Journey Begins

As she stepped off a small propeller plane, Camilla felt a thrill of excitement. Out of many students, she had been chosen to join an expedition deep in the Amazon rainforest. A local guide showed her the way to the rowboat that would carry her to her camp. He offered to go with her, but Camilla had a map and a compass. She would find her way.

Oars In

Camilla gripped the oar carefully in her hands. It was slippery from the wetness of the water. She put her bag down in the front of her rowboat and nodded to the guide. They waved to each other, and he pushed her rowboat out into the waters of the Amazon river. Before long, the sounds of human voices disappeared, and Camilla’s boat was surrounded by trees.

Trees All Around

Camilla recognized the kapok trees, famous for their long roots and tall trunks. They towered over her small boat. Camilla had read once that kapok trees could grow up over 13 feet in a single year. That’s the length of four baseball bats! Tipping her head backward, Camilla stared up at the tall branches of the trees in wonder. She inhaled deeply, drinking in the rich scent of soil and leaves.

Flowers Falling

A beautiful pink flower drifted down from the kapok tree and landed in the boat. Eagerly, Camilla reached down and plucked it up, holding it to her nose. Yuck! The smell was terrible. Then Camilla remembered that kapok trees grow flowers with a strong scent. The smell attracts bats, who help the tree pollinate the rainforest, to grow more trees. Camilla dropped the flower into the water and watched it spin away.

Baby Monkey

There was a rustle in the trees above, and Camilla reached for the binoculars around her neck. It was a group of squirrel monkeys, moving through the trees above her. To Camilla’s delight, she spotted a new mother in the group. She had a tiny baby monkey perched on her back, its fuzzy face turning this way and that to take in the forest around it. All too soon, they had moved higher into the branches, and Camilla couldn’t see them anymore.

An Entanglement

Camilla craned her neck, trying to catch another glimpse of the monkeys. Smash! The nose of her boat crashed into a snarl of watery vines and roots. Camilla stepped out of the boat onto shore. It was as good a time as any for a break. As she rested, she checked her compass, and then set it down to take a drink from her canteen. There was a teeny chittering sound, and before she knew it, a capuchin monkey was snatching her compass from the ground.

Monkey Madness

With a cry of protest, Camilla shot to her feet. Her boot tangled in the vines, and she fell forward, scaring the compass thief. He scurried away, halfway up the trunk of a tree. Camilla held up her hands slowly, hoping that she wouldn’t scare him any further. Without her compass, she would be in trouble. Carefully, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a bag of trail mix. She pinched some of the fruit and nuts and tossed it gently toward the fuzzy trouble maker.

A Fair Trade

The capuchin moved toward Camilla. Cautiously at first, and then with greater zeal, he scooped up the fruit and nuts she threw. The little monkey eyed her suspiciously for a moment, and then lifted his head and let out a hooting sound. As Camilla watched, a group of fellow capuchins appeared from the trees to eat her snack. Her new friend soon forgot about her compass, and she snatched it back. So much for her break! It was time to move on. She detangled her boat and paddled along the river once more.

Anaconda Appears

Just a few minutes after she returned to the boat, a flicker of motion caught the corner of Camilla’s eye. She turned her head just in time to see the tip of a tail slither over the edge of the bank and into the water. It was an anaconda, one of the biggest snakes in the world. He zigged and zagged his way through the water. Camilla watched, heart pounding, as he made his way to the other riverbank and back out of sight.

Giant Water Lilies

Camilla blew out a breath. Anacondas don’t usually attack humans, but seeing an animal that big was still scary. She dipped her oar back into the river and pushed forward. As her boat rounded a bend, Camilla found herself amidst a sea of water lilies. Victoria amazonica, she remembered. Giant water lilies. They can grow to be almost ten feet wide. Big enough for a person to lie down on top of them and laze the day away.

