It is time for our first jungle walk in the Peruvian Amazon! We are warned not to touch anything – a leaf could turn out to be a stick insect or a hanging branch could turn out to be a poisonous snake. As we make our way through the trees our guide tells a story about a snake that lowered itself down behind him and stopped with its head just inches from his while he was talking to a group.
I find the stick insects particularly fascinating; they camouflage themselves so well that it takes quite a while for me to figure out what I am looking at.
We head to an area where there is a known family of noisy night monkeys. Our path is slightly overgrown by branches but soon we reach a small clearing. Our guide takes out his binoculars and starts to scan the area. The guides have incredibly good eyes for spotting wildlife; it usually takes me ages to work out what they have seen when they point. In no time he spots what we are looking for – a family of five noisy night monkeys.
These monkeys are actually called owl monkeys and the group that are found in the Amazon river are the bray-necked owl monkeys. They live high up in the branches and are incredibly skilled leapers, able to cross gaps in the canopy of up to four metres. They are nocturnal monkeys, generally leaving their sleeping site (usually tree holes or thickets of dense foliage) just after sunset and returning just before dawn. They travel in groups and eat mostly fruit, insects, nectar and leaves. They gain their name of ‘noisy night monkeys’ from the wide variety of vocal sounds that they make with up to eight categories of distinct calls.
Our guide asks if any of our group have been taking antimalaria tablets and advises them to throw them away. Apparently, these monkeys are affected by malaria and therefore can only be found in places where the deadly disease does not exist. I have not been taking anti malaria tablets anyway, however a few people in the group are very relieved – the tablets have unpleasant side effects including dizziness, stomach upset and headaches.