Our first full day in the Amazon was very successful. We started our morning at breakfast, where we had wonderful home-grown food and fresh juice. Then we went off on a hike into the jungle, where we saw and learned about Amazonian wildlife. Some of the highlights of the hike were seeing army ants, a chameleon, and a fire caterpillar. At various points in the hike, we tasted a multitude of plants and wildlife too, including a bitter leaf, a flower from Leandro’s home that acts as a local anesthetic by numbing the mouth, and we all tried coconut grub, which is beetle larva inside a coconut shell. Most of us had the larva raw, but a couple of us tried the grub roasted from a hand-made fire. One of the most exciting things we saw on the hike was a young bird spider, which Leandro coerced out of its hole so that we could take turns touching and holding it. The bird spider gets its name because it often eats birds, and it isn’t poisonous, but does have a painful bite (fortunately, none of us experienced that). While we were hiking, we noticed older trails around us, but we remained on the new ones all day. As we learned in class, this helps prevent erosion; Creating new trails every couple of years allows the plants to re-grow on the older trails. To return from the hike, we canoed back to the lodge in pairs.
Our next activity was meeting with a government official from the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism. We learned their goals of continuing to increase tourism in Brazil and how they plan to do it in a sustainable way. After spending a semester learning about eco-tourism, it was interesting to get the Brazilian government’s perspective. In other countries they have developed tourism without thinking about sustainability. This makes it harder for these countries to try and address sustainable issues later. We’re hoping that Brazil continues to develop tourism sustainably. In the coming days we will be hearing other perspectives from people in the industry.
Our final adventure for the day was taking a boat through the flooded islands of the Rio Negro. All throughout we saw many beautiful blue and green parrots and macaws flying over head. As we paddled through the trees, we ate some Amazonian grapes. When we saw a large 350 year old tree that had strong parasitic vines hanging from it, we all took turns swinging on the vines around the tree. We learned that this type of tree is the only one on the islands with wood suitable for building in the region. That said, it’s illegal to cut it down. We enjoyed our day exploring the Amazon, and we’re looking forward to visiting a local Amazonian community tomorrow.
Christina holding the bird spider.