Most animals in the Peruvian rainforest are more active during the dim hours at dusk and dawn or only come out at night and can thus be a challenge to see on a family eco vacation. The reason why thousands of exquisite looking insects, alien-like frogs, fluttering bats, and various reptiles and mammals prefer the dark of the night is simply because that way, it’s more difficult for predators such as birds to see and catch them. During the day, birds of all shapes and sizes are constantly watching and searching the foliage for tasty bugs and other small creatures. if an insect comes out in the open, it will be caught by a beautiful, glittering jacamar, trogon, or other exotic rainforest bird in a matter of seconds. So, to avoid such a sudden demise, most of the insects and small animals in the Peruvian jungle have evolved nocturnal behaviors. In response, some predators have also become nocturnal and the Spectacled Caiman is one such animal.
Although this “small” caiman (they can be 2 meters or 6 feet in length) is also encountered during the day, they are much more active at night. Boat rides on the Tambopata River in the daytime sometimes turn up one or more Spectacled Caimans but these are typically just one or two individuals sunning on the bank of the river. As they warm up with the rays of the tropical sun, they hardly move at all and look almost like caiman statues or pieces of driftwood. When you see them like that during ecotourism family travel, it’s hard to imagine those reptiles quickly lunging after fish or other small creatures. Nor do you see the other caimans that don’t need to warm up on the riverbank.
To see caimans “in action” during eco travel, you need to look for them when they are actively feeding and searching for food in the river. Guests of Refugio Amazonas get to do just that with the caiman search activity. After a 15-minute night walk to the river’s edge, a boat takes guests a short distance upriver. As the boat drifts back downstream, both guide and guests search for caimans with headlamps and flashlights. Red eye shine reveals the presence of Spectacled Caimans and other creatures that only come out at night for a unique, jungle wildlife experience.