|Travel Photography Amazon Basin
Amazon Flooded Forest
Before light, I head out with my two guides on the black water lake under a night sky of stars that are all foreign to me. Their paddle strokes are silent, and with the way the stars mirror back from the surface of this black lake, there is a sensation that this canoe is a vessel floating through heavens.
Under darkness, Carlos and Pablo paddle to a narrow opening in the flooded forest that surrounds the lake. This is one of the three labyrinthine black rivers on the lodge's 5,000 acre preserve.
This preserve lies only a few miles from Yasuni National Park, one of a handful of candidates for the most biodiverse place on Earth. But you wouldn’t know it, from the way it looks around here, especially in the dark. All I see are dark shadows of buttressed trees, and vines hanging over the water. No floral bouquets, no brightly colored macaws resting on tree stumps, and no wily-eyed puma, staring back at us.
From the sky, the Amazon will look flat, and its only geographic markers are often the twisty bands of rivers cutting through. But the Amazon has many unique geographies and habitats, and this particular habitat is blackwater swamp, slow moving water darkened like tea, but clear, with the tannins of decaying vegetation.
A flash blasts through the narrow river. Too dark out to show any color, too fast to see. Just a suggestion, an invisible paint-stroke across the black light. It’s a kingfisher, awake early to hunt for fish. Everything here is like that. It’s there, you just can’t see it. I leave my underwater video camera in the black, empty water. When I retrieve it to watch the footage, I know that the water is alive with fish. It’s there, it’s everywhere, and its alive, this whole place is crawling with life.