In awe of the Amazon: air, water and earth

When flying over the Amazon in a six seater plane, the clouds have right of way. Weaving a way between and around them takes an experienced pilot. Such a guide delivered us safely to Noel Kempff Mercado National Park on the border of Bolivia and Brazil, only accessible by plane or boat. One of the largest and most intact Parks in the Amazon Basin, it is worth the effort.

Flying through, over and above the clouds was an unforgettable experience. As was the expansive forest below.

Flying through, under and above the clouds was an unforgettable experience. As was the expansive forest below.

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.

The Zoo in Santa Cruz is one of many places bearing his name. This image was taken in 2009 when the zoo had undergone a major makeover. The staff work hard with limited resources to look after the South American species in their care.

The Zoo in Santa Cruz is one of many places bearing the name of Noel Kempff Mercado. The staff work hard with limited resources to look after the South American species in their care.

Venturing further afield in a small boat, in this Park named after a man of vision and action, we glimpse the abundant life of the Amazon. Again, nature has right of way. As it should. We twist, turn and occasionally duck our heads amongst the tangled vegetation. All on the water. The amazing, all pervasive, powerful water.

Making our way though the dense and sometimes tangled vegetation of the flooded forest was a magical experience.

Making our way though the dense and sometimes tangled vegetation of the flooded forest was a magical experience.

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.

Spider and howler monkeys were fast moving targets for the camera in the vegetation along the main river channel.

Spider and howler monkeys are fast moving targets for the camera in the vegetation along the main river.

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.

Reflections on the Itenez River, which marks the border with Brazil.

Captivating reflections on the Itenez River, which marks the border with Brazil.

2 thoughts on “In awe of the Amazon: air, water and earth

    • Thank-you. The first sentence came to me in the early hours of the morning. The rest just followed. It was the time for the Amazon to share its story.

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