sunnuntai 25. maaliskuuta 2012

March 25th 2012

In the Wild

Ilha Grande, a remnant of the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest is the home of several threatened species, including the brown howler monkey, maned sloth, broad-snouted caiman, and red-browed Amazon parrots. Although, during our short visit, we didn't manage to see any of these endangered animals, it was still good to know that they were there, and that they have a chance to survive on this beautiful, protected island.

At sunset, we listened to the silence surrounding us and, after dark, to the enchanting sounds of the jungle, the shrieks, the shrills, and the squeaks of, maybe, frogs or insects or... we couldn't guess what. They were so different from the monotonous buzzing of big cities where we had stayed far too long, and we enjoyed them so!

From Ilha Grande, we sailed to Paraty, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest towns in Brazil, mainly for provisioning purposes but also to see the only town in the world we know of that makes use of the tide to clean its streets.

After Paraty, we sailed via Ilha da Cotia to Ilha da Anchieta, where we arrived late in the evening of March 22nd and dropped anchor just before a thunder storm hit the island. The next morning, we went ashore to see the island and its wildlife. More than anything else, we wanted to see the Capybara which is the biggest rodent in the world, the top recorded weight being 91 kg for a wild female from Brazil, and a close relative to chinchillas and guinea pigs. Right on the beach, there was a small family of capybaras, consisting of a huge dominant male, three smaller males, four females, and a group of young ones who gathered into a group as we neared them. In some areas, capybaras are hunted for their meat and pelts, and also killed by farmers who consider their grazing to compete with their livestock. But, not on this protected island, where they are free to roam anywhere they like.

Before going on a hike across the island, we returned to the boat to change our flip-flops to hiking boots after learning that the island's fauna also includes a number of poisonous snakes and spiders.

While in the forest, we tried to walk as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the animals but, since we are no Indians, we could hear them retreating before us as we came closer. During the hike, we managed to see one panicky capybara, a surprised marmoset, a lone hummingbird, and a few magnificent butterflies, all much bigger than the hummingbird. On the way back, it started to rain and, within minutes, we were soaked to the skin. At first, we tried to find shelter underneath the foliage of big trees but soon realized that it was of no use. As we continued walking along the winding trail, it dawned on us that, actually, there is no better way to experience a rainforest than to be there when it is raining.

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