The expanse of the Amazon can only be fully appreciated by air. Our flight was at the height of the wet season. That is, when the waters that nourish life in this magnificent, complex ecosystem are at their peak. Fleeting patterns of liquid light appear where the sun touches the water, heightening the sense of wonder.
Earthly islands, created by the vast, flooded waterways, provide a solid base for further exploration. We learn more about Dr Noel Kempff Mercado, the remarkable man after which the National Park is named. A pioneer of the Bolivian conservation movement, he undertook extensive research in the region and facilitated the protection of many protected areas in Bolivia, as well as founding the Botanic Gardens in Santa Cruz.
In addition to the National Park, the Zoo and Natural History Museum in Santa Cruz are named in his honour. The Noel Kempff Mercado Foundation continues to campaign for the protection of Bolivian ecosystems. His legacy lives on.
Dolphins, monkeys, caiman, otters, fish, tapirs, eagles, macaws, parrots, toucans – so many birds – go about their daily lives. Their sights and sounds enliven the earth. As do the insects in their minute splendour. Displays of lightning and thunder add to the sense of occasion. The elements in action.
The discovery of ‘dark earths’ in the Brazilian Amazon, formed by the manipulation of earth, fire and organic matter, surprised the worldwide community. It shouldn’t have. The tribes of the Amazon have an intimate knowledge of the intricacies of their world.
As the time comes to leave this wonder-land, the water starts receding. The cycle of life continues in majestic form. Air, water and earth. Fire and spirit. A truly awesome and humbling experience.