By Ian Stalker
The Inkaterra Reserva Amazona lodge offers nature-loving vacationers tours that may enable them to see creatures - such as monkeys -- that look cute and cuddly.
And just possibly an imposing Amazon resident that some unfortunate jungle-dwelling fauna may find extremely cuddly but which few tourists are likely to find cute.
The luxury lodge, found in the Peruvian Amazon, counts among its features the Anaconda Walk, with the four-section, 200-meter walk so named because it's in prime anaconda habitat, with workers actually finding three of the huge, amphibious snakes while creating wooden walkways over the wetlands terrain.
But, reassures Inkaterra's marketing director Juan Luis Tord, people shouldn't be nervous about possible sightings of the world's largest snake, which feeds on birds, mammals such as capybaras, and even caimans, carnivores that, like anacondas, are at home in water.
"The Amazon is always identified with anacondas, probably due to movies," says Tord, recalling such Hollywood efforts as the Jennifer Lopez's Anaconda, which had Amazon travelers continually stalked by a man-eating anaconda, a concept Tord labels ridiculous. "Guests are always curious. People always ask and some become excited when the interpreters mention they have had sightings."
But Tord concedes others are uneasy about sharing jungle space with constrictors that may reach up to eight meters in length.
Anacondas are at the top of the food chain and their numbers are healthy in an area where hunting is forbidden, Tord reports.
Despite their large size and healthy population numbers, visitors shouldn't count on seeing them as camouflaged skin patterns and a stealthy nature means sightings are often pure luck.
Anacondas have a powerful coiling ability, but Tord says people shouldn't be nervous about going on the Anaconda Walk, with those walks - using the one-meter-above-ground bridges -- led by Inkaterra interpreters familiar with area wildlife and who brief visitors on it before setting out.
The predators also avoid the actual lodge and its 30 cabanas, apparently wary of people.
And even those squeamish about anacondas should appreciate that they serve a purpose, even if it's one that makes some tourists uncomfortable. "Anacondas are part of the eco-system of the rain forest, just like jaguars, caimans, river otters and monkeys, and people should not see them as a threat. Anacondas are in remote areas, like Amazon jungle. They are not a threat to humans at all," Tord reassures.