Why Does the Sloth Swim Across the River?

by Captain Bill

Why Does the Sloth Swim Across the River?

Dawn on the Amazon III, Captain Jhony, Judy, and Alberto

We looked over the rail of our Amazon river boat, the Dawn on the Amazon, and were surprised to see a sloth swimming for all she was worth. Sloths are strong swimmers, but this sloth was going nowhere, her three toe claws were tangled in the brush.

“Can we rescue her?” was the cry from Taylor, my favorite college freshman in Austin Texas.

Alberto, one of my crew, was already running to the jon boat and five minutes later he scooped the sloth out of the water, safe and sound, and held her up so we could see better. Taylor’s teenage brother, Walker got face to face and tried to communicate with what looked like a half drowned model for Speilburg’s ET. “Why do you swim across the river ET.”

It was a break through moment in communication when ET telepathically answered, “To get to the other side.”

Walker understood and looked up at me with his big eyes and asked, “Can we take her to the other side?”

I gestured to the far side. Alberto smiled happily and crossing, using a paddle, placed the sloth in a safe place on the other side of the river.

Pam on a jungle hike

Pam emphasized to me this was not to be a fishing trip. John loves to fish, too much. John’s family explained he has a history of over obsessing on fishing. I promised him he could wet a line. He confessed that fishing all day was not long enough.

We spotted a black water lake early in the morning and let John off in the canoe with one of my crew and we cruised on with radio contact. Within a few hours he caught three good eating sized peacock bass, and we cruised back to pick him up in time for lunch. Not bad because the water level was too high for good fishing. Personally I did not see anything wrong with John’s obsession for fishing. Some have said the same about me, in the distant past, before I reformed, got well, and became a recovering fisherman.

John with Peacock Bass

Sally and Sue are teachers studying the Amazon River and rainforest on an Eli Lilly Grant to revive teacher creativity, to “get their gray on in the Amazon”. They seemed revived to me. Their students are going to be so lucky to have the most enthusiastic teachers in the Turkey Run school system, and the most knowledgeable. Sally and Sue studied everything, asked a million questions, filled two notebooks, and took a thousand photos.

Sue and Sally on the Observation Deck of Dawn on the Amazon

We visited two remote jungle villages and their schools, met the teachers and children, delivered school supplies, and made contacts for future correspondence between the students of Turkey Run, and students in the rainforest, two thousand miles apart.

Sue at the Mishana School

Marmelita guided everyone on three jungle hikes, Edson took them on a night excursion looking for caiman, night birds, and frogs. We swam, canoed, spotted pink dolphins, and had fun.

Moises paddling Taylor and Sally

Judy cooked fantastic food, like every meal was a special occasion. Not everything was equally appreciated. The giant Amazon snails diced into escargot was politely sampled, but the huge shells made interesting souvenirs. John thought the caiman tenderloin with ricotta sauce was the best meal. The most popular dish over all was the patarashca. Judy divided John’s peacock bass, and pieces of Dorado, a delicious cat fish, with a few tomatoes, sweet peppers, cilantro, a dash of soy sauce, all wrapped in bijao leaves, and steamed the fish in their own juices. The fresh squeezed tropical fruit juices were always a favorite.

We spotted a large troop of Squirrel Monkeys, and maneuvered our boat closer to watch them make their acrobatic leaps from tree to tree. We saw a smaller group of Saddle-backed Tamarins, and heard Dusky Titi Monkeys several times.

Walker being constricted by a rainbow boa

The most interesting birds to me were half a dozen Ivory-billed Aracaris, an Orange-breasted Falcon, Two Laughing Falcons, Swallow-tailed Kites, and dozens of Plumbeous Kites swooping up insects so gracefully right in front of our boat. I hesitate to mention the giant eagle we saw in a tree far away. It was huge. I tried to call it a Harpy, but never saw it clearly enough to get a good identification. I am notorious for calling every large raptor a Harpy until proven different. This one was never proven different so…

Orange-breasted Falcon

All of this and more in four days on Dawn on the Amazon III, up the Nanay River into Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve. There were no mosquitoes, but lots of Long-nosed bats, and a few Fish-eating bats.

One of the best elements of our cruise into the rainforest was how well everyone got along. We bonded into a friendly group, and shared an experience that we will not forget.

On the last day we met our other Amazon boat, Dawn on the Amazon I, coming upstream with a family on a fishing mission. We off loaded some of our extra supplies, and sent Judy with them to cook. They continued on into Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve, while we reluctantly started back to Iquitos. The good news is the water level dropped a foot in the next five days. They caught fish, including a large peacock bass, and were very happy, but that is another story.

Why Does the Sloth Swim Across the River? To Get to the Other Side Silly.

Hi, I am Bill Grimes. Click this link if you would like to learn more about my tours and cruises.

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Click these links to learn more about Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve.

The Bats of Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve and How They Could Benefit You

Expedition Through Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve

Bird Watching, Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve

The Real Live Dawn on the Amazon Cruises in Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve

Allphahuayo Mishana:It Ain’t Disneyland

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike July 14, 2008 at 10:15 am

Fantastic , great story, great photos , well done Bill.

2 Gary August 5, 2008 at 6:00 pm

HI every body come on don´t lose the chance of getting to know the sloth and ask her the question she will love it to answer: Why Does the Sloth Swim Across thye River?, wow, come on join us for the next adventure where you will be going to a quiet and peaceful place to interact with the natives around.

3 Danene October 30, 2008 at 3:42 pm

I am considering traveling to the Amazon in mid-March 2009 with the City as Text program. We’ll be starting in Iquitos and traveling for 1 week. After your trip, which sounds very similar to what our current itinerary, would you recommend someone doing this? Was it worth your money and time?



4 charlie November 26, 2009 at 8:44 am


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