Sunday, January 22, 2017

Off The Charts In Guyana - Mr Sloth

Mr Sloth


I was determined to see a sloth before leaving Guyana.  There had been several people that reported seeing one on Baganara Island.  So I got up this morning at 5:30AM, grabbed the binoculars and my camera and headed out in the dinghy.  Tom stayed behind in bed “Happy slothing.” he said sleepily.

I took the dinghy north to the cut between Baganara island and the small, uninhabited island just to the northwest.  The tide was against me so I kept the outboard in lowest speed possible, moving slowly forward.  This gave me a chance to really look on both sides as I went.  I saw dozens of green parrots and at least a dozen toucans – old news by now!  When I reached the end of the cut, I turned around, shut the outboard off and floated back up river. 

Half way I grabbed a branch sticking out into the river and tied the dinghy off to it and shut down the outboard.  I settled in to just watch and listen.  Soon all the birds forgot I was there and went about their morning rituals, eating in this tree and that, grooming, and chatting in all manner of bird chatter.  It was quite noisy.  I was able to observe one green parrot couple, they were so cute sitting high in a tree, close together, they took turns grooming one and other and then loudly chattering away as other bird couples flew by “Morning Harold and Maud.”  “Good morning to you Bob and Gerdie.  How are you two?”  “We’re good, although Maud’s beak is a tad tender from a bad tree nut but nothing serious.”  “Awe, right.  Anyway, good to see you both.”  Or some like that I imagine.
Alas, no sloth.  I didn’t hear or see howler monkeys either.  Previously, we had heard and seen a howler monkey in this area.  After 30-45 mins, I finally untied my line and started drifting up river with the tide, back towards the boat.  I used a dinghy paddle occasionally to keep myself in the middle of the cut.  I had nearly exited the cut when I turned and looked back downstream and there he was!  Mr Sloth!  He was high up in a tree.  I couldn’t believe it.   However I was quickly being swept away from him.  I started to paddle like mad to get back towards him to get a better look.  In all my mad paddling, I was rather loud and Mr Sloth took notice of me.  He decided to climb up higher and hide in the leaves.  NO!  I grabbed my camera and took one shot, knowing that it would probably be out of focus or at the very least nothing more than a blob in a tree.  I kept paddling back towards him until I could grab onto a branch and tie off.  I settled down with the binoculars to watch.  I couldn’t really see him other that some brown in the leaves.  Darn!  I waited.  Perhaps he would forget I am here and come back down a bit.  No luck.  I paddled up closer but got no better view.  Finally, I made careful note of the location of his tree, turned on the noisy outboard and headed back to get Tom.
See him?

“I found the sloth.  Do you want to come see?”  Tom said sure and hopped in the dingy.  When we got back to Mr Sloth he was still high up in the tree.  “Are you sure there is a sloth up there?”  Tom asked.  Just wait.  We maneuvered around this way and that and finally found a spot or two where we could see most of Mr Sloth.  A breeze kicked up, blowing the top of the tree around pretty good.  I hoped this would bring Mr Sloth down a few branches but he stayed aloft.  We could clearly make out his arms and hands with the long claws gripping the tree branch.  At one point we could see his head moving around a bit.  It was kewl and so worth the early morning effort.

Finally, we left Mr Sloth alone and headed back to the boat for morning coffee and breakfast filled with sloth talk.

Special note – I call him Mr Sloth because to say “it” or just “sloth” seems….inappropriate somehow for such an unusual and elusive creature (at least to us).  However, I do not know if it was a male or female.  If you, sloth are in fact a female, I do apologize for calling you Mr Sloth.  I meant no disrespect.    

Off The Charts In Guyana - Kaieteur Falls

We finally made it to the famous Kaieteur Falls.  This is probably one of Guyana's most famous tourist attractions. 
Lat and long at Kaieteur Falls

The money shot

Stats –  I am just going to let you read them for yourself.