The Fire

Camilla’s boat rounded another bend, and she watched as the trees beside the water dropped away. A new smell struck Camilla’s nose, charred earth and ash. There had been a wildfire in this part of the rainforest. Where once there had been trees, now there were only jagged trunks. The animals had all moved somewhere else, so it was eerily quiet.

Seedlings Ahead

Fire is a natural thing for all forests. It helps to clear out old life and awaken new. But this year, the fires were particularly hard on the Amazon. Camilla knew they would be talking about it when she reached camp. Many scientists were worried that if the fires burned too much of the Amazon, it would impact the whole world. Camilla took pictures, noting that seedlings were already starting to poke through the earth.

A Rustle

Finally, Camilla left the burned part of the forest behind. The green of the jungle returned. Again she heard the chatter of monkeys in the trees. But then the river branched again. Having learned her lesson, Camilla stopped to check her map. Suddenly, there was a rustle in the bushes. Camilla froze, remembering the anaconda. Carefully, she used her paddle to lift a branch and peered into the underbrush.

Friendly Capybara

A bright fuzzy nose poked through the leaves. It was a capybara, the largest rodent in the world. The friendly creature grunted happily at Camilla before sniffing the air and shuffling off in search of food. In the distance, Camilla heard the distinct sounds of munching. She smiled. Capybaras had always been one of her favorite animals. A capybara can eat up to eight pounds of grass in a day!

Flying Friends

Camilla had to reach the camp by dark. Pushing off with her paddle, Camilla moved her boat back into the river. It wasn’t long before she heard a flapping sound above her. She looked up just in time to see a yellow-bellied bird with a hooked beak overhead. Flipping through pictures in her mind, Camilla recognized a channel-billed toucan. It opened its beak and let out a bird call. Another toucan answered her from the trees beyond.

Jungle Friendship

Camilla grabbed her binoculars and focused on the direction of the calls. There in the trees were five colorful toucans. They all appeared to be eating something off the tree branches. Camilla remembered reading that toucans can eat a lot of foods, but prefer fruit and insects. She imagined that these birds may have found some ants or termites to eat. The tree must be happy about that too, she thought. A perfect jungle friendship.

Dusk

As dusk approached, Camilla noticed a change in the forest. The sounds she had heard all day started to fade. Instead of the whoops of howler monkeys and the chatter of birds, now she heard insects chirping in the brush. Her boat drifted closer to the shore and the chirping stopped as if the animals could sense her nearness. Camilla tried to remember what she knew about the insects of the Amazon. There were so many kinds!

Insects Abound

There were blue morpho butterflies with their bright wings. Giant bullet ants and titan longhorn beetles. The assassin bug with its incredible hunting abilities. And the tarantula, one of the scariest-looking spiders. Even though she knew they weren’t the most dangerous, Camilla shuttered. She was a scientist who loved living things, but spiders still gave her the creeps. Especially giant ones like the tarantula.

Destination

In the distance, a light shimmered on the water. Camilla’s heart leaped at the sight. She was nearly there. And good thing, too, since the sun had disappeared behind the trees, and the light of the day was waning. She paddled faster, excited to reach the camp. Someone on the shore called out a greeting, and Camilla called back. As she approached, she saw scientists standing onshore, waving to her. She had arrived!

Camp Tour

Camilla stepped out of her boat and into the sea of faces. After so much time alone, it was a little overwhelming at first, to hear so many voices and see so many people. The head of the camp was a Brazilian scientist named Doctor Santos. She clasped Camilla’s hand and then walked her through the camp. There was a small fire with camp chairs around it. Tents were pitched in a clearing. Doctor Santos got Camilla a cup of soup.

Goodnight, Camilla!

Camilla settled down by the fire. Monkeys chittered quietly in the distance as Camilla told the others about everything she had seen on her way to camp. After she had eaten, Camilla walked back to her tent and lay down, listening to the sounds of the rainforest around her. She breathed deeply, her body tired from a long day, but her mind alive with the ideas and excitement of all that she would learn tomorrow.

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