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Published: June 26th 2011
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with a computer game called "Amazon Trail." Unlike its namesake, "Oregon Trail," "Amazon Trail" taught environmental literacy and protection among young people by encouraging them to take 'photos' of rare wildlife in the Amazon rainforest. Ever since then, I have dreamed of going to Brazil and taking photos of macaws, capybaras, and jaguars in their natural habitat.
But what I didn't fully realize as a child is that traveling to the rainforest is far from easy. After arriving in Rio, you then have to take a bus to Sao Paolo, a flight to Cuiaba (the capital of Mato Grasso), a taxi to Pocone (a small town outside of Cuiaba) and then a one-engine plane ride to the fazenda (or farms) in the interior of the state. The trek takes at least two days, is prohibitively expensive, and requires a fluency in Portuguese. But, thankfully, I had a secret weapon...
My roommate, Sahil, is a professional cat-tracker with a passion for sustainable agriculture practices, among other things. Before I arrived in Brazil, he had been working on a farm in the northern part of the country when he met a woman named
Ana Maria, who owned a fazenda (appropriately called Sao Francisco) in the middle of the Pantanal. When they met, Sahil offered to help Ana Maria develop a more sustainable business model in exchange for free accommodations and transportation to her fazenda; and, thankfully, I was able to come along for the ride.
After the two-day trek to the fazenda, which included a harrowing one-engine plane-ride, we arrived in one of the most idyllic places I have ever visited in my life. Upon exiting the plane, we were greeted by a group of fazenda workers as well as a flock of blue macaws that flew overhead (this particular fazenda has the largest concentration of blue macaws in the world). Because there was no electricity - except for a small generator - I quickly had to adjust to waking up with the sun at 6am (not an easy feat for me). But during the days, we were busy fishing for piranhas, riding tractors, and even visiting an indigenous reserve. During our daily adventures, we were able to get up-close and personal with dozens of caimans, capybaras, and more exotic birds than I can remember.
But, in addition to helping Ana
Maria develop more sustainable business practices, Sahil and I had another goal in mind: finding and photographing the elusive jaguar (to be continued)...
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