The Pacaya River is one of my favorite places. The stream winds
tranquilly through several distinct ecosystems on the south side of a
huge wild, wetlands called the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (PSNR).
PSNR has been protected since 1940, and the only sign I can recognize
that it was ever disturbed by man are scars on the trunks of a few
ancient rubber trees, from the rubber boom era of the late 1800’s. If
you want to experience what the upper Amazon rain forest and
watershed was like when Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin explored
the Amazon Basin and independently arrived at their theory of natural
selection, the Pacaya River is probably the best place to visit.

The tour companies that have permission to access the reserve go in
small boats 48 kilometers, to the 2nd ranger station on the Pacaya
River, and that is wonderful enough for most people, but I longed to
explore deeper into the reserve, as I did on the Samiria River when I
went to the 4th ranger station years ago. Thanks to the biologist in
charge of PSNR, Javier Del Aguila Chavez, Dawn on the Amazon
obtained special permission to launch an expedition in Dawn III to the
3rd ranger station, located 100 kilometers into the reserve.

I wanted to leave immediately, but real life tends to interfere with my
fantasy, and this was no exception. I had several day trips and a three
day cruise scheduled. I hoped that would give me time to find an
adventurous couple ready for a major expedition into the unknown and
flexible enough not to require an itinerary. Exploration can not include a
detailed itinerary and that may not be reassuring to everyone.
I want to thank Randy and Alice
Tumblin for fitting the description
above. The last several years
Randy and Alice have been sailing
their boat, the Dally Ho, from the
Great Lakes to Newfoundland and
Labrador, and along the eastern
coast of the US, and island hopping
the Caribbean to Venezuela. I have
inducted them as the first members
of the new Dawn on the Amazon
Explorers Club.
Randy and Alice
I do not like set itineraries and going the same route all of the time.
My guests who are willing to get off the beaten path and accept the
uncertainty of exploring a new route or destination will be rewarded as
Amazon Explorers. Everyone can not be first. I know what you might be
thinking, but keep in mind, Francisco de Orellana is in all the history
books despite 250,000 inhabitants already living on the river that he
accidentally “explored” and named the Amazon.

While we were signing in at the first ranger station, I scanned the log
book and learned that we were the only tour company and the only
gringos on the Pacaya River. A small group of Peruvian scientists
conducting research near the 2nd ranger station, half a dozen local
fishermen in canoes, and 12 park rangers were the only humans for the
next 200 kilometers.
Inside the reserve, everything is
different. We immediately became
aware of the hyper-diversity and
species richness of the protected
tropical rainforest. This is not the
place to list every species, and I did
not count the total sloths, Paiche,
Jabiru Storks, Snowy Egrets, Cocoi
and Striated Herons, Horned
Screamers, monkeys, marmosets,
and Macaws, but I can say for sure
it was the most of each of those  
species that I have seen in the length of time we were in the reserve.
Curiously, we saw very few hummingbirds or toucans but observed
several species of birds and epiphytes that were unfamiliar to me. One
species of epiphyte with a delicate orange blossom was observed for
only a couple of kilometers and was not seen again outside of that
small range.

At the second ranger station we studied some interesting research. The
Peruvian biologists were catching Pacu, a fish with teeth like a horse
that eats fruit, dissecting their stomachs and identifying the seeds and
nuts removed from the stomachs and planting them in individual  
containers. Most of the seeds germinated and grew, and the identity of
the seeds were confirmed by leaf and growth patterns.

At the 3rd ranger station we hiked through the rainforest among
strangler figs, large buttress roots, marmosets, monkeys, squirrels,
Nun birds and many other species of flora and fauna.
Inside the reserve we kept the
speed of Dawn on the Amazon
III at about 6 KPH to optimize
our chance of spotting wildlife
and to minimize our wake. We
stayed in the shade during the
hottest part of the day and
moved to the top deck early in
the morning, late in the
afternoon, and when it was
cool or cloudy.  As we moved
slowly through the reserve I reminded myself that this is what Dawn
III is designed for. Big enough to be comfortable for this 946 kilometer
expedition, small enough to access the small streams, and to gain
access to the best places, like Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

The Pacaya River
Follow this link to see our photo album of Pacaya Samiria National
Reserve and the Pacaya River.

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The Pacaya River

fishing from Dawn on the Amazon I
Pink dolphins
Dawn on the Amazon III
Randy and Alice in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
Pink dolphins in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
Dawn on the Amazon III in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve