It was another 18 hours from the last stop before we reached Manaus, the furthest point we were to venture from home. As we approached, sometime around midday, the size of the city was there to see. It's amazing and seems to have all sorts of industry as well as commerce. Everything has to come and go by boat or aeroplane, there are no roads. It's the distribution hub for the whole of the Amazon basin and neighbouring countries. It lies on the place where the Amazon river is born from two tributaries, the Rio Solimoes and the Rio Negro. They are two distinctly different waters, the former is muddy, the latter jet black and acidic. The Meeting of the Waters is on the tourist trail and we were to see it several times ! Firstly from the Marco Polo as we headed towards Manaus !
Nearing our dock you were aware that much of Manaus is made up of very poor quality housing as well as modern commercial buildings.
The number of boats of all shapes and sizes was huge. There were even floating petrol stations for them to refuel.
For our first afternoon we had nothing planned so we wandered the city. We had been warned that there was a high incidence of street robbery so I didn't bother taking a camera, we wandered around the main sites and had a beer or three. Usual sort of thing. Manaus was certainly busy, the streets are all lined with stalls selling cheap and often fake goods, the shops themselves were full of offers to buy on credit and the bigger ones had people queuing at the finance counter. You got the impression everyone was broke, theft was rife and even the murder statistics were worrying... an average of 14 a week. One of the passengers witnessed a shooting and two had attempted robberies having stupidly ignored warnings and worn expensive gold necklaces. I decided I wouldn't want to be there for the World Cup, I was convinced all hell would break out amongst drunken footy fans and locals. Whether it did I don't know but if it had they kept it quiet. Talking of quiet, what amazed me was there was no indication a World Cup was due to take place, not a poster or souvenir to be seen. How odd!
Anyway, I wasn't there for the football, I was there for the great Amazon Adventure and so the following day off we went, boarding a boat right opposite our ship. First thing that morning though I had spotted two Bat Falcons on top of a crane sharing a meal of what looked like... a bat ! Closer access was impossible from our ship, but from the trip boat there might be a chance. I was ready for the shot as we sailed underneath.
And so our big adventure had begun. Off we went back down the main Amazon for a close inspection of the "Meeting of the Waters" , a tour around an uninhabited island that was frankly boring but allowed good views of an Osprey to at least have something to show for it.
The commentary was non stop, very informative but much too long. We seemed to take all morning to reach our destination on the other side of the river. Floating debris sometimes had birds sitting on it as it bobbed downstream.
The muddy river banks made good spots for hunting Snowy Egrets
Eventually our destination was in sight !
It was a fair sized commercial enterprise !
A huge dining area that could seat several hundred people leading through to the inevitable souvenir shop... or should I say superstore !
The first part of our adventure was to walk along a raised duckboard and walkway through a distance of maybe 50-60 yards. Progress was slow as by now a couple of boat loads had disgorged their passengers and everyone it seemed was stopping to take photos of the White Faced Capuchin Monkeys which appeared out of the trees looking for food
I must agree they are quite cute !
The walkway led to a small pool where examples of giant lilies were growing, one solitary Cormorant sat on a post.
While we were doing this another boat load were taking trips around the waterways in motorised canoes. We all met up for a buffet lunch and afterwards it was our turn. The best moment of the day came when I got lucky with this shot of a Striated Heron plucking a Dragonfly from the surface of the water. I have since been contacted by someone researching their hunting methods to ask if it was prey or bait ! I didn't realise they used the insects as bait, however, in this case it definitely ate the Dragonfly.
The trouble is that going around in groups, especially motorised ones tends to put everything to flight.
Great White Egret
Black Collard Hawk
and Wattled Jacana
The only thing that stayed in one place were the Leaf Cutter Ants
Even though three boats at a time lined up to look at them !
We hadn't seen a lot during our great adventure. I was pretty deflated, even more so when I missed a cracking opportunity on the return across the Amazon. A group of Black Skimmers, high on my target list shot past the boat at close range but where nearly gone by the time I realised the opportunity.
It was a disappointing end to a disappointing day. At dinner time that evening though one of our dining companions was full of enthusiasm for the whole event which all goes to show, maybe it's my expectations that were too high.
One thing was certain though, we had booked on a nature walk through the forest on the next stop but one. I cancelled and took the hit of the fee for doing so but it still left me about £70 in pocket.
I am convinced that birding groups of more than 4 or 5 are doomed and I for one won't be participating again in the future.