It is summer in the Lowcountry. Tourists come here to enjoy our Lowcountry environment and amenities. However, this is the time that many of us full-time residents take trips elsewhere if we can. This year, we took a cruise on the Peru Amazon River.

After a short stay in Lima, we flew to Iquitos to begin our houseboat adventure. Iquitos is home to more than 500,000 people; however, the Iquitos airport is accessible only by boat or airplane. It is the largest airport in the world that is not accessible by any road.

The Amazon River is big. At Iquitos, which is near the headwaters of the Amazon, it is already 2 miles wide, even though it is 2,300 miles from the Atlantic.

We sailed in and around the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, a vast national park the size of Switzerland. This Amazonian jungle in northeastern Peru is internationally known for its biodiversity. And, we did get to see abundant biodiversity – from monkeys of various species, sloths, piranhas and green anaconda (the world’s largest snake) to pink dolphins, birds, and other wildlife. Even wood storks were visible in abundance, in addition to the even larger Jabiru storks.

Many of us in the Lowcountry are used to seeing our gray bottle-nosed dolphins in our waters. However, to see pink dolphins more than 2,000 miles from the sea is something few people get to witness. And they are truly pink.

The bird life was perhaps the most impressive. Surprisingly, the Amazon has many of the same species of birds we have here in the Lowcountry. However, the sheer number of birds was astounding. In one place, a flock of egrets was so large they seemed to blot out the sky.

Then, there are the indigenous people from many tribes. I must confess that my perception of the indigenous Amazon people was like those described by some of the early explorers such as President Theodore Roosevelt. But many things have changed in the hundred or so years since the Roosevelt expedition.

The indigenous people still fish in homemade dug-out canoes. Their villages have schools, and health care and electricity in a few places, usually from portable generators.    

Civilization has come to the Peruvian Amazon. This brings both positive and negative results. Along with civilization and all its benefits comes pollution, river traffic, deforestation, and most of the same problems we face, only on a grander scale.

Whether it is the Amazon river basin or our South Carolina Lowcountry, we constantly struggle with maintaining a delicate balance between development, or “progress,” and preservation of nature.

As we traveled through the Pacaya Samiria park, time seemed to stand still, and we got glimpses of the Amazon as it may have appeared to the early explorers. All around the park, however, one sees the encroachment of development, including extensive logging which leads to deforestation.

As the Amazon Rainforest slowly shrinks in size, so does the richness of wildlife found in its forests, along with the potential benefits the flora and fauna yet undiscovered may provide us.

This is a loss to us all.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek.