All text copyright © 2003-2014 by Eitan Grunwald.  All photographs copyright © 2003-2014 Eitan and Ron Grunwald (except photographs by others copyright per photo credits).  All rights reserved.
Our first first full day at Madre Selva begins by walking the long-loop trail, a good solid hike that lasts all morning.  First up, a pair of lizards on the buttress roots of the “Gecko Tree” where we repeatedly found several of this type.          Next, another species of dart frog, less striking than our first, but beautifully brushed with sky blue underneath.  More committed to camouflage was this pair of toads in amplexus, nearly unnoticeable on the forest floor. We come to a silty creek, so, of course, Dirk jumps in and vigorously attacks the muck (I was to discover this is his natural behavior).  In the meantime, Ron is staring into the water (his natural behavior) at a submerged log, and for a moment he imagines it’s the back of a Caiman.  Then slowly he realizes it’s not just his imagination, and he lets out a shout: “Caiman!!”   Dirk stops raking and slogs through the sucking mud, leans over the log-like creature, positions his hand . . . and pounces.  Up comes the twisting crocodilian, snapping and thrashing ― but ultimately smiling ― in Dirk’s hand. While we’re admiring the Caiman, Dirk goes back to turning the mud, like he’s digging for clams.  He claims to be herping, though I’m convinced he just enjoys getting dirty.  But our boy has done his homework.  Buried down below, deep in the muck, he finds his target and our first snake of the trip.   Crossing a bridge I look at the opposite stream bank and see a small hole in the mud just above water level.  Something looks off, and as I get closer a bit of movement betrays a tiny little nose poking out of the entrance.  Looks like lizard to me, but how to prevent it disappearing down the hole?  I decide to approach it from above.  Standing on the bridge out of sight from the lizard, I reach over with my snake hook and jam the end into the mud several inches behind the hole. So far, so good.  I’ve sealed off a retreat, but surely the lizard will slip through my fingers in the slimy mud, even if I do get close enough for a grab.  I take out my snake bag, cover both my hands like a giant catcher’s mitt, then plunge down the side of the creek.  Into the mud with a flop, splashing schmutz (OK, that’s not Spanish) into my face and hair, I blindly scoop up handfuls of muck with my improvised glove.  Something wriggles in the cloth and I realize I’ve got it.  Success! This dazzling little lizard was found among the leaf litter, as was the tiny snake and LBJ (little brown job) below. Farther on the trail becomes somewhat hilly as we rise in elevation.  The ground is a bit drier and there are more patches of sun, occasionally exploited by herps like this pair of lizards or a basking snake.        We’re now deep into primary forest, and our guide Cesar says he has a surprise.  He takes us to a secret spot and tells us to keep our eyes open for something special.  Sure enough, in just a few minutes we spot a pair of these outrageous toads. We close the loop and head back to camp tired, happy, and hungry, looking forward to lunch ― all our meals were incredibly good, thanks to the gifted cook, Danilo ― followed by a siesta.
Female Male
Collared Forest Gecko Gonotodes concinnatus
Crested Forest Toad Bufo margaritifer
Pale-Striped Poison Frog Epipedobates hahneli
Smooth-fronted Dwarf Caiman Paleosuchus trigonatus
Tri-colored Swamp Snake Liophis breviceps
Common Streamside Lizard Neusticurus ecpleopus
White-striped Eyed Lizard Prionodactylus oshaughnessyi
Short-nosed Leaf Litter Snake Taeniophallus brevirostris
Long-nosed Rain Frog Eleutherodactylus carvalhoi
Forest Whiptail Kentropyx pelviceps
Fer-de-Lance Bothrops atrox
Amazon Harlequin Toad Atelopus spumarius
All text copyright  2003-2014 by Eitan Grunwald.   All photographs copyright  2003-2014 Eitan and Ron Grunwald  (except photographs by others copyright per photo credits).  All rights reserved.
May 2005
 3 of 11
May 2005
 3 of 11
All text copyright  Eitan Grunwald.  All photographs copyright  Eitan or Ron Grunwald  except photographs by others are copyright per photo credits.  All rights reserved.  Terms