There is a resident pet here at Sani Lodge. I’ve been told she has lived at the lodge for about 8 or 9 years and is beloved by all of the staff. She enjoys swimming in the lagoon and eating fish and chicken and the occasional banana.

I first met Lucy when I was boarding a small canoe to go down the lake. I was standing by the canoe, paddle in hand, adjusting my pack, when Miguel says to me in a calm voice, “Be careful. Move slowly and quietly. Lucy is behind you.” I turn around slowly and see Lucy about 5 feet away, staring at me, head low to the ground. Half of her body is in the lagoon and the other half on the shore.

Lucy is a black caiman, similar to an alligator. She is about 4 feet long and 3 feet wide. She has earned a healthy respect from the lodge staff and the local Kichwa people who come to the lodge.  Two years ago, she had 17 babies. Last year, she had 27. Miguel, who manages the bar and lounge, tells me the babies are thriving. Out there in the lake, somewhere, I suppose. All 44 of them. And they’re no longer babies.

Back on the shore, face to face with the proud mama, I begin a slow side-step, like a sand crab, toward the base of the stairs to the upper deck of the lounge. After what feels like an eternity, my foot lands on the first step. Miguel takes my hand and leads me the rest of the way.

I’m shaking. Miguel is laughing. He tells me most species of black caimans are too small to be dangerous to humans. They prey on much smaller animals. Plus, Lucy is fairly docile and well fed. She knows not to attack her “bread and butter.”

Lucy visits the shores of the lagoon every morning. Maybe she wants to say hello to her friends at the lodge, or perhaps she simply wants to rest on the bank, warming in the sunshine. Or, maybe Lucy has come to realize that she is the most photogenic – and likely the most photographed — black caiman in Ecuador. I am learning to love her, too.


As part of our continuing work with the indigenous Amazonian community of Sani Isla in Ecuador, Deborah Tompkins is sharing a travelogue of her experiences as an American in the Amazon. Deb’s company, Sage Point, works with NGOs in Africa, Asia and now Latin America to develop and execute marketing and communication strategies. She is donating her time and expertise to support RP and the Sani Warmi community. We invite you to join Deb as she introduces you to the people, the community, their Amazon ecolodge, and their forest home.

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