| Travel Photography Amazon Basin
At the end of the navigable portion of the river, where a striated heron fishes quietly, we depart the boat. Up a hill, along a path, I notice that while the biodiversity is almost completely hidden, it appears in the most hidden nooks and crannies. Leaves are folded over. Leaves are sewn together. Branches and sticks are not always what they seem. But you can be there, right in front of them, and you don’t see that its not a stick at all, but a lizard, a spider, an orchid vine.
For the next three hours, we travel on a narrow path through the wet forest, combing the leaf litter for poison frogs. Seeing something so small, but painted so vividly is a shock to the senses. Normally, the lower you go toward the ground, the more the tendency is for animal color to dissolve into the darkest and dimmest browns and slates.
And then, when we see an aquatic coral snake sliding down a slope, the pattern emerges again – if you’re dangerous on the forest floor, you may have some adaptive advantages that you to tend toward brightness.
My guides and I split up, instinctually flanking the snake down the hill from three positions; we all know we want to photograph him as he approaches. But as we take our positions at the bottom of the hill, the snake panics and bullets for safety. As my guides consider the tree trunk, a glasswing butterfly lands next to me. Its wings, like many other clearwing and glasswing butterflies in this region, are as clear as glass. But the tail end shimmers in bright pink, and as it takes off, fluttering sloppily, it’s like drunk magic lighting up the forest with an awkward wake of pink light.
I follow it through the jungle, entranced by it, and when it disappears, I return to my guides, who are still looking for the snake. I tell them to forget the snake, to keep moving, and we do.
When we get to a large, impassable body of water, we climb a wooden tower, with an old, rusty home-made zipline. Carlos, built like a tank, straps himself in and zips across the water. Without any device to slow his speed, he crashes into the tree to which the line is affixed. Dazed, he spends a moment collecting himself, and then motions me to follow.
As I zip down the line, I see Carlos, who is about five-feet tall, grinning uneasily and positioning himself to catch me. But I just crash right into him and we both hit the tree. Pablo, next, slams into the tree, and now, bruised, we head deeper into the forest, and are greeted by patches of sunlight, where butterflies seem to collect.
It's apparent that we have entered into a newly productive portion of the forest. If most of our walk was almost devoid of life, now, there is a sense of a shift, even though there is no discernable difference in the type of trees and lianas. Life is patchily distributed in the rainforest, due to reasons science will probably never be able to measure - subtle differences that make one part of the forest productive and popular at this particular moment.