Inspiring Reads – The Tapir’s Morning Bath: Solving the Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest

The Tapir's Morning Bath

The following inspiring read has been provided by Trupti Devdas Nayak.

One of the things I long for from the time I spent at Tambopata Research Center in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest is to lie in a hammock swinging gently, a book in hand as raucous squawks of macaws fill the skies and the intermingling sounds of jungle creatures – from buzzing bees to roaring howler monkeys – synchronize to form the most beautiful concerto I’ve ever heard. Reading a book in peace with no modern-life disruptions is one of the simplest pleasures in life which we don’t indulge in often enough. And travel provides that perfect opportunity when one can settle down in a cozy spot with a book and forget the rest of the world.

The Tapir's Morning Bath

I had to travel 4500 miles to rediscover the contentment of having boundless time to just sit back and read. I fondly remember my summer vacations, three months of bliss that seemed to stretch to eternity as I voraciously finished off one book after another. I relived some of those memories at Tambopata Research Center in Puerto Maldonado, thanks to a wonderful book I discovered in their library. During my week in the Amazon, I was outdoors exploring the rainforest every day. But every afternoon and evening, I had a few hours to myself. So off I went to check out Tambopata’s library (a small 4-shelf bookcase) expecting to find a lot of scientific research books and literature on ecology and biology. I was pleasantly surprised to find multiple copies of one book in particular which caught my eye and imagination – The Tapir’s Morning Bath by Elizabeth Royte. It turned out to be the perfect introduction to the rainforest!

Elizabeth Royte spent a full year on Barro Colorado Island when researching for this book. Barro Colorado Island (BCI for short) is a tropical rainforest island located in man-made Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal. Elizabeth lived alongside scientists, biologists and researchers and studied them much as they studied the rainforest. Her intense curiosity and thirst for learning resulted in a book which inspires as much as it demystifies. What I like most is Elizabeth’s inquiring mind, the questions she asks of the people she works with, how she makes even the most introverted scientists open up and share their passions about why they study the rainforest.

The Tapir's Morning BathWhat drew me to The Tapir’s Morning Bath was how similar the intriguing details of day-to-day life on a research center like BCI would be to Tambopata. Both are covered with dense tropical rainforests. Both have scientists, biologists and researchers specializing in their niche subject doing research on their niche topic. Reading about Elizabeth’s experience at BCI was the best possible way to understand the motivations and thoughts of the scientists at Tambopata. What I loved most is how everything in the book echoed what I had been seeing and doing that very day! With fascinating stories about leaf-cutter ants, exotic and colorful motmot birds, and unimaginable diversity of plants and trees in the rainforest, Elizabeth tries to put into perspective the driving force among species for survival and niche specialization. Her book is packed cover to cover with interesting stories and real-life anecdotes of life at BCI alongside details of experiments, setups and theories which strive to explain the complex interconnected web of life.

The Tapir’s Morning Bath gave me a completely new perspective on things I would not have noticed or thought deeply about. I would never have come to appreciate and understand the hardship that goes into any form of research involving animals, birds and plants, the difficulties and frustrations for gathering usable data points, the questions that get more and more intertwined as a researcher tries to tease out the answers for just one inquiry. My experience was exhilarating and completely immersive. I learned a lot about the rainforest and came to deeply appreciate what we know, and marvel at how much we still don’t. The best part was I was in the rainforest when reading about it, so it was only a matter of walking outside and heading down a trail to see and experience what I had just read. In some ways, I became Elizabeth myself, as I explored the mysteries of the rainforest.

If you love a good story with a scientific bent you will devour Elizabeth Royte’s book. She manages to capture and showcase the human side of research in an interesting and unputdownable way which admittedly is a tough task when said research involves collecting monkey dung and radio-tracking fruit bats. The book educates as much as it entertains, you will find a wealth of information about rainforests, what current research is trying to accomplish and most importantly, you will gain from Royte a deeply rooted sense of urgency for protecting our rainforests before we lose them irreplaceably forever.

I want to visit the Barro Colorado Research Institute in Panama one day and see what Elizabeth saw, feel what she felt and walk in her footsteps. Perhaps I will find a new book there, one that I can read while gently swinging in a hammock as macaws fly overhead in the azure sky.

>> Grab a copy of The Tapir’s Morning Bath on Amazon.

About the author: Trupti Devdas Nayak is a travel writer and photographer who is as passionate about travel as she is about writing. Her greatest joy is when she combines these interests to craft a story that is both compelling and evocative. Among other things, Trupti has trekked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, snorkeled with sharks in Oahu, witnessed horses dancing flamenco in Andalusia and has hiked in over 30 national parks around the world and counting. She writes about her travel adventures at Exploring The Blue Marble.

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