Iquitos: rain, rain, go away

It had been a full five days since we started our Amazon adventure.  It was a really nice trip, even though we happened to be there during the rainy season.  The zoo had been great fun, as had the manatee rescue center.  We all got to hold sloths, pet snakes, and feed monkeys, and Monkey Island was the highlight of the whole trip. We also had finally made it to the real Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and seen some great animal conservation efforts in progress.

Pygmy marmoset

Pygmy marmoset

 The farm works with the country of Peru as a home for animals that have been rescued from illegal ownership and exportation.  We learned a lot about the local animals and enjoyed seeing the butterfly house.

Búho (owl) caterpillar

Búho (owl) caterpillar

The dead leaf butterfly

The dead leaf butterfly

Live butterfly chrysalises

Live butterfly chrysalises

 We even got to see the jaguar feeding!

Our guide feeding the jaguar

Our guide feeding the jaguar

Hungry jaguar

Hungry jaguar

 In between our adventures in the Amazon, we’d been met with quite a bit of rain, though the worst of it did hold out for us until our last day.

The Amazon River our last morning in Iquitos

The Amazon River our last morning in Iquitos

 That last morning we walked to our breakfast spot – the one restaurant we had found reliable and clean – Dawn on the Amazon.

Walking in Iquitos

Walking in Iquitos

Piggy back ride for Livi

Piggy back ride for Livi

A rainy breakfast at Dawn

A rainy breakfast at Dawn

 It rained on us quite a bit.  Of course, we all forgot our rain jackets that morning and were pretty soaked by the time we made it to the restaurant.  Olivia had found a rain-sopped butterfly during the walk there, though, so she was very happy.

Olivia and her "pet" butterfly

Olivia and her “pet” butterfly

 A couple of times during the week, we had been caught unexpectedly in the rain and we all 6 crammed into one mototaxi!  It was funny and a little scary seeing the moto driver rev up the engine for a full minute before he could get us to move!  Wish we had a picture of that moment…ha!

Cliff playing in the rain

Cliff playing in the rain

 We had a great time in Iquitos and were thankful to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Amazon happen.

On the Amazon!

On the Amazon!

 It was fun to share the experience with family, too!  We’re so thankful David and Katelyn made it along with us!  It’s something I hope our kids will always remember – at least they’ll recall the stories and pictures.  Thanks for sharing in our adventure with us!

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Iquitos: Monkey Island

After being taken to the “wrong” Monkey Island, we were indecisive at first as to whether we should take another day and see the real Monkey Island. We were so glad we did though! It ended up being the highlight of our trip. It was different than we expected. We got a guide who took us to the first boat. This one was through a local market and was definitely more of a local boat, rather than a tourist one.

Plantains at the mercado

Plantains at the mercado

As each bench of four people was filled, they put in the backboard for the succeeding row of people, so essentially we were crammed in like sardines. I tried not to think about how we would get out in case of emergency…not to mention the lack of life jackets aboard.

Anyways, this first boat took us for about an hour and dropped us off at a large island that was sopping wet. Everything was wet and muddy.

Trying to get Olivia to smile

Trying to get Olivia to smile

There were the local women selling goods to people who lived on the island. One of the women had a baby, about 3-4 months old by my guess. It was curled up, sleeping on a blanket on one of the only dry boards.No one seemed at all put out or inconvenienced by the rain.  It’s amazing to me that they are just used to life like this in the rainy season.  We waited for a short while for a man to come pick us up and take us the rest of the way to Monkey Island (we weren’t sure he was coming there for a while…).

Boat at the second island

Boat at the first island

Since we were in the Amazon during the rainy season, the waters on the river were very high. In fact, when we arrived to the island we realized there was NO land! I’m still unsure how that physically works – it’s an island….but it’s covered in water, so….technically it’s just more of the river. Ha!

Monkey Island

Monkey Island

Our boat guy dropped us off at the island tour guide’s canoe and we all tried to board from boat to boat without dropping a child, camera, or capsizing the canoe.

Starting the tour of the island

Starting the tour of the island

First we saw a few monkeys in the cages.  The red faced monkeys are very territorial, and for that reason many of them are caged, but the majority of the wildlife on Monkey Island is just that – wild. Our guide pointed out some snail eggs as we rowed around.

Snail eggs

Snail eggs

When we arrived outside the buildings, the family that runs the island had some fruit ready for us to feed to the monkeys. It was about to get crazy! Sure enough, as soon as the first monkey caught sight of us in the feeding zone, every monkey within sight was in or around our boat!

Olivia wasn't so sure about it...

Olivia wasn’t so sure about it…

The kids were pretty nervous about it. I was a little too, mostly because we were still in a boat and there was no where to go to get away!

A little nervous...

A little nervous…

But it was so fun seeing the monkeys up close and getting to see some of their personalities. Some of them, the younger ones, were especially affectionate and would crawl up in our arms like a baby.

Katelyn holding a young monkey

Katelyn holding a young monkey

Olivia was really not enjoying the feeding, when the guide offered for her to sit next to him (he had a switch to keep the monkeys in line – he’d swat it in the air and they’d stop being naughty). I didn’t think she would do it, but she saw him sitting there at the end of the boat, with not a monkey on him, and she happily agreed.

