Sleeping on stilts in the Amazon
As 75-year-old villager Antônio Gomes told us stories of growing up in Boca do Mamirauá, a tiny settlement in the northern Amazon rainforest, I tried to ignore the tiny blue flies biting through my trousers. Despite my interest in hearing how locals survive in this remote part of the Brazilian rainforest, now a part of the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve, I was grateful to escape when he finished, finding refuge in one of the tall wooden houses.
The houses hover some 3m above the ground. They are not unusual: almost everything in the Mamirauá reserve is on stilts, even the chicken coop. It has to be. Although much of Brazil is currently suffering one of the worst droughts in decades, this part of the Amazon is almost completely flooded for the six-month wet season. By April, the end of the rainy season, the river rises up to 10m high and overflows its banks. As a result, all living things in the forest, including locals, must adopt an amphibious lifestyle. Even the jaguars have learned to adapt by living in tree branches when the floods arrive.
Only 1,000 tourists per year are allowed to visit Mamirauá, which, at 57,000sqkm, is the largest wildlife reserve in the country. Created in 1984 to save the once-endangered uakari monkey, the reserve is the most carefully managed and protected part of the Amazon – and is also home to what many consider Brazil’s most successful sustainable tourist resort, the Uakari Floating Lodge. “If [the reserve] had not been created,” guide Francisco Nogeuira said, “the rivers and lakes would be empty of fish, and who knows how many trees would remain today?"
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