As I once again climbed into the dugout canoe the following day, I decided to head straight to where I saw one of the biggest depressions in the grass on that first day. It was in such a perfect location, and I just knew that it had to be used regularly by this anaconda, since the grass was so obviously bent under the weight of something big. As soon as I stood up in the canoe, I could see she was there (or at least my mind was telling me she was there—not always the same thing!). But she was there, and she was close to the water’s edge and in full view!
I slowly paddled up to her, using every ounce of each stroke’s momentum to propel me slowly closer with little lateral movement (again, 20 years of experience with reptiles in and out of the field were all coming together to allow me to take such a calculated risk). I kept an ever-watchful eye on her. She didn’t move. She didn’t flick her tongue. The night before was cold, so her reptilian physiology was on my side (a warmed up snake is more likely to react than a cold one). With so many years of experience with snakes, you develop a feeling for when their behavior is about to change. Fortunately, like all other animals, they either rely on the possibility that they are as yet unseen or they try to beat a hasty retreat. She would be unlikely to strike out at me without first a tongue flick and/or a slight contortion of the body to give her the needed positioning and leveraging. She did nothing. Which was an absolute dream for me! She even let me sit there in that slowly sinking canoe, for nearly an hour, just a few meters from her head, while I waited for the glass in my lenses to defog (those experienced with photography in the tropics know this all too well).
She did not move an inch for the entire time I sat alongside her, gripping nearby vegetation to prevent the wind from pushing the canoe and me closer. Not that I didn’t want to get closer, but there’s a certain code of conduct (born of respect) for these creatures that we must all abide. I didn’t want her to react for many reasons, but perhaps the most important to me is because I want to minimize my impact on her life as much as possible. Wild animals survive in a very fine balance. Any reaction I were to cause would require energy, energy that would no longer go into growth and reproduction. I can’t justify that for anything, so I am very cautious. It’s an art, and there’s no metric to know if you are doing it correctly.
|Green Anaconda, Photo by: Ryan Bolton|
Despite the wind and my shattered nerves, I did not move at all. There were no sounds. I felt the blood rushing in my ears, an incessant pulsing that made my head hurt. Or maybe that was just the strain of what I might imagine to be the biggest, most sustained smile in history. My soul was full. I communed with nature for that entire hour… just by staring into her beautiful eyes. The moment was indescribable, but fortunately my lenses cleared and I am able to share it with you now far better than my words could ever express. Please enjoy, and wherever you go in your journey, take the love of nature with you…
- Ryan Bolton
Stay tuned for the video Ryan created documenting his search for Green Anacondas, it will be posted shortly.