In the first part of the series JBL Expedition 2016: In the Rainforest of Venezuela - Part 1 we reported about the country of Venezuela and about our planned stay in the Orinoco Delta.
From there we are going to our second jungle camp in the table-top mountains – again for three days.
We are flying to the south of Venezuela, to Canaima, the last town before the table-top mountains. Here there are no streets anymore and the rivers are the only way to move fast. Canaima itself is situated next to a picturesque lagoon bordered by waterfalls. Beyond the waterfalls our longboats will be waiting for us and with these we will travel for more than four hours (yes, this will hurt our bums!) deep into the gorges of the table-top mountains, until we arrive at the world’s highest waterfall, the Salto Angel (1000 m). There we will stay in a simple camp with a large corrugated tin roof under which our hammocks will be strung up. If you lie diagonally you will almost be in a horizontal position and won’t get backache.
In the morning we’ll wake up to an open view of the waterfall – it doesn’t get much more beautiful than that. The river is just a few metres away for some fantastic snorkelling. The water is quite shallow and it’s more like crawling than snorkelling there. On the other hand, despite its reddish brown colour, the water is crystal-clear. Fish observations, water analysis and light measurements - also below water and during different times of the day - will be on the agenda. And we’ll also be able to talk to the experts travelling with us, experts familiar to every committed aquarist from their specialist literature and lectures. Dr. Wolgang Staeck, the cichlid pope, is going to be travelling with us. Andreas Tanke, Mr Catfish himself, will be with us too.
Spending downtime with such specialists, researching, exchanging ideas, what a great opportunity this is for aquarists! But I have to make it a rule that all the participants wear long rubber boots at all times. Because when I went to the river I tripped over a snake which did NOT flee! This is not something that happens really often in the animal kingdom. Only very poisonous animals, such as the stonefish, which rely on their camouflage, stay put when approached. I came across just such a specimen. It was the most poisonous species of pit viper in South America. That in itself wouldn’t be so bad, but in case of emergency we would need four hours by boat to Canaima and another hour by aeroplane to get an antiserum! That’s why prevention is the best cure.
And then, after a one-hour march through scrubs, another exciting challenge will be waiting for the participants and especially for Andreas Tanke: In the small lake at the foot of the mountains lives a catfish species, which until now has never been described. It’s not a sucker catfish but more a longish free swimming catfish. Let’s see whether we can catch and determine it. I’m sure I could write a lot more pages now – but the real feelings and sensations of such an expedition can’t really be put into words. For a start the humid smell of the rainforest is missing and the thrill of wondering which of the many animal species we’ll get to see there. The live experience of nature, whether in the Black Forest or in the jungle of Venezuela, cannot be replaced by anything else!
Why don’t you join us? I would be delighted. Up to now, we have always had great teams. In 2018 we’ll be setting off again!