Savannah Grace

Piranha Fishing in Peru

The trip to Tres Chimbadas Lake was the first and only activity where we had a few other small groups, including their private guides join the three of us. It was a peaceful 15 minute boat ride on the calm river at 5 o’clock in the morning, watching the sunrise.

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Pulling up to the river bank we walked 20 minutes down a mushroom, vine and flower lined trail, stepping over bustling lines of leafcutter ants and jumping over and running from bullet ants to the lake’s shores. Nestled in the Peruvian rainforest, the Tres Chimbadas Lake is a haven for birds, snakes, black caiman, fish and the precious Giant Otters.

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Our tour boat was a makeshift “catamaran” which was merely rows of benches placed on a couple dozen planks nailed together on two narrow canoes. A local boy who’d lived his whole life in a small rainforest village nearby came as our captain and steered the silent catamaran along.

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The lake was smooth as glass so early in the morning and the reflections were mind-warpingly perfect. There’s something simply thrilling about The Amazon that I have felt both times I’ve been in it. The Amazon rainforest a touristic destination that is still relatively untouched, the sounds and motions of the wildlife draw you in. It makes you feel like the visitor rather than the almighty human. I’m always aware that perhaps the bullet ants, caimans and anacondas which are lurking in their natural habitat, hidden and all-knowing, may not accept my presence. They demand deep respect.

Who are we with our spray-on sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, cameras and bug spray, thinking we are so powerful and in control? In the rainforest, you are nothing but a tasty meal. They don’t care if you are a nanny, a famous football player or an author. Life is basic here and yet so intertwined and connected with instincts. I love the way that the Amazon reminds you of the circle of life and your place within it.

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Everyone rushed to grab their binoculars, including an excited Jair, when we spotted splashing in the distance. It was a family of endangered Giant Otters! Just 5,000 of the world’s largest otters, reaching an average of 1.5 metres (5ft), are left in the wild and we were fortunate enough to get to watch them play in the lake.
Macaws screeching as they fly overhead, toucans resting in the trees, black caimans swimming across the lake and lounging near the banks, swamp birds nesting in the grass, make the perfect Amazon setting.

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A South American rainforest experience wouldn’t be complete without piranhas. Anchoring just off the shore, the guides pulled out their fishing lines AKA sticks with a line and hook attached and started cutting up pieces of beef as bait. The art of piranha fishing is… well, there really isn’t an art. Those guys are hungry, aggressive monsters that can’t resist a bite of that beef. The ones we swam with, fished and ate in Suriname  were ten times bigger than the little ones we found in Peru, but no less fierce. Jair laughed as he showed us the strength of their jaws and teeth as one snapped his little mouth shut on a leaf, cutting it like a natural pair of scissors.

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Once again, surrounded by doctors, pharmacists, lawyers and dentists, I found myself stumbling upon a fantasy that others had saved up and dreamed of for their entire lives before making such a trip a reality. I find myself in a peculiar situation which makes me feel both undeserving and appreciative.

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I suppose gratitude, for your accomplishments, blessings and life lessons, is the key to happiness.


See 2:35-2:54 for piranha fishing.

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