The night tour / Passeio noturno na floresta Planeta Sustentável - 17/03/2012 às 10:09
I always felt the suspense in those Discovery Channel documentaries. A narrator with a deep manly voice sets up the scene for some wild animal attack. Before anything happens he pauses midsentence, leaving the viewer on the edge of his seat as the camera’s night vision catches the glare of two bright white eyes staring from behind a bush. Then his godlike voice comes back with a dramatic phrase, like “and then…he pounces.” And you have a vicious production of African safari life in the comfort of your very own living room.
I never imagined I would be in a remotely similar position to the camera crew filming those crazy docs. But it was the only reference I had as I tried to take in everything around me on our night tour through the Rio Negro.
Once the motor stopped the sounds of wildlife intensified, revealing an orchestra of frogs, birds, insects and other mysterious creatures. It was as if they hadn’t come out during the day at all, and after the sun had set they could release their inhibitions and party until dawn. Since we couldn’t see anything around us, I literally felt surrounded by living species.
Milton, our tour guide, controlled everything we did see with his flashlight. At one point I thought he had the whole tour planned out like a ride at Disneyland, because each time he chose to shine his light on a tree branch, voilà, a owl or bacarau just “happened” to be perched there.
The climax of our night ride occurred when Milton manhandled an alligator. This happened quickly without warning, as we suddenly heard his flashlight drop to the ground, followed by a few splashes at front of the boat. Two seconds later Milton popped up gripping a four foot-long alligator by its tail and neck. As a child growing up in Sobrado, near Novo Airão, Milton used dive underwater, grab these alligators by the tail and fling them around with his friends. I guess for little boys growing up in the Amazon, mini-alligators are the equivalent to my younger brother’s toy cars.
The whole night tour experience was surreal. We were far from any sign of civilization as we glided through the river eye-level with the tops of jungle trees and an infinite mural of stars overhead.
*Jessica Shiffman is a senior journalism student at Northwestern University. Although she grew up in San Diego, CA, and would travel to Rio de Janeiro each winter break to celebrate Hanukah with her immediate family and Christmas with her Catholic Brazilian relatives. “Regularly bouncing between such disparate cultures ultimately inspired my desire to discover new stories and cultures and show them to others. I love taking advantage of any excuse to go abroad—whether it is studying in Paris, volunteering at an orphanage in Guatemala, going to Israel on birthright or completing my journalism residency at Editora Abril in São Paulo. During my time at Editora Abril I met Matthew Shirts, Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Brasil and coordinator of Planeta Sustentável Movement. He gave me the incredible opportunity to write about Planeta Sustentável’s first conference in the Amazon”.
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De 15 a 19 de março, realizamos uma expedição de conhecimento pelas águas do Rio Negro, na Amazônia, na companhia de um grupo muito especial formado por líderes empresariais, cientistas, planejadores urbanos e jornalistas. Neste seminário “flutuante”, o desenvolvimento sustentável da região pautou os debates sobre clima, biodiversidade, infraestrutura, planos de negócios e modelos de gestão. Neste blog, você embarca com a gente nesta viagem de imersão na floresta e acompanha tudo o que foi dito, visto e experimentado por lá.
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