Back on the boat, we experienced pelting rain and wind until we eased up to a cabin on the water with a roped off area where the dolphins usually come in. We sat inside to dry off while Leandro told us stories of the pink dolphin legend from Amazonia history. It was interesting and touching to learn how the stigma of the pink dolphin species has changed over the years. In the beginning they were considered taboo, dangerous and a nuisance to fisherman. They were constantly being killed, until one woman changed everything. Despite the community and the government giving her a hard time, she eventually changed people’s ideology that the dolphins are harmful and encouraged the mentality that they should really be protected. Today, the pink dolphins come and go as they please, interacting with humans and now a major tourist attraction for the Amazon. Thankfully, the rain eased up just enough for us each to get a chance to get up close and personal with the unique mammals and pet them as the lady responsible for feeding them baited them to rise up out of the water with pieces of fish. It was a truly cool experience, and as much as we wished we could feed them ourselves or get in the water and swim with them like we have heard tourists have been allowed to do in the past, we were told that times have changed. The National Park activists and environmental organization created stricter policies to guard them from naive tourists. Leandro shared that although the protection of the dolphins and other marine life in the Negro River have come a long way, there is still illegal practices happening all around the Amazon, because it is so big and not enough Environmental guards to oversee everything.
Leandro also explained the makeup of the Negro River, the high acidy content, the current being slow, water warm which gives it a black reflective color. After the informational session and story time, we ventured out again into the Archipelagio of Anavilhanas. Boating across the river through tunnels of jungle, we saw various kinds of plants, fruits, birds and even a 300 year old tree. It was truly the first time we took in the beauty of the rainforest.
After lunch we took a half hour ride to a local village of 60 residents including a mix of Portuguese and Indian people. Leandro took us on a little tour of their land, how they grow fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs to live off of. The women make colorful jewelry to sell to tourists and the men make BBQ sticks to sell in Manaus. It’s a very different way of living, and we were intrigued to say the least. The children were just as curious of us as we were of them. The families live very minimally with futbol as their pastime, tourism as their source of income, and agriculture as their way of life. At first we were hesitant to be there because we felt like we were invading their homes and privacy, but in actuality, they were grateful for our presence we learned. When we all bought something, you could see how happy we made them and they thanked us with complimentary bracelets and a hug.
The village had more plantlife and wildlife than we ever expected. We took so many pictures of gorgeous flowers and exotic animals. There were loud birds, colorful parrots, and our all time favorite… the “so ugly, it’s cute” sloth! We had a field day when Leandro pointed out the female sloth crawling just in front of us. We each got to hold her and take a picture, which proved to be everyone’s favorite part of the day when we discussed our pit and peaks at dinner!
Despite all the gray skies and heavy rainfall from earlier that morning, we were rewarded with a perfect sunset cruising back to the lodge on the Negro River. It was the best way to take in everything and reflect over everything we had done today. We are expecting tomorrow to be our toughest day physically, but we’re all up for the challenge!