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Tambopata: Magic at Malinowsky

April 6, 2011

Morpho by Rick Stanley

We arrived at Malinowsky guard station in the afternoon after a week at El Gato. There are two park rangers at the station, which is a checkpoint for entry into the Tambopata National Reserve. Both men greeted us with enthusiasm and they showed us to our rooms. There is a small research facility beside the guard station that was created by WWF a number of years ago and we were each given a simple, small room with a bed. After settling in for 10 minutes, we grabbed our camera gear and headed right out on the trail.

It turns out there is only one trail here and it is about 3 kilometers long. Otherwise, we are blocked in by a river on one side and dense forest everywhere else. We started out on the trail and had a magical experienced within the first 500 meters. As I was photographing a patch of mushrooms, Rick noticed that a blue morpho butterfly was hanging around. It is pretty common to see a morpho in the forest – a flash of iridescent blue gliding down the trail and disappearing into the landscape just after you score a fleeting glimpse. However, this morpho was circling us and coming closer and closer. After a few minutes, Rick called out to me when he found the morpho on his shirt and then on his cheek. Our clothes were soaked with sweat from the boat ride in the hot sun and the butterfly was clearly attracted to the salt covering our skin.

We took a few fun photos of the butterfly on our clothes and then Rick got creative – he placed it on my nose. The image above is our favorite from the series because it shows just how big the morpho was. We tried to let the butterfly go after that, but he just kept following us. Rick decided to take the opportunity to photograph it in a natural setting because they rarely sit with their wings open. After a few tries, we were almost ready to give up because the morpho was much more interested in our skin than the leaf. Then, I had an idea. I took some sweat from my face (yes, there was a lot of sweat) and rubbed it on the leaf where Rick wanted the morpho to sit. Amazingly, it worked! The image below is the result of that experiment. It was a really magical hour in the jungle with a beautiful creature and one of my favorite memories from Peru.

We turned back soon after the morpho because it was getting dark in the forest – but a great first day at Malinowsky overall!

Morpho by Rick Stanley

Katydid by Gabby Salazar

Mushrooms by Gabby Salazar

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