side effects of fungus medication

Swimming With Piranhas in Manu Park

by Jason on September 29, 2012

I was volunteering at Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Manu National Park in the Amazon Jungle in Peru. I was in the middle of nowhere, a two-day boat trip to the closest town. If I was bitten, injured or swallowed whole, no hospital was anywhere close.

I was in a place where there were no showers. There were no beds. No bedrooms. No WALLS. And I was in the middle of the most pristine jungle with the highest biodiversity of species in the world. In other words, there was a high variety of different animals that could kill me in the jungle. I began keeping a list of all the different ways I could die – mauled, poisoned, gored, constricted, swallowed whole, falling branch, sickness and much more.

And there wasn’t much protection either. I slept 200 feet away from the station out in the dense jungle in a small two-man nylon tent. And the jungle was so dense immediately around my tent that I couldn’t see to the next nearest tent 50 feet away. When I slept at night, I could hear the caimans grumbling in the water less than 30 feet away. And there was no fence separating me from the caimans either.

The previous year a jaguar had been sniffing around someone’s tent at night. The jaguar passed by the tent and breathed deeply for a few minutes, deciding whether or not the tent was its prey. The jaguar then left without incident.

In addition, because there were no showers, the only option was to bathe in the lake every day. And in this specific lake, there were at least 200 caimans. There was a high number of piranhas as well. And don’t forget the dangerous electric eels and freshwater sting rays. Oh, and one more thing. There was always the possibility of an anaconda too. Anacondas can grow up to 36 feet long and can swallow a human whole.

Did I also mention that I would be bushwhacking over 60 miles in a 9-day period through the thick of the jungle, through swamps and through streams setting up camera traps? And in that jungle there were poisonous snakes, poisonous frogs, jaguars, peccaries, caimans and many other things that could kill me. The possibility existed that we could accidentally step on a poisonous snake that would then bite us. Or when crossing the swamp, we could happen upon an anaconda. Or a jaguar could be stalking us.

So this was the environment I was in for 31 days at the Cocha Cashu Biological Station. Was I nervous? At times, yes. Was I afraid? At night, sometimes yes. But overall I knew I was safe.

In 25 years, nothing had ever happened at Cocha Cashu. Jaguars don’t want to eat you. We are not their prey. They don’t enter the tents. And if there is more than one of you, they won’t attack. In addition, shining a flashlight in their eyes will scare them away. Jaguars don’t mess with us. Sure, it’s frightening to think of a jaguar standing close to you, but the truth is they don’t do anything, especially if you know what to do with each animal.

In the lake, I never felt at danger. All the animals I listed stay away. They don’t come near us when we are bathing in a group. The anacondas are incredibly shy, and they stay far away from any sound. If a caiman approaches, throw a stick at it, and it goes away. In a stream, a piranha bit one of the researcher’s fingers while I was there. It hurt for sure, but he wasn’t injured. He was OK.

While we were out bushwhacking, we hardly saw any animals at all. We were traveling in a group and making a bunch of noise, so all the animals avoided us. Our bushwhacking was highly uneventful. For the most part, I felt completely safe in the jungle environment.

On that trip, I faced my fears. I gained courage in doing many things I never thought I would do – like sleeping alone in the jungle, swimming with caimans and more. I saw that there are many things I think are dangerous, but really aren’t with a little bit of preparation.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: