“NO!…they look so horrible…I think we’ve had enough…let’s leave here……” the hysterical clamours of the nerdy-looking Israeli woman on my side, face twisted with horror and body moved about uncomfortably in the narrow jam-packed canoe, was the only noise that broke the quiescent air of this pleasant night on the Amazon river.
We were on the third day of the Amazon jungle adventure. The activity tonight was on the look-out for crocodiles, known as “caimans” for this particular species inhabited in the Amazon region. Our headlamps on, we were all set on board the only sensible transportation here – a dug-out canoe – to look for the not-so-friendly-looking creatures.
Amidst the thin haze, the canoe glided along the meanders of placid water. Beams of faint light from our headlamps flashed nervously in the dark to look for the wild beings. Every now and then, our Guide, in a lowered voice, pointed out for us sharp but tiny dots of fire-red suspending in the air. So there they were, the uncanny watchful eyes of the caimans. Tonight was a successful hunt (literally not meaning to catch or kill for sure), as we saw plenty of the beasts – some remained motionless, some slipping ever so quietly into the water as if fearful of alarming their prey (us?!). If only my neighbour could stop screaming whenever our boat came just ever so slightly closer to a caiman, I would have been quite convinced that we intruders were getting on with these indigenous dwellers in perfect harmony.
Another night, we left the murky water and stepped onto the slimy earth of the Amazon jungle to look for nocturnal creatures. Either the stuffy air or the ominous darkness made us breathless. Cramped closely together, our group gathered strength to walk into the boundless ocean of thick vegetation. Yet we could only move slowly. Slushing in the mud, our rubber boots slackened our pace. Rustling against tree branches or mysterious shards of shade, we missed a beat every now and then for fear that some nameless creepy-crawlies would climb on our limbs.
Further into the deep, we regained our nerves and our senses sharpened. Getting adjusted to the embracing darkness, our eyes searched intently for small insects or animals that felt more alive after dusk. We didn’t find many, but those that were waiting to be seen in the obscurity were fascinating enough. Bigger-than-palm-sized spiders called tarantulas, insects of unknown species, even tree frogs with beautiful translucent greenish bellies, were hiding in every curious corner. And once we stood still, turning all our lights off and listened, just listened － the buzzing, croaking and howling orchestrated magically into a symphony that was almost deafening. That night, we heard the sounds, but we also heard silence…