The Cloud Forests of Peru
Life without Water: it's impossible, but at Chaparri Eco Reserve life seems to have adapted quite nicely to the lack of H2o.
The existence of an arid (dry) forest seems odd and the extreme climate at Chaparri for most of the year is very dry and hot with almost no rain. The landscape changes dramatically during rainy periods from December to April. These unique dry forests only exist in Northern Peru and Southern Ecuador.
In the dry season Chaparri is terribly dry, colourless, dusty and on the surface appears barren. But take a closer look: life abounds everywhere. Foxes, ferrets, pumas, hundreds of species of birds, snakes and lizards have adapted to this extreme climate.
It's hard to believe that this oasis exists only a few hours from Chiclayo, a bustling city of 500,000 on the northern coast of Peru.
I was lucky enough to meet National Geographic Photographer Heinz Plenge and photograph an infant Spectacled Bear with him in the hills surrounding this great reserve. The Spectacled Bear is the only bear in South America and the population at Chaparri is one of the last remaining in the dry forests of South America. There are as many as 11 bears living in one small section of the reserve and time lapse cameras have captured many more bears in the remote areas of the reserve.
The critically threatened White-Winged Guan has been successfully reintroduced into the area. The Guan was once common in Northern Peru had been reduced to less than 300 due to decimation of habitat destruction and over hunting. The successful reintroduction program started in 2002 and since has found a healthy population of Guans increasing naturally and expanding into neighbouring areas. The birds at the reserve are easy to approach and comical to watch as they sluggishly fly with their distinct "wing clapping" sound.
The community owned eco reserve is the first private conservation area established in Peru. It covers over 34,000 hectares and is managed by the community of Chongoyape, extending from 350 to 1350 meters in altitude. The reserve is conserving more than 220 species of birds, many which are in danger of extinction.
The small community of Chongoyape located in the southern part of the reserve has benefited from the eco-tourism affects from Chaparri and Chiclayo. The eco-lodge is beautifully built into the landscape and 100% solar powered. The guides and staff are friendly (and so too are the Tarantulas, so don't leave your backpack open, as I found out) and the accommodations wonderful, with tasty regional dishes offering a great cultural experience.
For more information and booking: http://www.chaparrilodge.com/
Terry Sebastian April 2013