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Canopy Delights

July 9, 2011

Troupial (Community Leader Group):  Carolyn, Dan, Sophie, Linda and Rosemary

Examining plants from the canopy walkway

Examining plants from the canopy walkway

Saturday, our fifth day, found us at the Amazon Conservatory for Tropical Studies (ACTS), home of the longest rainforest canopy walk in the world.  The walk stretches for ¼ of a mile, includes 14 platforms and reaches 120 feet into the canopy.  Our day started with a 6 a.m. hike past columns of army ants and leafcutter ants, through the dense understory — nary a snake to be seen — to a steamy sunrise walk through the canopy.  Up on Platform 6, the highest point, we heard the chattering of far-off toucans hidden by the fog, but spied a bright blue Spangled Cotinga in the trees.  Each platform level revealed a staggering diversity of fruiting trees, flowering trees, epiphytes, hanging vines and every imaginable shade of green.

Our favorite stop was the symphonia tree, resplendent with crimson fruit.  This jungle cafeteria attracted a huge variety of colorful birds — iridescent hummingbirds, Purple and Green Honeycreepers, a Black-headed Parrot and an aptly named Paradise Tanager.

Tree Climbing 101

Tree Climbing 101

We descended reluctantly to the forest floor and back to breakfast.  Food at the lodges is a tasty mix of familiar and local foods, such as starfruit and passion fruit juice, papaya, manioc French fries and palm heart salad, along with cauliflower, cabbage and local rice and fish.

After breakfast, Phil Wittman, our climbing expert and resident entomologist, spoke to us about techniques of climbing tall trees, which were used by the local workers to enable them to build the canopy walk in 1994.  We learned about equipment — a variety of carabiners, ropes, harnesses and ascenders — half hitch and Blake’s hitch knots, and amazing strategies for propelling a rope over a limb 100 feet from the ground.  Some of our more adventuresome participants chose to give climbing a try.  Phil helped us strap safely into climbing gear and patiently explained the sit-stand climbing method.  We descended from the tree, excited about yet another fabulous new rainforest experience.

Cathy holding a young Common Mussurana

Cathy holding a young Common Mussurana

Back in the screened classroom, Phil introduced us to live and preserved arthropod specimens, including a variety of species of termites and ants, walking sticks and their kin, caterpillars, mosquito larvae, grasshoppers, a dead leaf-mimic katydid and a huge cockroach.  We were amazed by the range of defense mechanisms employed these creatures.  We observed glue-shooting termites and a group of caterpillars massing together to ward off predators. We also had a chance to hold a young Common Mussurana snake.

After a lovely afternoon rain, we headed back to the canopy for a rather unstructured chance to explore our own interests and just enjoy the canopy walk.  We did some experiments to attract orchid bees, delighted in observing Thornytail Iguanas scurrying up and down a tree, and listened to the call of a nearby Laughing Falcon.  The sunset view from Platform 6 was nothing short of magical.  Another amazing day in the rainforest.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2011 9:36 am

    Love reading about your adventures. So descriptive – feel like I am there! dianne

  2. E. Impagliatelli permalink
    July 14, 2011 9:59 am

    This sounds like such an incredible journey. I hope to see more pictures! Travel home safely! -E. Impagliatelli

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