Portaro River valley we flew up
Our only giant otter sighting
We departed Baganara Resort at 13:30 aboard a 12 seater, single engine plane.  The flight was approx. 45 mins and took us SW over the “interior” or “bush”.  We flew over several HUGE mining camps.  We had seen the big, mud covered trucks in Bartica loading up with supplies for these camps but we had no idea the camps were this massive.  These camps are mining gold and diamonds out of the ground. 
View as we approached the falls

As we flew south, the elevation changed and soon we could see cliffs and mountains.  We flew straight up the Portaro River valley to the falls.  It is a feeder river to the Essequibo River.
Feeling the "toilet paper plant"

Soft like expensive toilet paper -that is what the guide said

Hiking toward the falls

Jamal was our guide.  He took us to the three lookout points, stopping along the way to point out various floral and fauna.

Tank bromeliads - world's largest

The falls were spectacular.  We went to three different vantage points to view the falls.

"She fell to her death taking a selfie on the edge of the cliff" - NOT

We were also able to spot the tiny golden dart frog, only found near these falls.   
Can you see it?

Poisonous tiny golden dart frong

We saw a few white collared swifts flying around.  They live behind the the falls.

Sadly, we did not see the famous Cock Of The Rock bird.

Off The Charts In Guyana - WAY up the Creek Again

Up the creek
Yesterday morning Tom and I went up the side creek again.  We timed it so that we went in towards the end of the rising tide.  With a 7.8 foot tide, this allowed us to get way up in there.  Finally, we were blocked by a submerged log.  We shut off the outboard and just settled in to watch and listen. 
We were surrounded by the rainforest.  Plants, insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, you name it.  Did we see all of those?  NO.  This is not a zoo.  It’s the real living and breathing rainforest where things come and go.  But more than that, we are newbies.  We are not used to seeing and hearing.  Our senses are not trained.  I would venture to guess that we missed 3x as much as we saw, if not more.  Example – We sat for probably 20 mins wedged on that partially submerged log.  The water continued to rise with the tide so that eventually we were able to float past it.  As we did, only then did we take notice of a particularly BIG (as big as my open hand) and scary looking spider that was sharing the un-submerged part of the log with us….right next to us as in “hey maybe I will jump on their dinghy and go for a ride” close!  It was of course camouflaged in its appearance but more than that, we just aren’t “trained” to see it.  But we are getting better at spotting things the longer we are here.
Bird watching
Anyway, the rising water floated us past the log and we continued up stream.  We were able to get quite far.  Perhaps 2-3 miles to where the stream narrowed some and the immediate rainforest gave way to jungle with a wide variety of green foliage with giant, fat leaves.  At this point we had the outboard tilted up and we were simply paddling here and there as we floated along. 
Even without the outboard sound, the rainforest/jungle knew we were there.  Birds sounded the warning.  One particular type of bird (unknown to us) had an extremely loud call that echoed through.  Others of the same bird could be heard further off answering back.  Not being a birder, I can’t tell you what type of bird or describe the sound they make.  It was really loud.  However, I imagine in bird talk it was probably something along these lines...... Bird One (named Bert)= “Hey everybody, crazy white people in a weird looking boat over here.”  Bird two =“Ok, thanks Bert.  Keep tabs on them and let me know if they head my way.”  Bird three = “Yeah, same for me.”  Bird four = “Yeah, thanks and ditto.”  Bert = “Will do.”  Or something close to that.
New way to bird watch -easier on the neck
The tide slowed to slack and we decided that we should probably turn around and head back.  Soon the current was flowing out so we simply drifted along with an occasional paddle to keep us straight.  Bright red/black and blue/black dragon flies lead the way.  The numerous butterflies continued to dance along as we drifted, including the spectacular electric blue Morpho butterfly that I have mentioned before.  Stunning!  Suddenly there was a movement in the water near our dinghy.  A small eel came up and captured whatever had attracted its attention.  Any thoughts of dangling my feet in the water as we floated along were dashed after that! 

The ride back out somehow looked different.  Eventually we exited the creek and returned back to sv Honey Ryder for a late lunch.  It was a magical morning. 

Above is video.  The pic part isn't so exciting but if you give it a listen, you should hear Bert the Bird calling his other bird friends.