But I felt good. I had seen jaguars! In many ways this is a big improvement from my trip to
My experience with army ants was rather fascinating. Due to the lack of (at least viewable) wildlife in both Chan Chich, Lamanai, and the Cockscombe (!), I took an interest in the ubiquitous leaf cutting ants while in
After Stuart left early I remained in
The night before I went, I discovered a book in the Dining area of the lodge, called the “The world of Ants” by French Entomologist Remy Chauvin. I was immediately absorbed by such words: “An entomologist is not inevitably the harmless eccentric found in the school prize books of my childhood, with long hair, clothes flying and a big hat with a few butterflies or beetles pinned to it; often he was pictured contemplating rather abstractedly through a magnifying glass some minute insect, at the base of a flower corolla. Around this picture would be set the famous dictum: nature is most to be admired in the smallest…).” I delved into it until the generator at the lodge turned off and I retreated to my oil-lamp-lit hut.
I was fascinated by this book and started to understand the ubiquitous leaf-cutters that I had been observing every day. I fell asleep contently, looking forward to getting up at next morning for
For the rest of the two hours, I wrapped myself up in the sheet and lied still till the wake-up call rang. I got ready very quickly and checked the bathroom again –the ants were mostly gone with the exception of a few. I met up with my driver/guide at the reception. I told him about the ants and the mosquito bites. He looked alarmed: “These must have been army ants! And you were on their way!”
I counted 168 ant bites. The ants apparently inject a kind of acid into anything they come across which cause the itching that I experienced. The itch took quite a few months to ease away but the marks from the bites did not completely disappear until over a year later. The long lasting memories of these bites served as a reminder for me to find this book by Mr. Chauvin urgently as soon as I got back to
Army ants, or military ants, are remarkable creatures. I now often have visions of the ant queen wrapped up inside a big ant ball rolling forward, ready to devour anything they could tackle on their way –other insects, rodents and even piglets! Fortunately or unfortunately, I never encountered them again in my later visits to wildlife reserves, not even during this trip to the Pantanal.
But hats off to Mr. Chauvin! Because of you, I have gained so much respect for the ants and their world. I often wonder how much of our netherworld belongs to ants of various kinds…
Still, I am more pleased that five years later, instead of leaf-cutters or army ants, I saw jaguars –what beauty and power! If I did not see any jaguars with the ultimate jaguar biologist this time, how and where else would I ever see them?
I can’t thank Peter enough for his organization and time. And I promise to return.
As soon as the cell phone signal was back, I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that my poor husband had been waiting for me in
(Afterwords: BA flight back to