Happy to be away from the monkeys

Happy to be away from the monkeys

Cliff was still nervous, but as long as I didn’t let the monkeys touch him he was okay with them.

Fun times!

Fun times!


"Do you have more food?"

“Do you have more food?”

The monkeys really liked David since he was holding the food can!

Feeding the monkeys

Feeding the monkeys


Trying to find more food

Trying to find more food

We had brought lunch along with us for later and one of the smart little monkeys must have smelled it in John’s backpack. He tried at the zipper for a while!

"Is there food in here?"

“Is there food in here?”

 Once the monkey exhausted the backpack he moved on to John.

Hungry little guys...

Hungry little guys…

 After feeding the monkeys, we toured the rest of the island.  It was amazing seeing all of the jungle plants.  We got to snatch a piece of starfruit and try it right off the tree.

Starfruit tree

Starfruit tree

 It was really tart!

Tart starfruit

Tart starfruit

 We spotted some cacao pods, too.  Cliff enjoyed playing with a stick in the water.

Captivated by the water

Captivated by the water

 Our guides assured us that piranhas weren’t actually that much of a threat, since like sharks, they usually only go after someone who has a cut or is bleeding.  Comforting, huh?  We thought so…

Olivia was delighted when we found a snail for her to play with.

Snail happy

Snail happy

 In fact, she lugged that thing all around the Amazon and David even managed to get it back to Lima for her, where it eventually died in the indoor plant of our apartment.  It brought her much joy for many weeks, though :).

At the end of the tour we got to plant our feet on some dry ground, which was refreshing after a full day on the water.

Say "monkeys"!

Say “monkeys”!

 Cliff finally warmed up to the monkeys at the end and had a lot of fun playing with them before we left.

Playing with the monkeys

Playing with the monkeys


Gotta monkey on your back?

Got a monkey on your back?


"Mom, check this out!"

“Mom, check this out!”

 Like all Peruvians, the monkeys were fascinated by his white blonde hair 🙂

"What is this stuff??"

“What is this stuff??”

 Monkey Island was definitely the highlight of our trip!  If you’re ever in the Amazon, make sure you visit this great place!  The family who runs it is very sweet, too, and it was nice to know we were supporting a legitimate business.  I’d still like to go again sometime when it’s the dry(er) season – it would be a completely different experience I’m sure!

Iquitos: On the Amazon River

Our second day in the Amazon just happened to be Easter Sunday. It was a very quiet morning in Iquitos and we had a little trouble finding an open place for breakfast. We managed to find one though, named for the movie that was filmed in the Amazon, Fitzcarraldo. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the restaurant was not much to write home about. Still, at least we had satisfied our hunger and were ready for the day. We grabbed a couple snacks and some blended coconut drinks and decided to hop on a boat for a tour. 

Boats along the river

Boats along the river

Olivia and Aunt Katelyn

Olivia and Aunt Katelyn

 Our tour guide told us he could take us to both Monkey Island and the Butterfly Farm. The boat was great. A narrow wooden boat with two boards running along the sides and a couple hammocks hung in the middle. It was nice and cool with the breeze blowing off the water.  We got to see the colors of the river change as we merged from one river into the other.  

Rivers merging

Rivers merging

 Not long after that, we had already arrived at what appeared to be Monkey Island. We walked up the planks to the floating platform and were greeted by several very friendly monkeys. 

The monkeys were happy to see us

The monkeys were happy to see us

The kids were pretty hesitant and Cliff definitely kept his distance. As soon as you had anything in your hands they would climb right up your legs and jump to the fruit! 

Looking for a snack

Looking for a snack

Katelyn and the Monkey

Katelyn and the Monkey

It was pretty funny to experience.

Next, they took us to see different animals found in the surrounding environment. Unfortunately, we discovered later that this was NOT the real “Monkey Island” but was an operation that draws tourists in by paying tour guides to bring them under false pretenses. We enjoyed getting to see the wildlife up close, but felt bad that we’d unwillingly and unknowingly supported a place like that!

Bridge to the animals

Bridge to the animals

Holding a sloth

Holding a sloth

Happy with a full tummy

Happy with a full tummy

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to find specific information on places online and when you speak to your guides they usually tell you what you want to hear. So for those of you who are going to Iquitos, make sure you are very clear with your guide about where he is taking you, and know how long it should take to get there.

Holding the Macaw...Olivia wasn't so sure about this.

Holding the Macaw…Olivia wasn’t so sure about this.

Our next stop was the Butterfly Farm. We thought we were going to the Pilpintuwassi Butterfly Farm, which is a rescue center for jungle wildlife around Peru.  However, it wasn’t until afterwards that we realized no where had we seen the name anywhere….again we had been duped.

It was really neat seeing the lifecycle of the Amazon butterflies up close. Olivia loved all the caterpillars and was very excited to get to hold a couple of them.

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

We saw all the life stages, from the eggs, to tiny caterpillars, to the large caterpillars, chrysalis and cocoons, and butterflies.

Holding a butterfly

Holding a butterfly

Then we got to see the butterfly house, where the butterflies fed on fruit and flowers. At the end, our guide let us release two butterflies from the cages and then picked some fruit off a tree to send with us. The fruit was reminiscent of a lime, and they eat it dipped in salt. They told us pregnant women in Iquitos love it, and I approved :). It was pretty refreshing in that heat!

More about our time in the Amazon coming soon!