(© Ian Plant) I recently spent two weeks in Peru, including a week leading a photo tour in the Tambopata National Reserve, located within the Amazon rain forest. There, my group came face-to-face with some of our furry cousins, an assortment of large and small New World monkeys. It turned out to be an enlightening and entertaining peek at our own hidden wild side.
For me, the high point of the trip was when a troupe of squirrel monkeys (at least a hundred of them) came crashing through the trees above us, sometimes getting as close as a few feet away. They seemed to have no fear of us, and in fact often displayed open curiosity as they gaped in wonder at the remarkably hairless monkeys standing on two feet below them peering up through metal tubes filled with glass. I wouldn't have been surprised if one of them had taken out a compact camera and snapped a few tourist shots of us to share with his friends and family.
We saw a number of other species, including spider, dusky titi, red howler, tamarin, and brown capuchin monkeys. My favorites were the howlers. Their eerie calls sounded like a tornado approaching in the distance, like storm winds lashing the trunks of a thousand trees. It is hard to describe if you have never heard the sound yourself, but in any event it is enough to take your breath away. We saw plenty of howlers during the trip, and witnessed a number of interesting behaviors, including what appears to be the monkeys' favorite activity: sleeping.
Overall, I found my experience in the Amazon rain forest of Peru to be mesmerizing. The place is, for lack of a better way of putting it, completely alive. I was afraid to sit down for too long lest the living tide of the forest sweep me away. Although the monkeys caught my imagination most, I quickly realized that one could easily spend a lifetime photographing all of the exotic and beautiful creatures of the jungle.
I can't wait to travel back to the rain forest again!
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