resin and then squeezing the larvae out.
These critters tend to be very large in the jungle. There are many varieties, the most common being a large brown cockroach, present at all lodges. They do not pose a threat, but will eat any food left out overnight. They also have a taste for toothbrushes, so leave yours inside your wash-bag.
So how could these stationary objects possibly pose a danger you ask? Well, for starters, I bet that during the course of your stay you are going to trip over at least one exposed root that line the forest floor competing for the nutrients in the top couple of centimeters of soil. Secondly, falling branches and trees are considered to be one of the most dangerous things in the forest. Old branches can snap unexpectedly at any time, or some trees may finally have one liana too many growing on them, which could pull them over. Mostly, trees are inclined to fall over in the strong winds associated with the thunderstorms that pass through the area. Should there be a thunderstorm, you should stay at the lodge or make your way to the lodge or a clearing as quickly as possible should you be on the trails.
Spines and thorns… watch out for the acacia-like liana with hooked thorns on the stems of the feathery leaves. A bit more dangerous than this are the very obvious black thorns covering the stem and leaves of some of the palm species e.g. Huicungo. Many immature, innocent looking palm leaves have nasty black spines on the underside. In addition, the spines on the roots of the walking palm can also cut, so don’t lean on them, or mistake them for the erotic palm.
m.) Parrots and Macaws
Very popular pets in the area are Parrots and Macaws, which are capable of giving nasty bites. Especially watch out for the Scarlet Macaw at Explorer’s Inn, which was a pet and is now free flying. It is very aggressive towards people.. Other than that, unless a Harpy Eagle mistakes you for a sloth, you have nothing to worry about from birds.
3.) Rivers and Lakes
Most of the transport during the duration of the research will be in long boats with outboard motors. It is compulsory by law to wear lifejackets for these journeys, and we recommend that you do, as boating accidents have been known to happen and the results would be comparable to having a car accident and not wearing a seatbelt.
Although most of us regularly use the rivers or lakes for a refreshing dip to wash away the sweat and to cool down from the heat of the day. There are several hazards you need to bear in mind when going for a swim, and as a result we recommend you NEVER SWIM ALONE or unattended.
Sting Rays – These are brown, flat fish often found concealed at the bottom of sandy streams or lakes. They bury themselves under the sand, where they lie in wait for prey. They are thus very hard to detect, and should you stand on one, the tail of the Sting Ray will shoot up and impale the sharp spine that it contains, into your leg. I am told the pain is unbelievable. Should you be entering a river or lake with a sandy bottom, splash the water in front of you and move your feet through the sand as you move forwards, as opposed to stepping forwards, to frighten them away.
Electric Eels – These snake-like fish can grow to be several meters in length. They are considered to be slow moving, and use their electric capacity to stun prey and scare off predators. They move away from areas of disturbance, but their shock can knock a person unconscious, where upon an unattended person could drown.
Caiman – There are 4 species of this relative to the alligator that live around Tambopata. The Dwarf and Smooth-fronted Caiman do not exceed 1,5m and are very rare. The Spectacled Caiman, or White Caiman, can grow to about 4m. They are the caiman most commonly seen along the rivers. The average length is about 2m, and they move away from people, as Caiman ceviche is occasionally seen for sale in Puerto Maldonado. The Black Caiman is the reason to be wary of swimming in the lakes or Cochas. Here they can grow up to a length of 6 meters. A rusty pair of old binoculars lies on the bar at the Posada Amazonas lodge, alleged to be extracted from the stomach of a giant caiman from Coco Cocha, all that could was found left of a guide that went swimming alone.
Piraña – Piranha tend to be specialist feeders, and many are vegetarian – eating fruit. Their reputation is overrated. Although they do have very sharp teeth, they get eaten by the Giant Otters, which are the length of a man, and swim around the lakes unmolested. Piranha tend to be found near the lake shores, and are a reason, together with the caiman, that it is better to take a canoe to the middle of a lake should you want to go swim. Do not go swimming if you are bleeding in anyway, as this is likely to attract predators.
Canero – Reputedly the most feared fish of the origin, the “Orifice Fish” is a small gill parasite that normally swims into a fishes gills, where it attaches itself with its spines. Legend goes that they are also capable of swimming up peoples orifices, for instance if you urinate in the water. To protect yourself from this fish, all you need to do is not urinate in the water, and swim with a costume or swimming trunks.
4.) Getting Lost
With little opportunity to orientate oneself with the sun, and in a world that blurs into a mixture of tree trunks and endless green, getting lost by just walking a few meters off the trail is a possibility. Try never to go off the trail, unless you have to as part of data collection. Always inform someone as to where you are going, and when you plan to be back.
On a new trail system, if you are going out by yourself, or for the first time, always carry a map and a compass. Marking tape is also a good idea to mark intersections that you are not sure about. It is a good idea to carry a compass with you at all times, especially at night, where if your torch should fail, it is very easy to wander off the trail and get lost.
Should you find yourself lost, bang repeatedly on the buttress root of a large tree, and wait until you are found.
Many areas around the small communities are subject to burning, when a chacra is cleared, left to dry and then burnt during the dry season to make the area available for planting. The fires are generally restricted to the areas that have been cut down, and it is unusual for fires to enter primary forest unless it is very dry. Fires tend to be very smoky, and could potentially lead to respiration problems if one is prone to asthma or other related ailments.
Most of the lodges use candles or kerosene lamps to some degree. As the lodges are all built from wood, extreme care should be taken that you do not knock these over or leave candles unattended. Explorer’s Inn was burnt to the ground in 1985, for instance.
Always extinguish candles upon leaving a room, and do not go to sleep with a candle burning!
These are the very sharp cutting instruments that we will be using to cut transects, prepare trails, and which one also has the option of carrying while on walks. Normally, these are very sharp, and care needs to be taken when using them. Some basic tips:
Before swinging a machete, make sure there are no other people in the way.
Make sure that you do not have any body parts behind/beneath the object you are cutting, i.e. in the line of cutting, as often branches cut easier than expected and the momentum of the machete could then easily proceed to carry the blade into a leg or foot. This has happened to even experienced machete wielders, so be careful.
Be extra careful when handling a machete in wet weather, as the blade can easily slip from one`s hand.
When cutting a transect, look before you cut. You do not want to cut into a wasps nest, or anger a sleeping Loro machaco (Green Tree Viper).
Do not carry a machete on a bike with blade exposed.
Should someone be cut, apply pressure to the wound by pressing down hard with bandage, towel, shirt or other clothing item. Should none of these be available, use just a hand. Get to medical help as quickly as possible.
Due to the amount of sweat that you will loose even just while sitting and doing nothing, one must make a constant effort to drink lots of water and keep hydrated. If you are dehydrated, you will loose energy and often develop a headache. Severe dehydration will lead to disorientation and more severe situations. Always carry water with you and drink it! It is a lot harder to rehydrate than to dehydrate, so avoid the situation in the first place.
Generally, Peruvians are very friendly, especially in the small towns and communities of the rainforest. However, sometimes the men can be a bit too friendly when it comes to the ladies. If you are not interested in a relationship, then it is best to be firm with unwanted attention from the start – the Western attitude of “don’t want to offend” is not helpful in these situations. “Jungle Fever” is such a well known phenomenon that Peru’s famous author Vargas LLosa even wrote a book on the theme – Pantaleon y las visitadoras.
Final Word: Don’t worry, you will be fine!